Outsiders won the 2020 editions of both the Dubai Championship and the Houston Open so our man has selections for both at triple-figure odds here...
"There are at least three strong reasons to think James Hahn may go well at Memorial Park this week and possibly four or five."
This is only the second renewal of the Dubai Championship (previewed here) so we don't have much to go on but we do know that last year's inaugural staging was won by outsider Antoine Rozner who was matched at a high of 110.0109/1 before the off.
The one I liked best at a triple-figure price was Italy's Renato Paratore, who was in-contention last year until a poor final round saw him slump to a tie for 13th.
He's been in fair form this year and, knowing he's based in Dubai and that he has bags of course experience, he was all set to figure in my plans until the Racing Post put him up yesterday. Having been bobbing around at 130.0129/1 for two days, he's now no longer a triple-figure price so my sole selection in the event is now the recent Dutch Open winner, Kristoffer Broberg.
Broberg likely to take to the Fire Course
Broberg won the Dutch Open at a new venue, Bernardus, which has a distinctly links feel, and he did so with a whopping score of 24 under-par. He hasn't played here before but I think it will suit him. Given he's contended twice since that victory, finishing ninth in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and 12th last week in Portugal, at two venues not too dissimilar to the one encountered this week, I thought he was a fair price at 140.0139/1.
Augusta form points to recent winner Willett
As highlighted in the preview, the two players to finish tied for second in last year's renewal of the Houston Open at Memorial Park, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, have both gone on to win the US Masters. D.J won the 2020 edition the following week and Hideki donned his Green Jacket at Augusta in April.
Last year was the first time the event had been played at Memorial Park in the modern era so, with only one renewal to go on, we probably shouldn't go jumping to too many conclusions. But given form at Riviera also came to the fore, the venue that correlates best with Augusta, there could well be something in it. And if there is, the recent Alfred Dunhill Links winner, Danny Willett, who won the US Masters in 2016, is far too big at 220.0219/1.
Willett withdrew from this event 12 months ago after a 77 in round one but he was in dire form at the time and is a completely different proposition now fit and firing. He's ticked over quite nicely since his victory at St Andrews, finishing 21st at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and 27th in Mexico last week, either side of a missed cut in Bermuda.
Birthday Boy Hahn may well be inspired
There are at least three strong reasons to think James Hahn may go well at Memorial Park this week and possibly four or five.
Hahn won what's now called the Genesis Invitational at the aforementioned Riviera in 2015, he was at least in part responsible for Viktor Hovland's victory in Mexico last week, when he lent the Norwegian a driver shaft after Danny Lee had broken the the defending champion's on the range on Wednesday, and thirdly, he turned 40 just over a week ago.
Whether supplying Hovland with the equipment to get across the line will motivate him is perhaps debatable but significant birthdays often inspire an upturn in form and judging by his recent efforts (15th at the ZOZO Championship in Japan and 27th last week in Mexico) that appears to be the case.
That recent form could be construed as a fourth strong reason to back him and finally, a possible fifth is the fact that he traded at just 2.01/1 at the Phoenix Open in February when he led by three after 10 holes of round four.
Hahn eventually finished 10th at TPC Scottsdale after a very poor finish but given last year's fifth at Memorial Park, Brooks Koepka, won the event (for a second time), that the winner here last year, Carlos Ortiz, finished fourth, and that the runner-up to Ortiz here, Matsuyama, absolutely thrives at Scottsdale (also won the event twice), there's a strong possibility that - that track correlates nicely too.
I'll be back tomorrow night or Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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