Hong Kong Open: Rising star Lipsky can outshine fancied veterans, says The Punter

David Lipsky – The Punter’s only pick in Hong Kong
David Lipsky – The Punter’s only pick in Hong Kong

Steve takes a look at the second European Tour event on offer this week - the Hong Kong Open. What will it take to win at fiddly Fanling and can Spanish legend Miguel Angel Jimenez win the event for a record smashing fifth time? 

“I’ve been through the field umpteen times but the only player that looks worth siding with before the off is David Lipsky. The 26 year-old American caused a bit of a shock when he won the European Masters last month but I don’t expect that to be a one-off.”

Tournament History

In existence since 1959, the Hong Kong Open became a European Tour event, co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, in 2001 and this season it's featuring twice! It was last played in December last year, three weeks in to the current wraparound season when Miguel Angel Jimenez defended the title to win the event for a fourth time in total.

The field wasn't strong in December, as it was played alongside the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and if anything, with the Volvo World Match Play Championship starting tomorrow (previewed here), it's weaker again this week. 


Venue
Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling, Hong Kong


Course Details

Par 70, 6,734 yards
Stroke index in 2013 - 70.87

There are three courses at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the Old, the New and the Eden and a selection of holes from the New and the Eden courses are used for the championship.  It's a short tree-lined composite with Bermuda greens and six dog-legs. Water is in play on the tricky 18th hole and drainage ditches are in evidence on several holes for the seriously inaccurate.  


Useful Sites

Event Site
Course Site
Course Map
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports 4 at 5.00am on Thursday, Friday and Sunday and 06:00 on Saturday


Last Five Winners

2013 - Miguel Angel Jimenez -12 (playoff)
2012 - Miguel Angel Jimenez -15
2011 - Rory McIlroy -12
2010 - Ian Poulter -22 
2009 - Gregory Bourdy -19


What Will it Take to Win The Hong Kong Open?

Fanling is a tight and fiddly track that rewards accuracy and no winner in the last ten years has ranked outside the top-12 for greens in regulation. You also need to scramble brilliantly - Jimenez ranked just 23rd last year but the four winners prior to him all ranked inside the top-six for scrambling.

Unsurprisingly for a par 70 with just two par 5s, Par 4 Scoring has been the key stat with nine of the last ten winners ranking no worse than 4th. The odd man is Colin Montgomerie but he still only ranked 10th so the stats to ponder are greens in regulation, scrambling and par 4 scoring. 


Is There an Angle In?

The two courses that correlate well with Fanling are Wentworth and Crans-sur-Sierre. Course-specialist Miguel Angel Jimenez has a superb record at both venues and has won both the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth and the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre so form at those two venues is always worth noting.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Asian Tour players have struggled to compete since the event was co-sanctioned in 2001. Prom Meesawat finished runner-up 12 months ago and Lin Wen-Tang won in 2008 but the European players tend to dominate and some class acts have taken the title. 

Jimenez (four times), Monty, Ian Poulter and major winners Rory McIlroy, Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington have all won this title this century and some big names have been runner-up too. K.J Choi (twice), Robert Karlsson, Thongchai Jaidee, Simon Dyson, Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari have all finished second in the last eight years so expect the better European Tour players to figure at the finish.


In-Play Tactics

After a sluggish opening round of 70 in December, Jimenez became the first Hong Kong Open winner this century to shoot an opening round in the 70s and he was the first to trail by more than five strokes after day one.  The vast majority of winners here are up with the pace all the way and six of the seven winners before Jimenez last year were within three strokes of the lead and inside the top-five. The only exception was Ian Poulter but he was in front by halfway. This isn't a catch-up course and you really do need a good start.


Market Leaders

Having backed Jimenez when he won the event two years ago at 55.054/1 and again last year at 10.09/1, I perhaps ought to support him in his bid to win his third straight and fifth title in total but I just can't bring myself to do it.

It doesn't feel right to write off the legendary Spaniard but facts need to be faced. When he won here in December he became the oldest European Tour winner in history - a record he then went on to break at the Open de España in May but he's not been close to his best since. 
 
He missed the cut at Crans-sur-Sierre last month, a venue he usually enjoys, and he wasn't close to competitive at the KLM Open last time out at another venue that suits his game and although just contemplating it isn't pleasant, I have to wonder if age has finally caught up with him. 

Ernie Els is playing in the event for the first time but he too could well be past his best. He tends to perform admirably whenever he takes his wheelbarrow out East but he hasn't been striking his irons well and is best left alone.

Nicolas Colsaerts has bounced back to form in fine style and looks sure to contend but I don't have much confidence in his in-contention play and I'm happy to leave him out at the prices to. He gets an awful lot of spin on his approach shots and I just wonder whether he'll be able to get the ball close enough often enough to make the number of birdies required.


Selection

I've been through the field umpteen times but the only player that looks worth siding with before the off is David Lipsky. The 26-year-old American caused a bit of a shock when he won the European Masters at the aforementioned Crans-sur-Sierre last month but I don't expect that to be a one-off.

He won on just his third start on the Asian Tour in 2012 and he very nearly won on the European Tour back in May when he finished second in Singapore at The Championship. He made his Fanling debut last year when he finished 12th and he looks a great fit stats-wise given he ranks second for par 4 performance over the last six months on the European Tour and that he's ranked inside the top-ten for greens in regulation and scrambling in three of his last five starts. 


Selection:
David Lipsky @ 36.035/1


I'll be back later with my preview for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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