Who our statistics guru thinks could do well this week at Hong Kong Golf Club.
The first event of a new season always brings with it plenty of suspense and intrigue, and that’s no different this week as the 2018 Race to Dubai gets under way at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
A host of big names and future stars of the game have assembled in Fanling, including Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and nine-time European Tour winner Justin Rose, who triumphed at this event two years ago.
Our stats guru has scoured the form books to bring you three players you might want to consider for inclusion in your teams this week…
Pick of the Favourites: Matt Fitzpatrick
Coming off another strong season on the Race to Dubai, in which he finished in the top 15 of the overall season rankings for a third consecutive year, Matt Fitzpatrick begins his 2018 campaign on a course he will feel very comfortable on. One of the most accurate players from the tee and a solid ball-striker, Fitzpatrick’s game should be tailor made for Hong Kong Golf Club – a tight layout, which puts a premium on accuracy. Accuracy was something Fitzpatrick certainly had here in 2015, when he hit 43 of 56 fairways (77%) – a return which was 15% better than the field average that year. During his only previous appearance in Fanling the Englishman carded four rounds in the 60s on the way to an 11 under par total and tied third place finish.
Fitzpatrick comes into this week on the back of some very good form as well, with the four-time European Tour winner having posted eight consecutive top 15 finishes on the way to a cumulative total of 87 under par for those eight events. Ranking inside the top 35 in both the Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation categories for the 2017 season, everything is pointing towards this week being another good one for Fitzpatrick.
Form Horse: Rafa Cabrera Bello
After securing his best ever Race to Dubai season finish of seventh last week, Rafa Cabrera Bello should be in good spirits as he takes to a course he’s performed well on in the past. Last year the Spaniard came close to winning the UBS Hong Kong Open, only to finish second and be denied by one shot thanks to the heroics of eventual winner Sam Brazel. Rafa came flying out of the blocks at Hong Kong GC on that occasion, posting rounds of 64 and 65 over the first two days, and will be hoping for more of the same here this year.
Another who is regarded as a very solid ball-striker from tee to green, the 33 year old has found 74% of the greens here in regulation in his four previous visits to Hong Kong, and even hit 18 GIR during his first round here in 2016 – a feat which only four players have achieved. Similar ball-striking prowess this week would serve him well again.
Capable of mixing it up from the tee as well by hitting irons, hybrids and fairway woods - which will be needed this week - Cabrera Bello could be in the mix again come Sunday evening in Hong Kong.
Wildcard: Paul Waring
After two years of injury frustrations Paul Waring put all of that behind him in 2017 to finish at a career-high 60th in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex. Like Fitzpatrick and Cabrera Bello, the Englishman is returning to a course where he has some fond recent memories, with his last outing at Hong Kong GC yielding a seventh place finish last year, largely thanks to a low round of the day fourth round 65. Twice in his three visits to Fanling Waring has shot three rounds in the 60s – he’s also beaten the field average by +1.01 strokes and averaged 69.0 on this course. Now injury-free and coming in off his best ever season, the 32 year old will be looking for more of the same this week.