Hong Kong Open 2018: Three to play in the First Round Leader market
Dave Tindall looks at the opening round of the Hong Kong Open and has three picks to make a fast start...
"On debut in 2013 Elvira opened with 67 to sit T10 after day one while in both 2014 and 2016 - his only other two appearances - he was in the top three at the end of the first lap thanks to a round of 66 each time."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places
Weather forecast for Hong Kong: Thursday's early starters look set to face some rain and also winds of around 13mph. While temperatures are locked in around 18/19 degrees for most of the day, the later wave should get more sunshine and slightly lighter winds. That said, even the last group out tees off at 12.50 so they won't get the full benefit of the better mid/late afternoon weather
History: S.S.P. Chawrasia set the pace with a 65 last year, teeing off at 07:35. Twelve months earlier, Rafa Cabrera Bello also set off in the fourth group out on the back nine at 07:40. In 2015, Lu Wei-Chih hit from the 1st tee at 07:10 while in 2014 India's Jyoti Randhawa was also a morning starter at 08:10.
Strategy: History says we look for a morning starter; the weather suggests a later tee-time could be slightly better. It's mixed evidence so I'll go for a two-one early/late split.
Elvira can start fast again
Nacho Elvira makes a habit of hitting the ground running in the Hong Kong Open.
On debut in 2013 he opened with 67 to sit T10 after day one while in both 2014 and 2016 - his only other two appearances - he was in the top three at the end of the first lap thanks to a round of 66 each time.
He'll attempt to get on the R1 leaderboard once more from an 08:00 tee-time and history suggests it's a good slot to have.
The Spaniard has been getting off to strong starts in more recent times, sitting inside the top seven in three of his last nine tournaments. The first courtesy of 65 in the Czech Masters and the second following a 66 at Crans-sur-Sierre, a course which has strong correlations with this one.
Valderrama form is also a good pointer to doing well here and Elvira was T7 after an opening 69 at the famed Spanish venue last month.
He's 66/1 for R1 leader and, at this venue, that looks a good play on past evidence.
S.S.P. Chawrasia led after 18, 36 and 54 holes here last year, hardly a great surprise given the heights he can hit on short tracks like this.
The Indian slipped up on Sunday to finish T7 in 2017 while he also showed his liking for Hong Kong GC when cracking the top five in 2014.
Chawrasia made another quick start in 2015, firing a 66 to lie T6 after R1 while he opened and closed with 65s back in 2009.
There are perhaps only two or three European Tour courses on which you'd ever consider playing him but this is definitely one of them and he's capable of hitting the jackpot at 95/1.
He opens his bid at 07:40.
Rai can roar early
Straight hitting is the name of the game on this short, tree-lined track and Aaron Rai ranked fourth in Driving Accuracy last season.
That doesn't always count for too much elsewhere but he'll definitely get the benefits here.
Also a strong scrambler (38th), Rai looks agood fit even though it didn't work out for him in this event on debut last time.
Two weeks ago, he bounced back to form with a top 10 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge so his game should be in decent shape to go low early from his 11:10 tee-time.
In terms of first-round betting, he had a piece of the lead in February's Qatar Masters while Rai was also in the top three after day one of the BMW International Open and KLM Open.
Give him a whirl at 66/1.
Dave's 2018 R1 leader P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)
(After DP World Tour Championship)