Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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Maybank Championship Preview

Monday, January 29, 2018

It may lack the weight of star names who played the last two weeks in the Middle East but this week’s Maybank Championship is still a big one for fantasy managers.


The prize fund of $3,000,000 matches those on offer in Abu Dhabi and Dubai so outside of The Masters and WGCs, it’s the highest purse up for grabs on the European Tour until May’s BMW PGA Championship.


Players of the European Tour’s official fantasy game therefore get an immediate chance to atone if they didn’t get it right (awkward cough, let’s quickly move on) at Abu Dhabi GC or the Emirates GC.


Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of current course form to go on as this is only the third year the tournament has been part of the European Tour schedule and this week’s course, Saujana G&CC in Kuala Lumpur, was only used for the first time last year.


World No. 10 Henrik Stenson heads the field which includes Hao Tong Li, the man who took down Rory McIlroy in Dubai on Sunday.



The Course


Saujana was opened in 1986 but redesigned in 2015 with all new green complexes. The putting surfaces are small and undulating and feature grainy Bermuda Tiff Eagle. Palm trees line the fairways on the par 72 which measures in at 7,196 yards and has the standard four par 5s including a 569-yard closer. There are plenty of birdies on offer as shown by last year’s leading scores…..


2017 Top Six


-19 Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) DD: 50, DA: 21, GIR: 31, Scr: 1, PA: 30, AA: 15

-18 David Lipsky (USA) DD: 33, DA: 37, GIR: 31, Scr: 3, PA: 4, AA: 7

-17 Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) DD: 29, DA: 47, GIR: 19, Scr: 50, PA: 8, AA: 24

-16 Alexander Levy (Fra) DD: 45, DA: 53, GIR: 19, Scr: 6, PA: 12, AA: 16

-15 Hao Tong Li (Chn) DD: 8, DA: 37, GIR: 31, Scr: 9, PA: 3, AA: 4

-15 Danny Willett (Eng) DD: 57, DA: 21, GIR: 2, Scr: 1, PA: 17, AA: 5


Notes: Strong scrambling and putting were the standout stats for the leading finishers last year. Despite the tree-lined fairways, Driving Accuracy didn’t seem a big factor.


Previous winners at Saujana G&CC


2009 Anthony Kang (USA)

2007 Peter Hedblom (Swe)

2005 Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)

2004 Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)

2001 Vijay Singh (Fij)

1999 Gerry Norquist (USA)

1997 Lee Westwood (Eng)


Top 10 in the 2016 Maybank Championship Malaysia (held at Royal Selangor)


Marcus Fraser (Aus)

T2 Soomin Lee (Kor), Miguel Tabuena (Phi)

T4 Jorge Campillo (Spa), Julien Quesne (Fra)

T6 Richard Bland (Eng), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa)

T8 Nathan Holman (Aus)

T9 Peter Uihlein (USA), Rahil Gangjee (Ind), Masahiro Kawamura (Jap)



The Weather


It’s usual to brace yourselves for hot temperatures, high humidity and t-storms at this time of year in Malaysia and that’s the case again this week. Temps are in the 90s and storms are part of the forecast for the first three rounds although it remains to be seen to what extent. Winds aren’t a factor.



The Leading Contenders


Henrik Stenson

It’s a quick return to Kuala Lumpur for Stenson, who helped Europe win the recent EurAsia Cup there with two wins in his three matches. Since then, the Swede has finished T8 in Abu Dhabi and T6 in the Dubai Desert Classic so he looks close to a very big week. Stenson made the top three when he contested the 2005 Malaysian Open at Saujana and, although the course has changed, it’s a reminder that he can flourish in high humidity and on grainy Bermuda.


Alexander Levy

A big fortnight in the Middle East (T7 Abu Dhabi, T4 Dubai Desert Classic) has really fuelled talk of Levy making this year’s Ryder Cup team in his native France. Now he gets the chance to shine for a third week in a row at a course where he shot 69-68-67-68 to finish solo fourth last year. Levy also made the top 25 in the previous year’s Malaysian Open at Royal Selangor, has won in China while he beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. There is lots to like about his chances.


Bernd Wiesberger

Like Stenson, Wiesberger also played in the EurAsia Cup at nearby Glenmarie G&CC. The Austrian won his singles after taking just half a point from his first two games in team play. In truth, he’ll feel he should be returning here as defending champion. Twelve months ago, Wiesberger shot a second-round 63 which included nine birdies in a row (preferred lies) to take the halfway lead before he dug himself a hole with a 73 on day three. A closing 66 got him back to third and that followed a previous pair of second places in the 2015 and 2014 Malaysian Opens so he’s got a superb record in this part of the world.


Hao Tong Li

Just how good is Hao Tong Li? After lots of promising glimpses, including a win in his home China Open, third in last summer’s Open Championship and T4 in November’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Chinese youngster took it to a new level when winning in Dubai last week, holing a clutch birdie putt at 18 to finish at 23-under and beat Rory McIlroy by a shot. Fascinatingly, he was also T5 in this event last year so Li has a golden chance to keep the fires burning. Tied 13th in Scrambling last week and topped the putting stats.


Dylan Frittelli

Last 10 starts worldwide? A win, a second, a fourth, a sixth (in Dubai on Sunday) and four other top 20s. The South African is fast becoming one of the European Tour’s classiest and consistent operators outside of the obvious names. It’s his first start in Malaysia but he teed it up in the Indonesian Masters (two-hour flight away) last month and posted T20 so there’s nothing to suggest he won’t be a factor again this week in a relatively weak field. One added incentive? He’s World No. 51 so wants to climb into that top 50 and book his spot in all the big events this year.


Kiradech Aphibarnrat

The Thai won the 2013 Malaysian Open and was also third in the CIMB Classic held in these parts but, surprisingly, he missed the cut in this event at Saujana last year. After rounding off a hot finish to 2017 with a win on the Asian Development Tour and top five at the Indonesian Masters, he’s had to settle for T22 in Abu Dhabi and T51 in Dubai. He also lost all three matches at the EurAsia Cup so there are some doubts over a player, who gamers would naturally lean towards in an event played on his home Asian turf.


Thorbjorn Olesen

Gamers expected to get a tune out of Olesen in the Desert Swing but T53 and T29 were short of expectations. However, the Dane was T7 after 54 holes in Dubai before a disappointing Sunday so putting him in the discard pile could be a hasty move. Olesen is a first-timer at Saujana but three previous starts in Malaysia have all resulted in missed cuts.


Chris Paisley

Imagine being Chris Paisley right now. You end 2017 with form of MC-MC-58-MC-23-MC. You go away for Christmas and start 2018 with a win in South Africa and back-to-back top T5s in prestigious events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Now 78th in the world, he’ll be eyeing the top 64, who line up for the WGC-Match Play. The big key for him during that run has been excellent Scrambling and Putting stats, the exact requirement this week. T41 here last year, expect a big jump this time.


Thomas Detry

The Belgian is another to have improved his world ranking in the desert (211th to 177th) after T9 in Abu Dhabi followed by T22 in Dubai. Detry also has a T10 to his name in Hong Kong on his most recent trip to Asia. He’ll be pegging it up in Malaysia for the first time but, on current form, Detry looks a viable option in a field much weaker than it’s been in the last two weeks.


Lee Westwood

Westwood is a course winner having won the Malaysian Open at Saujana back in…. 1997! Okay, it’s old form but he’s had seven wins on the Asian Tour since the start of 2011. That run includes another win in this country at the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2014. Also top five in that tournament in 2015, the Englishman will hope a return will spark him to life after his pair of missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. To be honest, he wasn’t far off, shooting 69 in round two of both events.

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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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