Thailand Golf Championship: Bernd Wiesberger the value to bring home the bhats, says The Punter

Bernd Wiesberger – one of The Punter’s three Thai picks
Bernd Wiesberger – one of The Punter’s three Thai picks

Our man takes a look at the Thailand World Golf Championship where the favourites look opposable, despite the stats. Read Steve's detailed preview here...

"Bernd Wiesberger has finished the season fairly well and having finished 26th last year, after very poor first round, I can see him contending this time around and I thought he was fairly priced at 35/1 on the Sportsbook."

Tournament History

This is just the fourth staging of the Thailand Golf Championship and yet again a smattering of world class players have made the journey east, no doubt enticed by bucket loads of bhats. 


Venue

Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand


Course Details

Par 72, 7453 yards

In addition to this event for the last three 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 this 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 this six-minute video made in 2012.


Useful Sites
Course Site

Course Overview
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days at 6:00, starting on Thursday


First Three Winners

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


What Will it Take to Win The Thailand Golf Championship?

With no stats to ponder from the first three events, we're in the dark somewhat but there's little doubt that length off the tee is key but you can't just whack it miles. The rough here doesn't look brutal but the ball really nestles down and missing fairways with regularity is seriously detrimental. 

Charl Schwartzel can drive long and straight but he's often wayward but the other two winners, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, are renowned for their long straight game off the tee.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Not only have all three winners been top-class, in each of the first three stagings, a top drawer player has finished runner-up - Henrik Stenson chased home Sergio 12 months ago, 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 but I do have one caveat. All three winners have arrived here in tip-top form and it's debatable if any of the main contenders do so this time around so this might not be as straight forward as it first appears.


In-Play Tactics

Garcia won by four strokes, Westwood seven, and Schwartzel by a whopping 11. So far we've had three very clear cut winners and all three were in front by halfway. Garcia trailed by four after round one in 2013 but both Westwood and Schwartzel won wire-to-wire so it may make sense to get involved fairly early on and to stick with the frontrunners.

There are no hole averages published so I can't advise in too much detail but if we do get a close finish this time around, bear in mind that 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 that 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. 

It's all been fairly straightforward so far but if someone does lead by just one or even two with three to play this year, they might be worth opposing at odds-on.


Market Leaders

Defending champion, Sergio Garcia, has already shown how well suited he is to Amata Spring and he's very much the man to beat but he's not for me at just 6.25/1. Not only has his form dipped since he finished runner-up at the CIMB Classic, he's also never managed to defend a title and that's more than enough to put me off.

Bubba Watson returns for the third time having finished a distant second in 2012 and 30th last year and he's another worth swerving. He got typically frustrated here on both appearances and I'm not convinced he's accurate enough off the tee. He's a top-class performer but he's also a mercurial character and you never quite know what you're going to get. He won the HSBC Champions event in China last month but not before trying his absolute best to throw the title away with a bogey at the drivable par 4 16th and a double-bogey at the 17th. He saved the day with when he chipped in for eagle at 18 to get into the playoff but the following week we witnessed another strange Bubba performance. He led after round one of the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan and sat second at halfway but weekend rounds of 77 and 71 saw him slip to 24th and after a lacklustre effort at his home course last week, in the Hero Golf Challenge, I'm more than happy to leave him out here. 

A case can be made for big-hitting Frenchman, Victor Dubuisson, but the market loves him and he's no value either. As he did last year, Victor has finished the year strongly, finishing second to Stenson in the DP World Tour Championship, but the fact remains that he's still only won once and he's playing here for the first time too. At just 11.521/2, he's simply too short.

Inaugural winner, Lee Westwood, and course debutant, Martin Kaymer, are both playing some ropey stuff at the moment and although either one of them could find a spark from somewhere, neither can be backed with confidence. 


Selections

Given how the first three events here panned out, I felt sure I'd be getting stuck in to one of the market leaders and one of them may well end up dominating but as detailed above, none of the fancied runners make any appeal so I've ended up back three at bigger prices...

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger ranks 17th on the European Tour for total driving so he has the right game off the tee to prosper here and the fact that he's travelled to Thailand with his coach in attendance is a big plus. He has a good record whenever he travels east and I have found memories of backing him to win the Ballantine's Championship in Korea in 2012 after reading that his coach was with him. And Bernd said afterwards that his coach's presence was the reason he won. 

Although he's had the disappointment of losing his national title in a playoff and his final round collapse at the USPGA Championship to overcome, Bernd is ending the season fairly well and having finished 26th last year, after a very poor first round, I can see him contending this time around and I thought he was fairly priced at 35/1 on the Sportsbook.

I've also had a small speculative wager on this year's Puerto Rico Open winner and PGA Rookie of the year, Chesson Hadley, who is making his course debut. Hadley hasn't exactly kicked on after winning in March and he didn't finish the season brilliantly, although he did finish 9th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but that doesn't unduly worry me. He's an in-and-out performer with a touch of class and in a tricky looking heat he might represent a bit of value at around the 50.049/1.

My third and final pick is Thai veteran, Prayad Marksaeng, who has a quite remarkable record in his homeland. With course form figures reading 14-66-18, it's fair to say he hasn't quite got to grips with Amata Spring just yet and one could easily argue that it's a bit long for him nowadays but if we take out those three efforts, his last ten outings in Thailand have produced form figures that read 6-8-2-2-6-17-1-3-1-1 and given he arrives here on the back of a narrow defeat in Japan on Sunday, I thought he was well worth chancing at 60.059/1.


Selections:
Bernd Wiesberger @ 35/1 on the Sportsbook
Chesson Hadley @ 55.054/1
Prayad Marksaeng @ 60.059/1


I'll be back on Thursday evening with a look at the state of play at both events after round one.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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