Last week Jamie had a 60/1 place thanks to Yannik Paul in the Thailand Classic. The DP World Tour moves on to India this week and our Golf Tipster has five names he likes the look of including really being high on Joel Stalter’s chances. Check out his in-depth preview and his selections below…
Kazuki Higa – 1/5 6 places – 2 pts ew – 30/1
Renato Paratore – 1/5 8 places – 1.25 pts ew – 40/1
Jeff Winther – 1/5 8 places – 1.25 pts ew – 45/1
Gaganjeet Bhullar – 1/5 8 places – 1 pt ew – 100/1
Joel Stalter – 1/5 8 places – 0.5 pts ew – 300/1
Joel Stalter – Top 20 – 1 pt – 17/2
Last week, Thorbjorn Olesen threw his name into the mix as a potential Ryder Cup contender for this year, producing an impressive display to win the Thailand Classic by four strokes. That meant Yannik Paul had to settle for 2nd and a place for us at 60/1, with him and Nicolai Hojgaard never quite able to put enough pressure on overnight leader, Olesen in the final round.
The DP World Tour takes a mini two-week break following this week, though first they head to India for the first time since 2019; with the Indian Open having been postponed continually throughout the pandemic.
The Indian Open has been a mainstay on the golfing calendar since the mid-1960s. In more recent times, it was an event solely organised by the Asian Tour from 1998 to 2013; starting its relationship with the DPWT in 2015.
There we saw Anirban Lahiri win the first event co-sanctioned between the two tours, defeating SSP Chawrasia in a playoff. Chawrasia would then return the following year in 2016 to go one better, this time Lahiri having to settle for 2nd place.
Both of those events – and the majority in the fifteen years previous – took place at Delhi Golf Club, with the tournament moving to it’s current home at DLF Golf and Country Club’s Player Course in 2017.
Chawrasia went back-to-back in 2017, winning the first event staged here, producing a hugely impressive performance to demolish the field; leaving runner-up Gavin Green trailing by seven shots.
Matt Wallace won the 2018 version, defeating Andrew Johnston in a playoff and when we were last here in 2019, Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher triumphed over Masahiro Kawamura by a stroke.
We return this year – the event now co-sanctioned with the PGTI (India’s premier golf tour) – with an eclectic field, including many home stars who will be hoping to emulate what Chawrasia did here in 2017.
Completed by Gary Player in 2015, the Player Course is one of two on the property at DLF Golf and Country Club; the Palmer Course having hosted this event back in 2009, as well as multiple DPWT events previous.
The Player Course is a par 72, measuring 7393 yards (10x par 4s, 4x par 5s, 4x par 3s) and famous – or infamous depending on who you are – for being one of the most challenging tests around. We find proof of this from those renewals between 2017 and 2019.
Though SSP Chawrasia shot -10 when winning in 2017, he was seven shots in front of 2nd place and just seven players finished under par at the end of the week; +1 enough for an 11th place finish.
Scoring was better the following year, with Matt Wallace and Andrew Johnston finishing up on -11, though still very tricky overall with just fifteen players under par for the week and in 2019, despite twenty-six finishing under par, -9 was enough to see Stephen Gallacher claim the trophy.
The tree-lined course is extremely undulating, with elevation changes throughout. There are plenty of fairways with more generous landing areas, though they are countered by severely narrow ones; all protected by water, thick rough, out-of-bounds areas and deep, steep-faced bunkers.
The greens are large, with many elevated and again very undulating; abound with run-off areas and all with the amped up dangers mentioned above. The difficulty of both putting on and scrambling around them ranking as the most demanding on the DPWT.
There is little let up throughout and players will have to be patient. You’re going to have to accept making big numbers but there are scoring opportunities with the par 5s and a couple of shorter, potentially drivable par 4s where you can pick up birdies.
We only have the 2019 and 2018 renewals from which to draw strokes-gained data and even they won’t be the most reliable, though it does still offer some insight.
Both of those winners, Stephen Gallacher in 2019 and Matt Wallace in 2018, contrasted in their ball striking performances – Gallacher excelling in approach, ranking 2nd and Wallace off-the-tee, ranking 1st – but found common ground with the short-game. Gallacher ranking 11th around-the-greens and 13th in putting; Wallace 2nd in putting, 5th in scrambling and 7th around-the-greens.
This need for a strong short-game can be found further in their nearest challengers. Masahiro Kawamura chased Gallacher home and despite driving well, excelled around-the-greens, ranking 2nd; in addition to being 8th in scrambling and 15th in putting.
Whilst when 2nd to Matt Wallace in 2018, Andrew Johnston produced quality across the board, including ranking 2nd in scrambling 4th in putting and 11th around-the-greens. That year every player in the top 5 ranked top 11 for putting and four of the top five ranked top 10 in scrambling.
We have no strokes gained data in 2017 but SSP Chawrasia’s demolition job was massively helped by a field leading scrambling display, whilst Matteo Manassero in 3rd ranked 7th. Each player in that top four someone known for possessing quality with the short-game.
In addition, strong iron-play has also been key; already been mentioned with Gallacher ranking 2nd but Jorge Campillo – 3rd to him that year – ranked 5th. Meanwhile in 2018, Andrew Johnston and Matthias Schwab both ranked top 10 in approach, whilst all of the top 5 ranked top 20 in greens-in-regulation.
We’ve had a real mix of drivers go well, from the short and steady Chawrasia, to the more powerful ball-striker in Wallace. I don’t think it’s as important as other areas, indeed Gallacher drove poorly when winning last time but it can only be a positive to have people who drive the ball well here – either with power or accuracy – on side in some way.
Key Stats: SG: Around-the-Greens, SG: Putting, Scrambling, SG: Approach, Greens-in-Regulation
Secondary Stats: SG: Off-the-Tee or Driving Accuracy.
This is such a uniquely challenging course that it is rather difficult to correlate, though with those difficulties, it’s no surprise to see it draw comparisons with another of the tour’s most demanding courses, Valderrama – host of the Andalucia Masters. It’s a place where your short game has to be on point and looking back is littered with correlating form.
Each of the three winners at DLF have gone well there: Chawrasia with a top 10, Gallacher with a 12th amongst many other decent finishes and Wallace was 18th there on his one and only visit.
In addition, Andrew Johnston won there in 2016; Gavin Green – who has finished 2nd here – has a good record there, with a top 10 and top 20 in three visits. Further form-ties on offer from Joost Luiten – twice runner-up at Valderrama and 9th here in India; Masahiro Kawamura, who has never missed a cut at Valderrama and Pablo Larrazabal, amongst many more.
The other course which caught the eye was the Hong Kong Open at Hong Kong Golf Club
Chawrasia has twice finished 7th or better in Hong Kong and Gallacher has finished 4th, whilst Kawamura has a top 10. Additional form-ties found from Shubhankar Sharma and Larrazabal; both with multiple top 10s in.
Conditions are set to be hot and humid, with little in the way of wind or rain forecast over the course of the week.
Kazuki Higa is our top ranked player at #75 in the world – one of just four from inside the world’s top 100 – joined by Pablo Larrazabal, Robert MacIntyre and last week’s winner, Thorbjorn Olesen.
The dangerous South African duo of Oliver Bekker and Shaun Norris enter the fray this week, whilst we also have a strong home contingent, Shubhankar Sharma chief amongst them; joined by former DPWT card holder, Gaganjeet Bhullar and the two players who dominated the PGTI last year: Manu Gandas and Yuvraj Singh Sandhu, who picked up six and five wins respectively.
Last week’s winner, Thorbjorn Olesen tops the betting at 11/1, followed by Nicolai Hojgaard at 12/1 and Robert MacIntyre at 14/1.
Olesen could go well again, though I’m happy to watch on at the price, whilst I’m not sure this is exactly the type of test that Hojgaard will want and MacIntyre is struggling for form.
I’m forced to go hunting a little further down the betting and it’s with Japanese star, Kazuki Higa that I start.
Kazuki Higa 30/1 – 1/5 6 places – 2 pts ew
Higa may be a new name to many but he’s been on the radar since turning pro in 2018, following a strong amateur career that took him to #53 in the rankings.
He wasted little time getting going, winning on his very first start as a pro in the BTI Open on the Asian Development Tour. Following with another win in 2019 on the ADT, before winning for the first time on the Japanese Tour at the end of 2019.
Higa added another win to his C.V in 2021 but his form went to another level last year, as he picked up four titles on the JGTO in an excellent season that saw him top the rankings on the tour and ultimately secure himself a DPWT card for this season.
We caught a glimpse of his potential at this level when he was 10th in the BMW International Open last year (his first ever start in Europe) and he’s carried that level of form over into this year; finishing 36th at Ras al Khaimah and 11th last week in Thailand in just his two DPWT starts this year.
What is more encouraging is that I wouldn’t necessarily think those big, open courses would ideally suit Higa as he’s more about accuracy than power off-the-tee; this on show last week as he ranked 3rd in the field in driving accuracy.
There we also saw his strong scrambling and putting ability on show, areas he ranked 3rd and 21st in on the JGTO last year. His iron play also looking good in those starts, again an area in which he ranked highly in Japan, as the 8th best player in GIR.
This more strategic style course should suit his game and though he’s won plenty of times in low scoring events, we’ve seen he’s very much at home when courses/conditions are tough; two of his wins coming in winning scores of -12/-14 and he was 2nd in last year’s very challenging Japan Open.
With that he looks well suited to this week’s test and can continue the excellent form he’s shown when teeing it up on the DPWT so far.
Renato Paratore 40/1 – 1/5 8 places – 1.25 pts ew
Renato Paratore has been in good form since the end of last year and carrying that over into his two starts in South Africa to kick off 2023, he can go well on his first start on the DPWT this year.
Paratore’s 2022 was a story of two halves. After making just two cuts from January to July, he found form in August, missing five of his final fifteen cuts and recording seven top 25s; which included finishing 3rd in the Cazoo Open and 4th in the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to secure full playing privileges for the Italian and after failing to win them back at Q-School, he’s been left with a likely mixed schedule between the DPWT and Challenge Tour this year.
This left him starting the year out in South Africa in the events co-sanctioned between the Challenge Tour and Sunshine Tour, where he’s played well, recording finishes of 14th and 28th; hopefully meaning he arrives here in good spirits.
Paratore will have to overcome two missed cuts here at DLF G&CC in 2017 and 2018 but I’m confident in his ability to do so due to the quality of his short-game, which has always been an asset and by the fact at the end of last year, he was hitting the ball a lot less erratically.
A solid record at Valderrama, where he’s twice finished top 25 gives further confidence, as another unique and challenging course that wouldn’t necessarily suit his sometimes wayward ball-striking and if in the type of form he was in at the tail end of 2022, he’s got the game to go much better than those two previous efforts.
Jeff Winther 45/1 – 1/5 8 places – 1.25 pts ew
Denmark’s Jeff Winther is another short-game specialist who has made a good start to this season and can take to this challenge on his first try this week.
Winther enjoyed a strong end to 2022, finishing 8th in the Open de France and 6th in the Mallorca Open in his final five starts of the year; the putter looking in a particularly good place.
He started this year in the same fashion, finishing 17th in the Abu Dhabi Championship on his first start and looking good with his irons and putter in hand. A missed cut in Dubai followed but he bounced back the following week in Singapore, finishing 23rd – his irons once again looking strong – but will need to bounce back from a missed cut in Thailand last week.
Those approach performance are even more encouraging when we consider it isn’t an area he typically excels in, indeed he ranked outside the top 120 last year, though is 31st at this early point of 2023; a major step in the right direction.
The putter is usually the best club in the bag, ranking 17th on tour last season, whilst his stats around-the-greens are solid more often than not.
The strong short-game and discovery of some form in approach should see him go well this week, a solid enough record at Valderrama – where he’s missed just two cuts in six – giving us more confidence as to his ability to perform on challenging setups.
Gaganjeet Bhullar 100/1 – 1/5 8 places – 1 pt ew
Gaganjeet Bhullar has spent much of his career playing between the DPWT and Asian Tour, winning the co-sanctioned Fiji International in 2018 and possesses a further nine victories on the Asian Tour. He lost his tour card on the DPWT for last season but played well in Asia, winning the Indonesia Open and with form trending in the right direction in 2023, he can contend in front of home fans this week.
Bhullar started the year with a missed cut in the Saudi International but has improved on each start since. Finishing 52nd in the International Series Oman and then 22nd in last week’s International Series event in Qatar in tough conditions.
He is a player very much about accuracy off the tee, combining that with a strong short-game, where he’s particularly adept on the greens and performed solidly here from 2017-2019, finishing 37th and 43rd.
His career is littered with victories in more challenging tournaments; whilst he has eye-catching finishes of 13th both in Hong Kong and at Valderrama. If able to keep the form trending from last week, he looks the right type to lead this week’s Indian contingent.
Joel Stalter 300/1 – 1/5 8 places – 0.5 pts ew
Joel Stalter 17/2 – Top 20 – 1 pt
I’m going to sign off with Frenchman, Joel Stalter, he’s been playing some much more solid golf than he did in 2021 and for much of 2022. As a player who has previous of winning on a quirky, challenging course, this could be right up his street.
From October 2020 to July 2022, Stalter had failed to record a single top 25 finish but finally found something at last year’s Hero Open, where he finished 14th. More missed cuts followed but he discovered some form at the end of the year and has maintained it through to the start of 2023.
In his final five starts of last year, Stalter finished 12th in the Portugal Masters and hit the top 25 in Open de Espana. He returned to action at Ras al Khaimah this year, finishing 23rd and followed with a 55th in Singapore, before missing the cut last week.
The short-game is Stalter’s biggest positive and saw him rank 30th in scrambling and 52nd around-the-greens on tour last year despite the poor form; whilst he also finished the year with positive strokes-gained numbers on the greens. Something that was on show in his 23rd in the UAE, as he ranked top 10 both ATG and in putting.
He missed the cut here in 2017 but a 14th place finish in Hong Kong that season offers promise, as does his win in the Euram Bank Open at Adamstal GC in 2020; a quirky, tricky course with severe undulations and elevation changes throughout.
Stalter was a once highly touted amateur, reaching 28 in the WAGR and starring in the American Collegiate system, where he was a two-time All-American. Now eight years a pro and with just one DPWT win to his name – a co-sanctioned one at that – his career hasn’t quite taken off in the way he’d have hope or expected, but at just thirty-years-old he has time on his side and can build on the promise he’s shown in recent starts with another strong one this week.
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