The Punter

Bahrain Championship: Pablo the pick at 69/1

Golfer Pablo Larrazabal
Pablo Larrazabal - fancied to contend again by The Punter

After yet another well-fancied winner in Thorbjorn Olesen, the DP World Tour heads to Bahrain for a brand-new event. Read Steve's detailed preview ahead of Thursday's early start here...


Tournament History

After two weeks in Dubai and a week in Ras Al Khaimah, the DP World skips from the UAE to the Kingdom of Bahrain for the inaugural edition of the Bahrain Championship.

Venue

Montgomerie Course, Royal Golf Club, Kingdom of Bahrain, Bahrain

Course Details

Par 72, 7261 yards

Scoring average in 2011 - 70.21

Although this is the first edition of the Bahrain Championship, this isn't the first time we've seen the Colin Montgomerie designed Championship Course at the Royal Bahrain Golf Club on the DP World Tour.

Just a few weeks before the Arab Spring-inspired Bahraini Uprising in 2011, the course was used for the inaugural edition of the now defunct Volvo Golf Champions event, a tournament won by Paul Casey in 20-under-par, a year after the course designer had controversially left him out the European Ryder Cup team.

Edoardo Molinari in Bahrain.jpg

According to Monty's design website, the course has been "designed and constructed to provide a links style golf experience in the desert, with fast running fairways and open approaches into huge, firm greens which are dramatically contoured."

The course wasn't especially well received 13 years ago, with the 'funky' greens getting quite a bit of stick. I've been unable to establish if there have been any changes to the putting surfaces since 2011, or any part of the course for that matter, but Ian Poulter wasn't a fan. He took to Twitter for a bit of a rant...

"Played great today 35 putts, missed one green, simply the WORST greens I have ever seen & I'm not joking they are embarrassing.

Apparently, the architect wanted to make a statement with the greens, he did that alright they are &%$#"

The Championship Course at the Royal Bahrain Golf Club also staged a couple of MENA Tour events in 2019 and 2020, won by Robin Roussel and David Hague.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 8:30 on Thursday morning in the UK

What Will it Take to Win the Bahrain Ch'ship?

How much credence we can give to one event staged here 13 years ago is debatable but for what it's worth here's the top-five from 2011 with the following stats - Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy, Greens In Regulation, Scrambling and Putting Average.

  • 1 Paul Casey -20 DD 5 DA 25 GIR 52 SC 17 PA 6
  • 2 Peter Hanson -19 DD 28 DA 15 GIR 17 SC 8 PA 8
  • 3 Miguel-Angel Jimenz -19 DD 48 DA 7 GIR 3 SC 3 PA 43
  • 4 Stephen Gallacher -18 DD 3 DA 64 GIR 1 SC 50 PA 16
  • 3 Robert Karlsson -17 -13 DD 4 DA 4 GIR 63 SC 4 PA 3

Although Poulter had a good ole moan about the dancefloors, putting was quite a key stats and it looks like a better week with the flatstick would have seen Miguel-Angel Jimenez take the title given how well he performed from tee-to-green.

Paul casey winning in Bahrain.jpg

His lack of length will have hampered the Spaniard too given the top-five in the Driving Distance stats, and six of the top-ten, all finished inside the top-12 and that the winner, Casey, and Peter Hanson, who finished tied for second, ranked first and second on the par fives.

Is There an Angle In?

There are a couple of other Montgomerie-designed courses that have been used on the DP World Tour, but it's been a while so the form's quite old now. That's a bit of a shame Montgomerie Course form has crossed over...

Whether it's of any use is highly debatable but it may be worth checking out form at The Dutch, which hosted the Dutch Open (formerly the KLM Open) in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the Montgomerie Maxx, which hosted four editions of the now defunct Turkish Airlines Open, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2019, and Carlton House, which hosted the Irish Open in 2013.

Casey won the Irish Open in 2013 and Joost Luiten, who won the KLM Open at The Dutch in 2016, finished second.

There's one other tournament result that caught my eye when researching and it may just point to last week's venue - Al Hamra - which is a Peter Harradine design.

Almost exactly four years before Casey beat Jimenez and Hanson by a stroke here, he beat the same two players by the exact same margin in the Abu Dhabi Championship at the Harradine-designed Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

In all likelihood, that's merely coincidental but last week's Ras Al Khaimah Championship could still prove to be an excellent guide.

Al Hamra is an exposed desert layout that favours big hitters and fine links exponents so there are worse places to start than last week's event.

In-Play Tactics

As is usually the case in the desert, a fast start was vital in 2011.

Casey sat tied for sixth and just three off the lead after round one, tied fourth and one off the lead at halfway and he was tied for the lead with the runner-up, Peter Hanson after 54-holes.

The front four on the final leaderboard were tied for the lead or trailing by just on eat halfway and the two winners on the MENA Tour won wire-to-wire.

Looking back to 2011, one of the two hardest holes on the course was the par four eighth, but it only averaged 4.16 so it's not a tough track by any means.

The par five ninth was the easiest hole, averaging only 4.41 over the week, and that kicked off an easy stretch until the par four 15th, which like the eighth, averaged 4.16.

If you're planning to bet in-running, it's worth bearing in mind that the last three holes ranked as the third, fifth and eighth toughest so it's not a simple finish.

And finally, keep an eye on the weather forecast as there was a draw bias of almost two strokes in favour of the AM-PM side of the draw in 2011.

Market Leaders

Following the withdrawal of last week's Ras Al Khaimah Championship winner, Thorbjorn Olesen, fellow Dane, Rasmus Hojgaard, is a firm 10/111.00 favourite, but he's not too short given his current form and the strength of the field.

Now injury-free, Hojgaard has started 2024 with back-to-back 11th placed finishes in Dubai, followed by last week's solo second behind Olesen and on each occasion, he's saved his worst round for Sunday.

He must be frustrated by the way things have panned out so far this year and there's a chance that the form bubble could burst at any time, especially given it's been largely based on a red-hot putter and that this is his fourth event in four weeks.

The 22-year-old has ranked sixth, third and seventh for Putting Average and 11th, third and first for Strokes Gained: Putting. A repeat of those figures will surely see him go close.

The 2011 result here suggested that length off the tee is more important than accuracy so his powerful long game should be an asset and he's fairly priced, even given the consideration that the strong run will come to an end sooner rather than later.

The 29-year-old German, Yannik Paul, is the only other player in the field trading at less than 20/121.00 and I can see why.

Yannik Paul in Korea.jpg

Like Rasmus, Paul is lining up for the fourth week in-a-row and despite a weekend off at the Dubai Desert Classic, with 2024 form figures reading 8-MC-4, the 2022 Mallorca Golf Open winner commands plenty of respect.

The 23-year-old Japanese, Keita Nakajima, is not one to dismiss lightly after his fourth placed finish last week in Ras Al Khaimah.

The former world number one amateur has won four times in Japan, including three times last year, and he's most definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Missed cuts at the Open Championship in 2022 and 2023 and a 12th place finish in the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan last year were his only previous starts on the DP World Tour before last week. He could very easily improve on last week's performance given he sat tied for 86th after round one.

Zander Lombard will need to lift his spirits after a slightly disappointing weekend around a track he loves last week, and Jordan Smith has been poor since finishing fourth in the Dubai Invitational in his first start of the year - finishing 41st in the Duba Desert Classic and missing the cut in Ras Al Khaimah.

Selections

I was more than happy to take a small chance on the favourite at 10/111.00 and like Matt Cooper, I've also gone in again on Pablo Larrazabal who I really fancied last week when he missed the cut.

Back Rasmus Hojgaard @ 11.010/1

Bet now

Pablo began the Ras Al Khaimah Championship early on Thursday morning at the tricky par four 10th hole and he began the week by finding water off the tee.

That lead to a double-bogey, which was followed by another dropped shot at 11 and it would be totally understandable if his head dropped after that given expectations would have been sky high after his brilliant fourth-place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Most of what I wrote last week still stands. He remains extremely prolific, he's just turned 40, he's expecting his first child and he can quickly put last weeks missed cut behind him.

Back Pablo Larrazabal @ 70.069/1

Bet now

As Matt highlights, Larrazabal sat second here after round one in 2011 before eventually finishing 24th so he even has a bit of course form in the bag and the 70.069/1 available on the exchange is far too big to ignore in such a weak field.


Now read my AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM preview here.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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