The Deutsche Bank Championship is the big event this week and there's no denying the field in Moscow isn't strong but someone's got to win the Russian Open so our man's taken a look at the event here...
“Carlos Del Moral ranks second in the Birdie Average Stats for the last three months. He’s a fairly big-hitter off the tee and the strength of his game is his putting so this venue might just suit him nicely.”
After a break of five years, the Russian Open returned to the European Tour schedule in 2013. Between 1993 and 2008, it switched between being a Challenge Tour event and an official European Tour event but it was never considered a strong one.
Having been formerly staged at Le Meridien Country Club in Moscow, when the event returned to the Tour two years ago, it switched to the Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club but after two years getting to know that Jack Nicklaus design we're off to another - the Skolkovo Golf Club. Like the two previous venues, Skolkovo is also in Moscow.
This is the first event to count towards the 2016 Ryder Cup but if there's a Ryder Cupper in the field I'd be surprised. This is quite possibly the weakest event of the year to date.
Skolkovo Golf Club, Moscow
Par 71, 7, 025 yards
Having only opened last year, Skolkovo has the distinction of being the only course within the city of Moscow. Like last year's venue, Tseleevo, Skolkovo is a Jack Nicklaus design.
It's a very wide parkland course featuring poplars and birch trees that aren't close to the fairways. There are six large lakes and 113 bunkers. Water is in play on holes four, nine, 10, 13, 16 and 18 and the bentgrass greens, that measured 11 on the stimpmeter on Monday, are said to be undulating and in perfect condition.
With very wide and generous fairways, scoring is expected to be very low.
Live on Sky Sports - starting on Thursday afternoon.
Last Two Winners
2014 - David Horsey -13
2013 - Michael Hoey -16
What Will It Take To Win The Russian Open?
Given the course is so new, not overly long and very wide, I suspect we could be in for a bit of a birdie-fest. From the images I've seen, there looks to be a mixture of new and established trees so it certainly doesn't look barren but it always takes time for any course to mature and for the rough to become penalising so driving accuracy may be something of an irrelevance.
Is There an Angle In?
With so little known about the venue, we've got our work cut out this week but looking at results on other Jack Nicklaus designs may help. The results of the last two renewals of this event could be worth analysing, even though this is a shorter course and a par 71 opposed to a par 72. Lake Malaren, home of the BMW Masters in China is a recently opened Nicklaus design and he was also responsible for the Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof, which hosted the BMW International in Germany in 2012 and 2014, as well as the Linde Masters in 2005 and the Mercedes Benz between 2007 and 2009.
It may also be worth looking at those that have fared well in Russia before. The last two winners, David Horsey and Michael Hoey are both in the line-up this week and the two I like with form there are Spanish pair, Carlos Del Moral and Jose Manuel Lara.
This looks like being a really low scoring event so making up ground could be tricky. The frontrunners dominated last week's event in the Czech Republic and I can see a similar outcome here.
German maiden, Max Kieffer, heads the market in what is a very weak affair. He was eighth last year but he has just one top-ten in his last six starts and he's not for me.
Welsh veteran, Bradley Dredge, is vying for second favouritism along with the 2013 winner, Michael Hoey, and last year's champ, David Horsey, but again, they make no appeal.
Horsey won the Made In Denmark a fortnight ago and he's developed into a fairly prolific winner, despite never looking very solid in-contention, and he's the only one towards the head of the market that I was even remotely interested in.
From thinking I'd struggle to find a pick, I've ended up backing three and first up is Carlos Del Moral who ranks second in the Birdie Average Stats for the last three months. He's a fairly big-hitter off the tee but he's inaccurate, although that might not matter too much here. The strength of his game is his putting so this venue might just suit him nicely.
He has previous form in Russia having won the Russian Challenge Cup on the Challenge Tour and having finished 10th in this event last year. He missed the cut last week and after a great start, he finished down the field in Denmark but he was fourth in Germany at the BMW International just five starts back and in such a weak field, I thought he was an OK price at 85.084/1.
Jose Manual Lara finished second in Finland on the Challenge Tour three weeks ago and but for a final round 77 on Sunday, he'd have finished much nearer than 47th in the Czech Republic. Like Del Moral, Lara has previous form in Russia and I thought 100/1 was a decent price.
My final pick is another 100/1 shot - Jazz Janewattananond. The 19-year-old Thai is going to be a player of some repute in time but he's already shown plenty. This may be a bit beyond him right now but given he's finished fourth and third in two of his last three starts on the Asian Tour, at 100/1 he looked worth chancing modestly.
Carlos Del Moral @ 85.084/1
Jose Manual Lara @ 100/1 (Sportsbook)
Jazz Janewattananond @ 100/1 (Sportsbook)
Given this is such a low key affair and that the Deutsche Bank Championship (previewed here) doesn't start until Friday, I will kick the In-Play Blog off on Saturday morning this week.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter