Thailand Golf Championship: Classy Kaymer the value in Bangkok, says The Punter

Martin Kaymer - The punter's idea of value in Bangkok
Martin Kaymer - The punter's idea of value in Bangkok

The European and PGA Tours may be finished for the year but there's a stellar field lining up for the Asian Tour's flagship event in Bangkok, which is live on Sky Sports from Thursday, so read Steve's in-depth preview here...


“Not only have all three winners of the event been top-class, in each of the first four stagings, a top drawer player has finished runner-up. The cream clearly rises to the top here and I just wouldn’t bother looking at any of the big outsiders.”

Tournament History

With $1 million up for grabs, the Thailand Golf Championship attracts a very decent field. Although only in its fifth year, the tournament has quickly established itself as the Asian Tour's flagship event.


Venue

Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand.


Course Details
Par 72, 7453 yards.

In addition to this event for the last four years, Amata Spring was also used for the Royal Trophy from 2006 until 2010 and it was also the venue for Open Championship International Qualification in 2010 and again last year.

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.

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



Useful Sites

Event Site
Course Site
Course Overview
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


First Four Winners

2014 - Lee Westwood -8
2013 - Sergio Garcia -22
2012 - Charl Schwartzel -25
2011 - Lee Westwood -22


What Will it Take to Win The Thailand Golf Championship?

We don't have any stats to ponder for any of the first four editions but two of the game's best drivers, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, have won three of the first four renewals and I don't think that's any sort of accident. 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 Bermuda grass and playing from the fairway is a lot less stressful. Bubba Watson has struggled here in each of the last two years because he's got very frustrated by repeatedly missing fairways. Some of the holes are really tough and it's very hard to make par from the rough so a strong driving game is essential.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Not only have all three winners of the event been top-class, in each of the first four stagings, a top drawer player has finished runner-up. Marcus Fraser and Martin Kaymer finished tied for second 12 months ago, Henrik Stenson chased home Sergio in 2013, Bubba Watson was tied with Thailand's Thitphan Chuayprakong, in a distant second behind Schwartzel in 2012, and Charl himself finished second in the inaugural event.

The cream clearly rises to the top here and I just wouldn't bother looking at any of the big outsiders.


In-Play Tactics

For three years, relatively calm conditions meant for really good scoring and three very easy winners. 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, and Sergio hit the front at halfway before going on to win by four in 2013 but it was all change last year when the wind blew and we witnessed all sorts of in-running shenanigans.

There are no hole averages published for this event so I can't advise in too much detail but the finish is tough. 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.

Kaymer was matched at 2.01/1 before he three-putted the 17th and Fraser hit a low of 1.538/15 before he bogeyed 18. Westwood had begun the final round just two off the lead 12 months ago 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 relatively easy conditions though so it may make sense to concentrate on the early leaders.


Market Leaders

After his impressive victory in the Bahamas on Sunday, world number four, Bubba Watson, heads the market but I want to be against him. He finished a distant second to Schwartzel here on debut in 2012 but he hasn't looked as though he's enjoyed here since. As stated earlier, he got very irritated at times in the last two editions and he's only managed to finish 39th and 25th.

In addition to feeling that the venue isn't ideal, his record in his next start after winning isn't great either. Here are his finishing positions on his next start after each of his eight PGA Tour victories prior to Sunday - MC-29-48-18-9-48-24-13. The solitary top-10 listed represents a quarter-final defeat at the WGC Matchplay in 2012 so he has never actually finished inside the top-10 at a stroke-play event in his first start back after a win.

The 2013 winner and second favourite, Sergio Garcia, is another I'm not in the least bit interested in at the prices. The Spaniard always finds winning hard and he very nearly threw away the inaugural Ho Tram Open in Vietnam on Sunday. He double bogeyed the penultimate hole in regulation play before draining a monster birdie putt on the first extra hole of a four-man playoff. Himmat Rai also birdied the first extra hole but the pressure told on the huge outsider at the next and Sergio had this to say after his win.

"Winning is never easy. I was fortunate and you have to be lucky to win, after you've been up there and you don't win, a lot of things go through your mind and this win will help give me a little bit more confidence."

I'm not convinced such a lucky escape in such lowly company will install that much confidence and I'm happy to leave him alone although his record after a win his far better than Bubba's and he even won back-to-back in his native Spain back in 2011.

There's not much to choose between the European Tour's rookie of the year, Byeong-Hun An, and in-form Frenchman, Victor Dubbuisson and both look reasonably priced in comparison to the front two in the market. This will be the Korean's first start at Amata Spring but I see no reason for him not to take to the place, whereas Victor has to improve on his only previous attempt. He missed the cut here on debut 12 months ago when quite well fancied.

Matthew Fitzpatrick looks short enough, given his slight lack of length and complete lack of course experience and the Thai duo, Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, might feel the pressure that comes with playing on home soil.


Selections

History very much points to a well-known class act winning but I'm struggling to see a lot of value at the head of the market so I'm going to take a chance on the very classy Martin Kaymer.

The German isn't in the best of form but he was playing even worse this time last year when he very nearly won on debut and I thought he was a fair price at 25/1 with the Sportsbook. I'm also going to have small savers on woefully out of form course specialist, Lee Westwood and Danish veteran, Thomas Bjorn, who finished just a shot shy of the playoff in Vietnam on Sunday.

And finally, I'd like to lay Bubba for a top-10 finish at long odds-on but its early days and as yet I've not been matched.


Selections

Martin Kaymer @ 25/1 (Sportsbook)
Lee Westwood @ 30.029/1
Thomas Bjorn @ 55.054/1


I'll be back on Thursday with the In-Play Blog.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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