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The Maybank Championship 2017 Preview
Our golf scribe takes a look at the betting for the 2017 Maybank Championship, which gets underway at Saujana Golf and Country Club this Thursday.
Sergio Garcia’s terrific victory in Dubai last weekend really affirmed that the European Tour is well and truly under way. Though this weekend will see a far more condensed line-up, there is still ample opportunity for those searching for early season form to thrive. This event has an intriguing history. The Malaysian Open had been a fixture on the European Tour for many years. Formerly a co-sanctioned event between the European and Asian Tours, the tournament lost its status after Maybank withdrew their sponsorship in 2015. It was replaced last year by the awkwardly named Maybank Championship Malaysia, with Marcus Fraser taking home the title.
This year’s organisers have sensibly ditched the Malaysia in the title and opted for the more succinct offering: the Maybank Championship. The tournament will be held at the Palm Course at the Saujana Golf and Country Club this year. Though not long at 7,186 Yards, the Ron Freem designed course has plenty of hazards for the unsuspecting player. It’s fast, undulating Bermuda fairways - though fairly generous - are lined by trees and water is in play on 7 holes. There are dramatic ravines that run through various fairways, meaning accuracy off the tee will prove more important than distance this week.
The Tifdwarf greens are small and crazy fast, meaning players are going to need to find greens in order to make birdies possible.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Charl Schwartzel currently lead the field in betting, with English stalwart Lee Westwood lurking menacingly in the background. This is one of those tournaments that opens itself up to the keen betting observer, with golden nuggets just waiting to be unearthed in the humid Malaysian air.
The Maybank Championship | Thursday 9 February - Sunday 12 February | Saujana Golf and Country Club, Palm Course
Past Winners of the Malaysian Open (At this course)
2009: Anthony Kang (-17) | 2007: Peter Hedblom (-8) | 2005: Thongchai Jaidee (-21) | 2004: Thongchai Jaidee (-14) | 2001: Vijay Singh (-14)*playoff
To Win Outright
Rafa Cabrera-Bello 10/1 | Charl Schwartzel 12/1 | Bernd Wiesberger 12/1 | Lee Westwood 18/1 | Jeunghun Wang 20/1
Peter Uihlein - To Win 35/1 & To Place 77/10
Uihlein has shown good form already this season, with two top 10’s already. This included an impressive tie for 5th last week in Dubai, so I think the price looks right for the fairly accurate Uihlein. He also boasts form in Asia. Last year he finished inside the top 10 for the Maybank while finishing 4th in the Thailand Classic. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives that elusive second tour victory a good shot this weekend.
Victor Dubuisson - To Win 45/1 & To Place 99/10
One of the great enigmas on the European Tour, Dubuisson narrowly missed the cut in Dubai last week, in his first start since November. I wouldn’t read too much into that, and at least the mercurial Frenchman has got some golf under his belt. He returned to his best form towards the end of last year, with two top 5’s in illustrious company, before finishing 2nd at the World Cup with Romain Langasque. His two previous tour victories came at a similarly tree-lined par 72 course in Turkey, while he boasts impressive history in Asia. His first taste of contention came when he finished in a share of fourth after 54 holes at the Malaysian Open four years back.
Prayad Marksaeng - To Win 100/1 & To Place 22/1
I had to find a place for an Asian player, especially as the disparity between the European Tour and Asian Tour has diminished so appreciatively in recent years. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that the gap between the US PGA Tour and the European Tour has become a wider gulf than the one between Europe and Asia. Theoretical observations aside, Marksaeng looks an absolute steal at 100/1. The deadly accurate Thai player has finished 9th, 3rd and 2nd here before. He also has form on his side, winning the Singapore Open just a fortnight ago.
The Man to Beat
Lee Westwood - To Win 18/1 & To Place 3.96/1
At 18/1, you can’t ignore perennial contender Lee Westwood. Westwood enjoyed a fairly solid Middle East Swing, but it’s his previous performances in Asia that make me stand up and take notice. He won on this very course in 1997, while also winning the 2014 Malaysian open - albeit at a different course. A nine-time winner on the Asian Tour, Westwood’s indefatigable attitude seems perfectly suited to the sultry, occasionally oppressive conditions found in this region.