- Betting Bunker
Westwood a man on a MissionAlex Livie October 31, 2012
The European Tour jets into China this week for the final WGC event of the year, the HSBC Champions.
The Olazabal Course at Mission Hills plays host to the event and organisers will be hoping for a grandstand finish given it is without the top two players in the world in Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. The pair have elected to take the week off, but the event is not short of quality - with star names flooding the entry sheet.
Former world No. 1s in Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are in the field, as is the in-form Justin Rose. A clutch of major champions - Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson among them - are also in the field.
With no Woods and McIlroy, it's back to the days of double-figure prices heading the betting and there is value to be had as a result. Donald tops bet365's list at 10/1 and it is clear to see why he and Rose (12/1) are high up.
- Lee Westwood E/W - 16/1 at bet365
Keegan Bradley E/W - 30/1
Adam Scott E/W - 18/1
Donald made a slow start to the BMW Masters last week but a closing 66 catapulted him up to third place and he looked sharp in all departments. The odds compilers certainly took note of his display and the Bunker is not keen on tipping a favourite.
Lee Westwood is third on the list at 16/1 and he is our first dart at the board. Westwood may wake up in a cold sweat on some evenings if his final thoughts before falling asleep are on his putting. His problems with the short stick are well documented but the Olazabal Course could well play to his strengths: precision play from tee to green.
The course stretches out to 7,320 yards so length off the tee will be an advantage. But of far more importance will be the ability to find the greens with approach play. The greens are smaller than many modern courses and are guarded by a series of punishing bunkers. Those who fail to find the short stuff will have their short game tested to the full.
Westwood is better than most with an iron in hand and his closing round of 66 at the BMW Masters suggested good form is on the horizon.
A strong American contingent is headed by Mickelson, but there is every chance he may be a little rusty on his first start since the Ryder Cup. And it would appear Leftie is struggling to shake off the hangover of the US defeat at Medinah.
"I think the first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was a really tough low, one of the biggest lows of my career," the 42 year old said. "It was a very emotional time because we really thought we were going to win. We expected to win; we were playing well and we thought that we were going to do it on Sunday.
"I think that the disappointment will last a lot longer than a month. I feel that over the next two years, we'll still have the same disappointment from not winning this year's Ryder Cup."
With those comments in mind and the possible lack of sharpness combined with a course that will punish anything wayward, Mickelson is one to avoid.
Mickelson was a real success story for the US effort, as was the man he struck up a fruitful partnership with: Keegan Bradley and he appeals to the Bunker at 30/1.
Bradley is making his first appearance at Mission Hills but he is a player who is comfortable on testing layouts and he looks sure to challenge deep into the weekend.
Our third selection goes against the grain as we are selecting a player who has been inactive since the Tour Championship in September. We're normally inclined to side with players who have recent form under the belt, but Adam Scott strikes us as a player capable of shrugging off an absence. Scott is long enough off the tee to contend and is 49th on the PGA Tour in terms of greens in regulation. His putting stroke stands up to scrutiny and 18/1 is big enough to interest us.
Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.