EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 8 Places
If Keith Elliott still did his Golf Betting books, Charl Schwartzel would surely have CT next to his name. That refers to the Comeback Trail and the South African is certainly on such a path having missed a huge chunk of 2019 due to a wrist injury. When we did see him back in action in late November, Schwartzel immediately clicked into gear by finishing third in his home Alfred Dunhill Championship. That meant expectations were raised for his South African Open bid last week but the former Masters champ couldn't meet them, missing the cut. However, it wasn't quite that simple. He shot himself in the foot on day one with a 73 but almost sneaked into the weekend after a Friday 67. That was another sign that he's finding his feet and, although the field strength is strong this week, Schwartzel could be worth an each-way poke at 80/1. He's got an excellent record in the desert at both this event (three top 10s and a further top 20 in five starts) and the DP World Tour Championship (third and fourth in two of his last three appearances) and that regional form, his hunger and the reduced focus on him this week could all combine in a really positive way.
Having improved out of all recognition in 2019 with three titles - including two in the Rolex Series along with another pair of top-threes - Bernd Wiesberger proved he can compete at the very highest level and is well worth siding with on a course where he's already achieved plenty. The Austrian finished fourth in 2017 and sixth in 2015, among five top-30s in Abu Dhabi. Wind is often a factor here, so his links form at the Scottish and Irish Opens bodes particularly well.
Branden Grace returned from the wilderness to win the South African Open in impressive fashion on Sunday proving the old adage, form is temporary, class is permanent, still resonates and I fancy Andy Sullivan has shown enough of late to suggest he's ready to return to winning ways, too. After a really poor run of form, the 32-year-old Englishman signed off 2019 nicely with top-ten finishes in the Portugal Masters and the DP World Tour Championship and judging by his efforts last week in South Africa, he's close to something like his best. It's been some time since Sullivan, who won three times in 2015, contended seriously so it perhaps shouldn't have come as a surprise when he temporarily lost the plot after hitting the front on Sunday but after playing holes six to ten in six-over-par, he birdied four of the last seven to finish sixth. He led here by a couple of strokes at halfway in 2016 so we know he can play the course and I thought 90/1 was fair given his recent upturn in fortunes.
There's a lot of quality in this week's field and in all likelihood one from the top of the market will win the first Rolex Series event of 2020. But I'm not sure I could confidently say which one is fantastic value to do so, and those who I consider a backable price - Branden Grace and Bernd Wiesberger - have already been selected by wiser heads in this column. With that in mind, I'll play one with bags of course form available at a value price whether he wins or places. Pablo Larrazabal is that man and while he can be an inconsistent sort, his course form suggests this is a week to back him. The Spaniard won the event in 2014, was runner-up in 2017 and sixth last year. He has also missed the cut twice in that spell but that's why we get 66/1 and he was a winner in his last event, the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December, and, with five tournament victories to his name, we at least know he can get over the line when given the chance.
Thomas Detry was in superb form towards the end of 2019 and the only surprise is that he's still yet to win a European Tour event. Surely that breakthrough win will come this year, and I'm more than happy to wager it comes this week given the form he demonstrated in recent months. He ended 2019 with three top four finishes from his last four events, including finishing third at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Just prior to that run he performed well at Le Golf National (Open de France), a course that, like this week's venue, rewards those who hit a high percentage of Greens in Regulation. I'm never keen to back a golfer after a layoff so it's encouraging that Detry was in last week's field where he finished a more than respectable T28. The 27-year-old Belgian doesn't have banks of desert form on his CV but he did finish 11th in Qatar this time last season and, more importantly, he finished inside the top 10 on debut in this event two years ago.