A very interesting name is taking part in this week’s European Tour event. He’ll be the headliner and he is already priced as the heavy favorite as the players visit Genzon Golf Club for the second time. The Shenzhen International was an inaugural event played last year and it is back for a second season on the European Tour circuit. Even though the PLAYERS Championship is just a few weeks away on the PGA Tour side of things, this is a pretty loaded field for an event just a couple of weeks after the Masters.
That player mentioned in the lede is Bubba Watson, who participated in this event last year as well. The explosion of golf in China is something that Wes Reynolds has discussed with BangTheBook Radio host Adam Burke and that topic is sure to be discussed on Wednesday’s show. The sport is definitely growing there and it doesn’t hurt to have an event like this in the Guangdong Province.
It should be a good weekend for golf, with temperatures a little bit warm and humidity probably up a little bit, but sunny skies and light winds could allow players to post some better scores than last year. Kiradech Aphibarnrat was the winner of the inaugural event in a playoff over China’s native son Li Hao-Tong. Both players finished 12-under, but Aphibarnrat prevailed in a playoff. This is the first of back-to-back events in China, with the Volvo China Open in Shanghai coming up next week.
This is an interesting course. It is a par 72, with some par 5s that are easily reachable in two for some of the longer hitters. There are a couple of drivable par 4s for that longer-hitting crowd as well. This isn’t a course that holds a lot of familiarity for the players and this is an event that sees a lot of competition from the PGA Tour of China players that are more familiar with the course and its layout.
One element at play in all of these events is that players that are in discussion for spots on the Ryder Cup team could be under some additional pressure. The Ryder Cup will take place September 30 to October 2 at beautiful Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. The leading players on the European Tour Race to Dubai standings as of August 28, 2016 are going to make the team and the top five players in Ryder Cup points will also get to participate. There’s extra incentive each and every week now, particularly for those that are on or near the bubble.
One player that probably has nothing to worry about is Bubba Watson. Watson should be a shoe-in for the United States team. He was one of just four Americans to play Shenzhen International last year and was the second-highest finisher. Peter Uihlein played extremely well and finished 10-under in a tie for fourth. Watson opened with a 70 and shot back-to-back 74s before finishing with a really strong 65. 5Dimes Sportsbook has him lined at +500 for this weekend’s event.
The only player from Thailand in the field last year was Kiradech Aphibarnrat and he won, much to the chagrin of the native fans. Aphibarnrat outlasted Li Hao-Tong in a playoff and became the first, and currently only, champion of this event. He’s priced at +1200 this week. Quietly, Aphibarnrat has been playing really well. He was 15th at the Masters and sixth at the Arnold Palmer. He also beat Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb in the Match Play, but lost to Dustin Johnson, so he failed to advance out of group play.
Joost Luiten was nearly able to grab last week’s win at Real Club Valderrama in the Open de Espana. He finished second, one shot behind Andrew Johnston. It was a very tough weekend for golf. No players finished below par and Luiten’s 2-over 286 was actually a really good score. Some players that made the cut finished with scores of 24-over, so it was a very rough weekend all around. Luiten played very well in the True Thailand Classic a little over a month ago with a sixth-place finish. He’s +1400 this week.
Li Hao-Tong has a ton of value at 50/1. The 20-year-old gave it everything he had on his home turf to push Aphibarnrat, a much more experienced player, to a playoff. It’s not a stretch to say that Li is the face of golf in China right now as one of the game’s top prospects. He was part of the Web.com Tour when he made this stop at Shenzhen. His coming out party may have been when he finished seventh at the WGC-HSBC Championships at Sheshan GC in Shanghai in one of the first events of the season. Expect this price to come down throughout the week.
A couple of familiar names at long shot prices at Y.E. Yang and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Yang finished tied for fourth last year at 10-under, shooting 66-69 over the weekend. He’s priced at 50/1 this week. Jimenez checks in at 80/1, but the world’s most interesting golfer hasn’t fared very well in recent events.
Golf Channel will have all the coverage you desire for this weekend’s Shenzhen International at Genzon GC.