Mike Norman previews this week's European Tour event, and while he agrees the market leaders will be tough to beat, he can't believe the price of an in-form Englishman to go well...
The European Tour continues tonight (no, that is not a misprint - the first group tee off at 23:40 UK time) having moved from South Africa, to America, to India, and now across the Indian Ocean to Malaysia for the Maybank Malaysian Open.
The Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club is the stunning venue for the fourth consecutive year, though unlike the previous two years the event does not immediately follow the US Masters.
With that in mind you'd have perhaps expected a slightly stronger field than usual but that doesn't appear to be the case (probably due to the fact that it clashes with the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the PGA Tour), though the world's number three and 17 are here in the shape of Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel.
The 2011 champion Matteo Manassero is also in the field along with a splattering of the tour's seasoned-pros - including three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington - some bright prospects, and a healthy contingent of Asian Tour (who co-sanction the event) members.
With a par of 72 and measuring under 7,000 yards it's not a long course by any means, and although there are water hazards on 13 of the 18 holes the drink isn't really in play off the tee - the par five 10th perhaps being the most dangerous with a lake down the right side of the fairway.
What this all means then is driving accuracy or length certainly isn't a requisite this week, but what is required for any potential winner is fabulous approach play and an ability to putt well. If you don't find the greens in regulation around here then you'll be in trouble. If you don't have a good week with the putter, then you won't win. It's as simple as that.
For these reasons alone it's understandable that Donald - available to back at 6.611/2 in the Winner market - and Schwartzel (7.06/1) head the market, but at those odds I believe they're both worth taking on.
The fact that Donald was in contention in America just Sunday night putts me off him, although as Steve Rawlings points out, jet-lag hasn't been a problem in the past for some players. But this is his first time at this venue, and the facts are that he was in contention throughout on Sunday, has had a very long flight to Malaysia, and has been handed an early tee-time for his troubles.
Donald's class will undoubtedly see him play well, but I believe Schwartzel is a far better option if you want to back one of the market leaders.
The 2011 Masters champions does have course form to boast, finishing 11th and sixth in the last two years when he ranked quite highly for Greens in Regulation on both occasions. And it appears that, not surprisingly, GIR stats are extremely important this week given that when Manassero won he ranked first in that discipline for the week.
So the fact that Schwartzel currently ranks first for the season (albeit still early) on the European Tour's GIR stats augers extremely well. He'll be tough to beat, but he's no certainty.
My main pick this week is available to back at triple figures, and I'm very bullish about his chances because quite frankly I believe Steve Webster should be around the 30.029/1 mark, not at the 100.099/1 that is currently available.
Prior to a missed cut last time out - which doesn't worry me in the slightest - Webster had made six appearances on the tour this season with his worst finish being a tie for 32nd. In this time he has recorded four top-seven finishes including a fourth and a seventh at much stronger events like the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic respectively.
So his form is there for all to see, arguably amongst the strongest of anyone on show this week.
But my confidence in Webster performing well is increased significantly by the fact that he currently ranks second for GIR on the European Tour this season, and visually - and by his own admission - his putting looks to be in great shape.
If Webster can perform to the standard he has shown already this season then this course should be absolutely ideal for him (he finished just outside the top 30 last year when his game wasn't in great shape). He has a very early tee time tonight (23:50) so I'm hoping for a fast start from the Englishman as you have to be up with the pace around here.
In relation to his odds and how those odds suggest he'll perform, Webster is easily my strongest selection of the season so far.
The only other player I'm interested in backing before the off is Rafa Cabrera-Bello, a player who has a good record at this venue and currently ranks inside the top 15 for the season in GIR.
Like Webster, Cabrera-Bello (32.031/1) is in decent form (but no better which makes Webster's price enormous in comparison), recording five top-25 finishes from all five starts this season. The Spaniard has finished fourth and third in the last two years here and has to go well all things considered.