We're off to Mauritius for the very first time on the European Tour this week so our man's had a good look at what it will take to win the first ever staging of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. Read Steve's comprehensive preview here...
“Hennie Otto is a streaky performer who can easily disappoint but on his day he’s a class act with a dozen Sunshine Tour wins and three European Tour titles. I thought he’d be no bigger than 30.029/1 so was more than happy to get him onside modestly at 36.035/1.”
The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open is a brand new tri-sanctioned event, with 40 players from the Asian Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour all represented. We've had many a co-sanctioned event but this is the first time the three tours have collaborated as one.
The Heritage Course, Domaine de Bel Ombre, Mauritius
Par 71, 7,036 yards
At just a shade over 7,000 yards, the Peter Matkovich-designed Heritage Course is a short wind-affected course with water in play on a number of holes. The fairways are described as generous and I suspect we'll see plenty of birdies. Here's what Scott Hend had to say about the venue: "Some greens are tricky here and the grass is a bit different to what we are normally used to. But the ball is rolling fine. You can score out here. There are two drivable par fours and the par fives are reachable. It's out there to be had. You just have to get the ball under the hole."
There's very little info out there and I thought this YouTube video of the course was about as good as it got.
Live on Sky all four days, starting on Thursday
What Will it Take to Win The Mauritius Open?
Having never seen the course before, it's nigh on impossible to predict how it will play. I've read that the fairways are wide open and I've also read that it's a strategic course so it's all a bit confusing. Whether it will be the shorter more accurate hitters that prosper, or the big bombers, we'll just have to wait and see but I fancy the course will yield plenty of birdies and I can see a very low winning score.
The course looks fairly exposed so if the wind gets up at all that's going to be a factor so players that play well in breezy conditions are worth closer inspection although, if the forecast is anything to go by, we're likely to encounter stormy weather rather than windy.
Is There an Angle In?
Although it's been staged at a different course (the Four Seasons at Anahita) anyone that's played and fared well in the Afrasia Masters may hold a small advantage over the remainder. I can't imagine too many in the field have been to Mauritius before so those that have should be at a small advantage. Here's the Afrasia Golf Masters website where you'll find all the previous results.
For what it's worth, and frankly it could well be nothing, last year's winner of the Afrasia Golf Masters, Max Orrin, and the 2013 winner, Hennie Otto, are brand ambassadors for the sponsors and perhaps more significantly, the latter named is affiliated with the Anahita Golf Club in Mauritius.
I'm often loath to mention a possible draw bias but with so little to go on, it's worth mentioning that the forecast suggests those drawn late-early may just get the better of it. In addition to the wind dropping very slightly on Thursday afternoon, the latter starters will also have the added advantage of watching some play on TV before they take to the brand new venue so that's another possible angle-in.
This is a very weak tournament and nerves are almost certain to play a part at some stage so taking on anyone that hits the front and trades short could be worth taking on. Week after week we see at least one players trade at long odds-on without winning on the European Tour and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see that happen again here.
If you're wary of taking a chance on anyone before the off, waiting until the weekend and laying the short priced favourites may be a different and exciting way to play the event this week.
After winning his second European Tour title, again in South Africa but this time at his home course, George Coetzee has held his form well, finishing third at both the Investec Cup and the Trophee Hassan II and he didn't fare too badly at the WGC Match Play last week, where he won two of his three matches.
Given his current form, if he turned up and contended all week I wouldn't be surprised but he's yet to win outside of his homeland and even there he can get in his own way. He should have followed up his win in the Tshwane Open with victory at the Investec Cup but double-bogeyed the penultimate hole to blow his chances.
He's the worthy favourite on form and class but he's too unreliable to back at a single-figure price at a course he's probably never seen before.
Second favourite, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, has also been in fine fettle of late, winning the Shenzhen International after finishing inside the top-six at both the Thailand Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational but he might just be bit flat on his return to the fray after a short break.
A week after winning the Shenzhen, Kiradech was in-contention at the halfway stage of the Volvo China Open two weeks ago but he slipped down the leaderboard with weekend rounds of 76 and 72. He looked in need of a rest and I'm sure he's enjoyed his downtime, the question is, can he hit the ground running so soon after that lacklustre effort? I have enough doubts to turn my nose up at the price and I'm happy to look elsewhere.
Thomas Bjorn hasn't been himself since losing a huge lead at the BMW PGA Championship almost a year ago and he could do with a good week to get things back on track but he's no value to have one.
He was fourth last time out at the Indonesian Masters but he should arguably have fared much better given he followed his opening round of 66 with a 76 and that he failed to break 70 over the weekend. That was far and away his best performance of the year but was it a one off? I suspect it may have been.
This is clearly a trappy event to bet on but I have found two I thought worth playing - Hennie Otto and Ross McGowan.
Otto's links to Mauritius make him an interesting proposition with so little to go. The fact that he's won here previously (and was second last year) in the Afrasia Golf Masters is a positive and the fact that he's affiliated to a course on the island suggests he does spend time here so I'd be very surprised if he hasn't got plenty of knowledge of this week's track.
He's a streaky performer who can easily disappoint but on his day he's a class act with a dozen Sunshine Tour wins and three European Tour titles. I thought he'd be no bigger than 30.029/1 so was more than happy to get him onside modestly at 36.035/1.
Less than six years ago, McGowan was winning the Madrid Masters and running Lee Westwood close at the Dubai World Championship but his career has gone badly astray since then. The Englishman has spent many years in the golfing wilderness but all of a sudden he's turned the corner and having won only last week on the Sunshine Tour, at the Zambia Open, I thought he was worth chancing here.
That win wasn't a one off, prior to winning in Zambia he'd finished third in the Royal Golf D'Anfa Open on the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) Golf Tour, after winning the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the same Tour. I'm sure Ross would love to get back on to the European Tour and given the form he's currently in; this looks a great chance for him to do so.
Hennie Otto @ 36.035/1
Ross McGowan @ 80/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter