The European Tour heads to the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City this week for the first Saudi International tournament and Eddie Pepperell looks good value to claim all the spoils.
Despite the decision to play an event in Saudi Arabia being met with widespread criticism, this week’s tournament will be going ahead and there is a star-studded field present with four of the world’s top five teeing it up.
Englishman Justin Rose, who arrives off the back of a victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, is the 25/4 favourite to lift the trophy whilst American Brooks Koepka is priced at 35/4 to land the win that would take him back to the top of the OWGR’s.
US ace Bryson DeChambeau, who also won for the first time on the European Tour last week when triumphing at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic by a commanding seven strokes, is priced at 13/2 whilst he is 31/20 to be top American.
It’s always very hard when assessing a course being played for the first time but with the layout set alongside the Red Sea, there are suggestions a good links player could thrive at the event.
Looking at the field, the name of world number 39 Pepperell sticks out at a massive 64/1 and he definitely looks like a decent each-way punt due to his impressive performances over the past couple of season on links’ courses.
The Englishman finished second at the 2018 Aberdeen Standards Investments Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club – only losing out after South African Brandon Stone fired an incredible final round – before he then finished tied-sixth at the Open at Carnoustie.
Other results of note for the 28-year-old include a tie for seventh at the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – a layout that is similar to Royal Greens – and a share of fourth at the Scottish Open in 2015.
Pepperell clearly enjoys playing on links courses and with the conditions expected to be a lot calmer in Saudi Arabia than they are in the UK, he should relish the opportunity to land his third European Tour title.
Recent performances from the Oxford-born star have left a lot to be desired, with a tie for 38th at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic his most recent outing, but he should go a lot better this week after defending his decision to play.
Sticking with the theme of good links players, Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup winner Olesen is the next selection and he heads into the tournament off the back of a tie for seventh in Dubai.
The Dane, who is searching for his sixth title on the European Tour, has three top-10 finishes from his last five starts and he doesn’t look far away from getting everything to click across all four rounds.
Just like Pepperell, Olesen has impressed when playing links golf and he landed the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship back in 2015 – beating American pair Koepka and Chris Stroud by two strokes.
Now sitting at 43rd in the world rankings, the 29-year-old put in a good showing when clinching a share of 12th at the Open last year and he has shown he is very capable of adapting to different types of conditions.
Looking at Olesen’s statistics from last season, he was sixth in putts per round, fifth in one putts and scrambling whilst he was second in birdies per round, with these departments potentially playing a huge part this week.
First-rounder leader bets always provide great value and South African star Stone certainly represents that at a huge 100/1 to top the leaderboard after the opening 18 holes.
When winning the Scottish Open last year, the 25-year-old almost joined an elite list of players to break 60 as he missed a birdie putt on the last hole for a round of 59.
Nonetheless, the world number 113 shot an incredible 10-under-par 60 to win by four strokes and somebody that can shoot that low always seems worth a punt to go low in the opening round on Thursday.
Back-to-back missed cuts do leave some questions about Stone’s form, but 100/1 is far too tempting a price to miss out on and it would be a tidy return if he comes in.
The final selection comes in the shape of another South African with Els getting the nod to finish in the top 10 at a good price. The 49-year-old may be one of the older statesmen in the field but he proved last week that he can still mix it with the best.
Four-time Major winner Els was in contention going into the final round in Dubai, but he ran out of gas over the last 18 holes and had to settle for a share of 12th place – a promising result.
One huge positive to come from last week was the fact the two-time US Open champion was fifth in greens in regulation and if he can improve on his putting, which he was way down in 62nd in putts per round, he could be a force to be reckoned with again.
World number 424 Els has two top-15 finishes from his last three starts and, carrying on with the links theme, he is arguably one of the best exponents when it comes to links golf.
The Johannesburg-born star is a two-time Open champion, having claimed all the spoils at Muirfield and Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2002 and 2012 respectively, and the calmer conditions this week should be an advantage for him.
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