With very little to go on at a brand new venue, our man is exercising caution ahead of this week's action on the European Tour but he's still found two to play before the off. Read his latest preview here...
“Richie Ramsay was a bit of a disappointment last week in Malaysia, where he narrowly missed the cut, but I’m more than happy to play him at 60.059/1 here. Prior to last week, he’d finished runner-up at the NH Collection Open in Spain and 11th in Morocco so he’d found a bit of form and he could just take to this venue.”
The tri-sanctioned Volvo China Open has a field comprising of players from the China Golf Association, the OneAsia Tour and the European Tour and it's now in its 20th year.
Genzon Golf Club, Longgang, Shenzhen, China
Par 72, 7,145 yards
Designed by Neil Haworth, Genzon was formally known as the Citic Longgong Golf Club. It opened in 1995 but was extensively renovated in 2008 and re-opened a year later. It's a course that appears to be a mix of parkland and tree-lined with slight undulations, set around a central lake with Platinum Paspalum fairways.
We don't have too much to go on but having viewed the photos on the hole-by-hole guide, it looks a bit similar to Sheshan International - home of the WGC Volvo Champions event but given that was designed by Nelson & Haworth, that's perhaps not surprising.
Live on Sky Sports all four days - 06:30 on Thursday and Friday and 06:00 over the weekend.
Last Five Winners
2013 - Brett Rumford -16
2012 - Branden Grace -21
2011 - Nicolas Colsaerts -24
2010 - Y.E Yang -15
2009 - Scott Strange -8
What will it take to win the Volvo China Open?
I'm not going to beat about the bush - heaven knows is the answer. With a brand new course it's always difficult to know what attributes will be required. It looks quite a generous and short venue and I suspect we'll see some low scoring but I've no idea on the width of the fairways, the state of the rough or the speed and set-up of the greens and it's not a week to go steaming in on anyone.
In addition to current form, previous form in China is possibly the only angle-in available to us but I wouldn't go putting an awful lot of faith in that either. Previous event form is probably not worth an awful lot given how much shorter this week's venue is than the course used the last two years. It's a tough week to punt before the off.
It's hardly surprising that this week's favourite, Henrik Stenson, isn't playing as well as he did at the end of last year. For the last six months of 2013, the likable Swede was far and away the best player on the planet and the slow start after breaking for Christmas was understandable. I thought he was warming up nicely prior to the Houston Open but on a course he'd played well at before he was disappointing.
His tied 14th at the US Masters wasn't a bad effort given his poor previous form at Augusta but he putted poorly - as he'd done in his two previous events and in what's a decent enough field this week, at a single figure price on a course we have no idea whether he'll take to, he can't be considered value.
Second favourite, Ian Poulter, is in far better form than his figures suggest. He's had a few disastrous holes at a couple of events lately but his game is in good shape and this place could suit him. He's a former winner of the WGC - HSBC Champions event in China which is staged at Sheshan International, co-designed designed by Genzon's designer, Neil Haworth, and he could well be inspired by fellow Englishman, Lee Westwood, who won last week.
Poults and Westwood have been rivals for years and Lee's win in Malaysia might just spur the Arsenal fan on to go gunning for a well overdue win. Of the fancied runners, he makes the most appeal but I'd have wanted a bigger price than 12.011/1 to back him.
It's a bit strange to see Jason Dufner in the field given he's a previous winner of this week's PGA Tour event, the Zurich Classic. Just like Stenson, last year's PGA Championship winner hasn't quite got going this season and his short putting has been poor at times - he averaged two putts per hole at the US Masters, and that wouldn't win an event anywhere let alone at a major. It's great to see him in the field but he's far from a betting proposition given his price and current form.
To say I'm taking it easy from the off is an understatement. I don't like the fact that we know so little about the venue and I can't see any point in laying out much before the off but I have picked out a couple in the shape of Pablo Larrazabal and Richie Ramsay.
This year's Abu Dhabi Championship winner still managed to finish 8th in Malaysia last week despite a slow start and a nasty incident involving a swarm of hornets. He has a reasonable record in China, with three top-tens in his last three visits at three varying venues so that's a plus too. Given he's not the longest and that he plays well on any course type, at the Sportsbook's 33/1, that's now gone I'm sorry to report, I thought he was worth a very small play.
Richie Ramsay was a bit of a disappointment last week in Malaysia, where he narrowly missed the cut, but I'm more than happy to play him at 60.059/1 here. Prior to last week, he'd finished runner-up at the NH Collection Open in Spain and 11th in Morocco so he'd found a bit of form and he could just take to this venue.
He finished 3rd in the HSBC Champions event at the aforementioned Sheshan International, which would be a bit too long for him really, and he also plays well at tree-lined venues. It's guesswork to a certain extent but in the trickiest of puzzles, he might just be the answer.
I'll be back later with previews for the both the Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour and the Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter