The Punter

Volvo China Open: Rozner a perfect fit for Hidden Grace

Hidden Grace Golf Course
Hidden Grace Golf Course

The DP World Tour moves from Japan to China for the first edition of the Volvo China Open on the Tour since 2019. Read Steve Rawlings' detailed preview here...


Tournament History

First staged in 1995, the Volvo China Open was a DP World Tour event between 2005 and 2019 but it fell off the schedule after Mikko Korhonen beat Benjamin Herbert in a playoff at what was then called, Genzon Golf Club.

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 editions were sole sanctioned China Tour events, the 2022 renewal was cancelled altogether and last year it returned to the Asian Tour as part of their International Series, so this is the first edition back on the DP World Tour in five years.


Venue

Hidden Grace Golf Club (formerly the Genzon Golf Club), Longgang, Shenzhen, China


Course Details

Par 72, 7,145 yards
Stroke Average in 2019 - 71.31

Designed by Neil Haworth, Hidden Grace was formally known as Genzon Golf Course and before that it was known as the Citic Longgong Golf Club. It opened in 1995 but was extensively renovated in 2008 before reopening a year later.

In addition to the last four editions of this event, the course was also the host venue for the 2014 edition of the Volvo China Open, won by Alex Levy, and it was also the home of the now defunct Shenzhen International which ran for just three years between 2015 and 2017.

GENZON 3.jpg

Set in a botanical garden, the course encircles a large lake. It's largely tree-lined but the last seven holes are open. The fairways are generous in width and undulating, and the rough is described as not very penal but very consistent. The entire course is laid to Paspalum and the greens are Paspalum Platinum.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

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


Last Nine Winners

2023 - Sarit Suwannarut -19 (Asian Tour event) *
2022 - No Event
2021 - Zhang Jin -8 (China Tour Event) *
2020 - Zhang Huilin -19 (China Tour Event) *
2019 - Mikko Korhonen -20 (Playoff) * 70.069/1
2018 - Alexander Bjork -18 70.069/1
2017 - Alexander Levy -17 25.024/1
2016 - Haotong Li -22 140.0139/1
2015 - Wu Ashun -9
2014 - Alexander Levy -19 *

* Played at Hidden Grace (Formerly Genzen)


What Will it Take to Win the China Open?

There have been five DP World Tour events played at the course in the last ten years. Here are the top-three and ties with stats from those five events.

2014 China Open

1 Alex Levy -19 (DD: 7, DA: 11, GIR: 5, Sc: 23, PA: 4)
2 Tommy Fleetwood -15 (DD: 16, DA: 15, GIR: 17, Sc: 1, PA: 28)
3 Alvaro Quiros -13 (DD: 3, DA: 40, GIR: 33, Sc: 11, PA: 28)

2015 Shenzhen International Open

1 Kiradech Aphibarnrat -12 (DD: 22, DA: 32, GIR: 22, Sc: 23, PA: 6)
2 Hao-tong Li -12 (No stats produced)
3 Tommy Fleetwood -11 (DD: 6, DA: 13, GIR: 1, Sc: 17, PA: 53)

2016 Shenzhen International Open

1 Soomin Lee -16 (DD: 28, DA: 50, GIR: 30, Sc: 4, PA: 3)
2 Joost Luiten -14 (DD: 30, DA: 27, GIR: 5, Sc: 34, PA: 13)
3 Brandon Stone -14 (DD: 8, DA: 16, GIR: 4, Sc: 1, PA: 42)

2017 Shenzhen International Open

1 Bernd Wiesberger -16 (DD: 36, DA: 29, GIR: 15, Sc: 4, PA: 25)
2 Tommy Fleetwood -16 (DD: 1, DA: 43, GIR: 10, Sc: 7, PA: 17)
T3 Gregory Bourdy -15 (DD: 32, DA: 25, GIR: 44, Sc: 12, PA: 20)
T3 Ross Fisher -15 (DD: 6, DA: 25, GIR:3, Sc: 1, PA: 37)

2019 Volvo China Open

1 Mikko Korhonen -20 (DD: 55, DA: 15, GIR: 3, Sc: 57, PA: 8)
2 Benjamin Hebert -20 (DD: 43, DA: 18, GIR: 10, Sc: 61, PA: 8)
3 Jorge Campillo -19 (DD: 35, DA: 24, GIR: 13, Sc: 38, PA: 4)

DD= Driving Distance
DA= Driving Accuracy
GIR=Greens In Regulation
Sc=Scrambling
PA=Putting Average


The stats don't provide an abundance of clues but with its generous fairways, length off the tee has been advantageous here and Par 5 Performance looks a stat to consider.

Bernd Wiesberger ranked sixth on the long holes in 2017 and nobody played the par fives better than big-hitting Aussie, Scot Hend, who finished fourth in 2016, having played the long holes in -10 and the first three home ranked tied third and eighth for Par 5 Scoring.

At this event in 2014, the winner, Alexander Levy, and Alvaro Quiros, who finished third, played the long holes better than anyone else in 12-under-par and Benjamin Herbert, who lost a playoff here in 2019, ranked second on the par fives.

The first three course winners all had a Putting Average ranking of sixth or better and the front three in 2019 ranked tied eighth, tied eighth and fourth.

Scrambling was an important stat in 2017 and 17th was the best any of the front four ranked for Putting Average but overall, putting looks key.


Is There an Angle In?

Form at Doha and the Al Hamra Golf Course are worthy of scrutiny given both are paspalum tracks.

Doha hosts the Qatar Masters and Al Hamra the Ras Al Khaimah Championship but it's form at another paspalum track, Al Mouj, which hosted the Oman Open between 2018 and 2020, that has crossed over the best here.

In addition to the three editions of the Oman Open, Al Mouj also staged a couple of Challenge Tour events before the Oman Open began and several players with form at this venue have played well at Al Mouj.

Fabrizio Zanotti, who was a fast finishing fifth here in 2017, traded at odds-on in Oman in 2109 and Brandon Stone, Nacho Elvira, Jordan Smith, Bernd Rithammer and Alexander Bjork, to name but five, all have bits of form both here and at Al Mouj.

It looked like there was a strong link between the two tracks after the 2018 renewal of the Oman Open.

The winner, Joost Luiten, finished second at this track in 2016, and Alex Levy, in fourth, is a two-time winner here.

alex levy golfer.jpg

The link was confirmed here in 2019 given the top-three had all finished inside the top-ten at Al Mouj at least once previously.

It's old form now but it's still worth investigating.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

In the 16 years that the Volvo China Open has been a part of the DP World Tour, players from 13 different countries have won the event.

The 2017 winner, Levy, was a well-fancied 25.024/1 chance and Korea's Y.E Yang was quite well fancied back in 2010 but the six winners in-between were fairly hard to find and the 2018 winner, Alexander Bjork, and the 2019 winner, Korhonen, both went off at 70.069/1 so outsiders have a reasonable record.


In-Play Tactics

Hao-tong Li lost a playoff to Kiradech Aphibarnrat here in 2015 having trailed by nine strokes at halfway and he was still five back with a round to go. He was matched at a high 600.0599/1 in running and Aphibarnrat actually hit a high of 50.049/1 during round four!

There was plenty of drama that year and those two weren't the only two to hit odds-on. Tommy Fleetwood, who lost by a solitary stroke, having had a dozen more putts than Aphibarnrat on the week, also dipped below evens in-running and Fleetwood lost a playoff here in 2017 having trailed by eight strokes with a round to go so it's clearly possible to come from off the pace. However, all five DP World Tour winners have been in-contention all week long.

Korhonen trailed by three after round one and by six at halfway in 2019 but he was tied for second and three off the lead (held by Benjamin Hebert) through 54 holes and that's the furthest any of the five trailed by at any stage.

The first four course winners on the DP World Tour led with a round to go and none of them ever trailed by more than a stroke.

Wiesberger sat second after round one in 2017 before leading all the way after that, Soomin Lee won wire-to-wire in 2016 and the two course winners before him won in very similar style to Wiesberger.

Both trailed by just a stroke after round one, Levy then led after rounds two and three in 2014 and Aphibarnrat sat second at halfway before leading by two with a round to go.

Market Leaders

This is a weak affair but it's hard to make a strong case for any of the market leaders.

Tom McKibbin has been backed into favouritism and that makes sense given his strong recent form.

Last year's European Open winner missed the cut in Singapore in his penultimate start but that's his only really poor performance this year and he has 2024 form figures reading 25-14-16-4-12-9-MC-7.

This is his first visit to China but that shouldn't be an issue and he's long enough off the tee to enjoy this venue.

Jordan Smith has form at all the right correlating courses and in two previous visits to Hidden Grace he's finished 14th and fifth but he's short enough for my liking after an ordinary performance in Japan last week at a venue I thought would suit him nicely.

Sebastian Soderberg needs to pick himself up after a second second place finish in-a-row last week and that might be tough.

Sebastian Soderberg in Mauritius.jpg

He missed the cut here on his only previous visit in 2019 but he's putting brilliantly and that will be a big plus in what may well develop into something of a birdie-fest.

Soderberg can't be dismissed out of hand given how well he's playing and he makes more appeal than Yannik Paul, who was atrocious in-contention in Japan last week but I'm happy to swerve all the market leaders.

Selections

I'll have at least one selection for the Find Me a 100 Winner column later today or tomorrow and I've got two fancies trading at double figures - Antoine Rozner and Alejandro Del Rey.

It was an in-and-out week in Japan for Rozner last week where he finished tied for 24th after rounds of 70, 65, 71 and 66 but that was his first start in almost two months and this place should suit him much better than last week's tree-lined track.

Already twice a winner on paspalum, in Mauritius and Qatar, Rozner finished sixth at Doha as recently as March and he was 10th in the Oman Open Al Mouj in his only start there back in 2020.

This is the Frenchman's first visit to Hidden Grace, but he has the length to contend here and he'll love the putting surfaces. He's more than capable of going super-low (won the Golf in Dubai Championship with 25-under-par total) and he's also been putting nicely this year.

Back Antoine Rozner @ 40.039/1

Bet Here

If length off the tee is going to be a big factor this week, Alejandro Del Rey is a very obvious candidate.

The big-hitting Spaniard ranks inside the top-five for Driving Distance week after week and he arrives in fair form.

The 26-year-old finished 24th last week in Japan and he was seventh in his previous start, on paspalum in Singapore, so there's every reason to think this track will suit him.

He's yet to get off the mark on the DP World Tour but he's a winner on the Challenge Tour and he has the quality to make the next step.

Back Alejandro Del Rey @ 60.059/1

Bet Here

He's no bigger than 40/141.00 on the High Street so he's a great price on at 60.059/1.


Now read my CJ Cup Byron Nelson preview here


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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