Thailand Classic: Otaegui fancied to take to Amata Spring

Golfer Adrian Otaegui
Adrian Otaegui in action at Valderrama

The DP World Tour returns to Thailand for the first since 2016 and our man's back with the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start...


Tournament History

The DP World Tour makes the short hop from Singapore to Thailand following Ockie Strydom's off the pace victory in the inaugural Singapore Classic for the first edition of the equally inspirationally named Thailand Classic.

Venue

Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand

Course Details

Par 72, 7505 yards

Although new to the DP World Tour, we do have some course form from Amata Spring to look back on.

The venue was used for the now defunct Royal Trophy from 2006 until 2010, Open Championship International Qualification in 2010 and 2014, last year's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) and most significantly, Amata was the host course for all five editions of the Thailand Golf Championship - an Asian Tour event staged between 2011 and 2015.

Designed by Schmidt Curley Golf Design, it's extremely long (especially on the front nine) with water often in play and the signature hole is the par 17th which features a movable island green, accessible only by boat. The whole course is laid to paspalum grass.

For more on the course, please see the video below, made in 2012.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky all four days, starting at 05:30 on Thursday

What will it take to win the Thailand Classic

The cream really did rise to the top in the Thailand Golf Championship with Ryder Cuppers and major winners taking the prize on every occasion.

Not only were the winners all straight out of the top drawer, but a classy player finished runner-up in all five editions too.

Here's a list of the five, together with their winning score in relation to par and their statistical rankings for the week.

2015 - Jamie Donaldson -21 DD - 14 DA - 22 GIR - 13 SC - 45 PA - 1
2014 - Lee Westwood -8 DD - 4 DA - 29 GIR - 8 SC - 19 PA - 5
2013 - Sergio Garcia -22 DD - 19 DA - 8 GIR - 15 SC - 1 PA - 2
2012 - Charl Schwartzel -25 DD - 16 DA - 15 GIR - 1 SC - 1 PA - 1
2011 - Lee Westwood -22 DD - 6 DA - 10 GIR - 3 SC - 16 PA - 3


DD - Driving Distance
DA - Driving Accuracy
GIR - Greens In Regulation
SC - Scrambling
PA - Putting Accuracy

Lee Westwood, when winning the title for a second time in 2014, is the only winner not to reach at least 21-under-par, demonstrating just how easy a test Amata is for the pros if the wind doesn't blow, and if you drive well.

Blustery conditions were encountered in 2014 and as a result, scoring was far tougher but in all five editions, whatever the weather, a strong game from the tee was rewarded. Long and straight is what's needed at Amata Spring.

The rough doesn't look too demanding but a missed fairway usually means trouble. The ball nestles right down in the innocuous looking rough and playing from the fairway is a lot less stressful.

Bubba Watson (in his pomp) struggled here because he got very frustrated by repeatedly missing fairways. Some of the holes are tough and it's very hard to make par from the rough so a strong driving game is essential.

It's also noteworthy that fifth was the worst any winner ranked for Putting Average.

Is There an Angle In?

Matt Cooper makes a solid case for looking at form at Paris National in his each-way column and another venue that appears to correlate nicely is Valderrama.

Charl Schwartzel, who hacked up here by a whooping 11 strokes, has never performed well here but the other three men to win here have fine records at the Spanish track. As does Martin Kaymer, who was placed here twice.

Valderrama is another course where straight driving gets rewarded.

In-Play Tactics

What little evidence we have suggests that being up with the pace throughout is vital.

After a jaded third round, the last course winner, Donaldson, slipped from first to second before the final round but he was right up there in the first two places all week and every winner of the Thailand Golf Championship was up with the pace all the way and for four of the five years, relatively calm conditions meant for really good scoring and four easy winners.

Lee Westwood won the inaugural event wire-to-wire by seven strokes and it could have been more - he was 11 strokes clear at halfway! Schwartzel also made all the running 12 months later, winning by a margin of 11, Sergio Garcia hit the front at halfway before going on to win by four in 2013 and the last winner, Donaldson won cosily by three strokes, but when the wind blew in 2014 we witnessed all sorts of in-running shenanigans...

The 16th is described as "arguably the toughest par 4 on the back nine", the 17th is played to an island green, much like the 17th at Sawgrass, and the finishing hole, another par 4, is far from easy. Water is in play all the way down the left-hand side of the hole but if you err on the side of caution and find the rough right of the fairway, a par is no pushover, so it's a tough finish.

Martin Kaymer was matched at 2.01/1 before he three-putted the 17th in 2014, and Marcus Fraser hit a low of 1.538/15 before he bogeyed 18. Westwood had begun the final round just two off the lead but he bogeyed the first two holes and at one stage he trailed by fully seven strokes during the final round so in tricky conditions, coming from off the pace is certainly possible.

The forecast this year suggests we might get a bit of wind over the first two days before relatively easy conditions over the weekend so it may pay to be patient and to concentrate on the leaders at halfway.

Market Leaders

Nicolai Hojgaard has been backed into favouritism and I can see why.

He won on paspalum at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship last year and he's been in fair form of late, but will he be straight enough around Amata? That would be my biggest reservation.

Top-ten finishes at Paris and Valderrama put Robert MacIntyre firmly in the frame, if Matt and I's course correlation theories have any legs, but 20th in Abu Dhabi is his best result of the year so far and last week's missed cut is far from encouraging.

Jordan Smith absolutely doted up at the Portugal Masters back in October but it's taken him a while to get going again since them.

Jordan Smith wins Portugal masters.jpg

A top-20 in the Dubai Desert Classic and his tied 17th last week are encouraging efforts and he's reliable off the tee so he could easily contend here.

Selections

I've got at least one selection for the Find Me a 100 Winner column, which I'll publish later today or tomorrow morning, but for now I'm going with two picks - Adrian Otaegui and Jeunghun Wang.

Otaegui hacked up at Valderrama and his straight hitting should prove a huge asset at Amata Spring.

Since finishing runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill Championship before Christmas, the Spaniard has finished no better than 28th in four starts on the DP World Tour but he signed off the Singapore Classic with a six-under-par 66 on Sunday and he's no bigger than 28/1 on the High Street.

Jeunghun Wang was tied for the lead with a round to go last week before fading to finish third and I thought he was worth chancing here.

jeunghun wang portugal.jpg

Wang has played here three times previously, improving his placing every time (60-18-15), and he won't mind the blustery conditions at the start of the week. I thought he was a fair price at 70.069/1 after last week's third.

Selections:
Adrian Otaegui @ 38.037/1
Jeunghun Wang @ 70.069/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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