Saudi International Each-Way Tips: 125/1 Valimaki can surprise in the wind

Royal Greens G&CC
Royal Greens G&CC hosts for a third time

The European Tour's Saudi International returns to Royal Greens G&CC this week and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying eight places...

"He’s taken a real liking to playing golf when the wind blows, when the course is a modern design, when it’s situated near the sea and when he can let rip."

Back Sami Valimaki each-way @ 125/1

Main Bet: Sami Valimaki each-way @ 125/1

With its surprisingly long cast of Americans, tempted across the Atlantic by big paychecks and a dubious project, this week's European Tour event has a touch of those 1970s movies about the Second World War.

Will it be a bridge too far for them and the many top-class Europeans and world stars joining them in the field this week?

Probably not - the chances would appear high that the winner comes from somewhere near the top of the bill rather than the supporting cast and I do rather like Viktor Hovland's chances given his excellent results by the sea when putting on Paspalum grass.

But he has a nasty sequence of flights and time zones to deal with after playing last week in California, and this column deals specifically with value each-way options so supporting cast it is and it's far from out of the question that one of our trio can steal the scene on Sunday.

First up is Finland's Sami Valimaki who 12 months ago was the owner of a European Tour card, but not one that gave him a sniff of playing in the first part of the Desert Swing.

Shortly afterwards, in the Vic Open, he finished seventh at the blustery 13th Beach and on his next start, in the Oman Open, he announced himself to the wider world with a stunning victory.

Few would have guessed at his success on the Thursday evening after he'd posted a 74 to lie T101st, but a 67 got him into the weekend, a 64 earned him a share of the lead, a final day 70 in tricky conditions secured a play-off and he sealed the deal in extra holes.

When the Tour returned to action post-lockdown he showed us there's a touch of versatility to his game.

First he claimed sixth and second in different conditions on Celtic Manor's 2010 course and then added tenth at the tight Valderrama.

He was T13th on his Wentworth debut and then twice threatened to win during the two weeks in Cyprus before grabbing T13th in the Golf in Dubai Championship and fifth on debut in the DP World Tour Championship.

All in all, it made for a persuasive argument when the Tour awarded the Rookie of the Year trophy.

But here's the rub for this week - he's taken a real liking to playing golf when the wind blows, when the course is a modern design, when it's situated near the sea and when he can let rip.

His victory in Oman at Al Mouj, the fortnight in Wales, the fortnight in Cyprus, the fortnight at Jumeirah - they all fit the bill.

He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and didn't feature at the weekend in Dubai, but of the three courses in the Desert Swing this week's test feels like the one he'd most appreciate on first glance and his big price confirms the desire to be on-board with the man from Nokia.

Next Best: Kurt Kitayama each-way @ 125/1

A glance at the top tens from the first two editions of this tournament reminds us that big hitters have thrived, none more so than Dustin Johnson when he won the inaugural event.

But the man who succeeded him, Graeme McDowell, does not fit the slasher-from-the-tee photofit.

However, second pick Kurt Kitayama manages to cross these particular boundaries.

On the one hand, although only 5'6" the American gives the ball a mighty whiff and ranked third on the Tour in 2019 for Driving Distance, is tenth this term and I suspect 2020 was little different, but the European Tour website is currently at its most mercurial on this subject.

There is also the question of where he won in 2019 - like Valimaki he lifted the trophy at Al Mouj (Middle Eastern, modern, by the sea, windy, Paspalum on the greens) and he also won the Mauritius Open at Four Seasons which is more of the same, except for having Bermuda on the greens.

These conditions resemble not only GMac's win here last year, but also his previous two, in Mexico and the Dominican Republic on the PGA Tour.

kurt kitayama oman.jpg

It might be pushing it a little, but Kitayama's PGA Tour efforts haven't been great thus far and yet his only top 40s, which were both top 20, came in Puerto Rico (more of the same) and Pebble Beach (not the same grass on the greens or a modern design but a course both Johnson and McDowell have won on).

Kitayama did not play well throughout last season, but he got off to promising starts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, finished T35th in the former, T20th in the latter, putted nicely in both and found a lot of greens last week.

He's actually ended the round in the top ten in ten of his last 16 laps in the Middle East and although he's only landed one place in that time he's a big price to make it two.

Final Bet: Lucas Herbert each-way @ 66/1

Last selection is another big hitter and one who has shown himself able to win in the Middle East when it's blowy.

In fact, Lucas Herbert's breakthrough victory at the Dubai Desert Classic last January came when he thrashed a brilliant 68 that was quite a contrast with the many big scores further up the leaderboard.

Followers of this column may also recall we were on him when he finished fourth at the Scottish Open.

In truth, he suffered in the third round gales (79), but a second round 65 in blustery wind grabbed him the lead and a final lap of the same score very nearly pulled off an audacious comeback before we had to settle for the place money.

When playing in rather warmer wind, he has recorded third at Verdura in the 2018 Sicily Open and second at Dom Pedro in the same year's Portugal Masters - more resort golf by the sea.

He also made a neat debut on this course, opening with a 67 and closing with a 68 for T27th.

He was in contention at halfway in Abu Dhabi and made a solid defence in Dubai with T22nd - he looks a good fit this week.

MATT'S 2021 P/L
Staked: 12pts
Returned: 0pts
P/L: -12pts

2020 P/L: -32pts

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