The DP World Tour remains in the UAE this week for a new tournament on the calendar – the Ras al Khaimah Championship, the third event of 2022 and the first one which has not had the status of the Rolex Series.
Despite the controversial Saudi International taking place this week, a number of leading lights have stayed faithful to the DP World Tour and decided to tee it up here which should make for a competitive and exciting week of golf.
We are at the Al Hamra Golf Course in Ras Al Khaimah for both this week and next week. This is a course which is new to this level although it staged tournaments on the Challenge Tour for three seasons between 2016-2018 so there will be some in the field who have played it before. The course is a par 72 which stretches to 7,325 yards but as ever in this part of the world the dry, humid air will mean that the ball will fly further and so it won’t play to that full yardage.
The information is a little on the scarce side about the course but those three Challenge Tour events were won in -20, -15 in a playoff and -17 so the scoring is expected to be good. Unlike at the Abu Dhabi Championship a couple of weeks ago there is said to be little in the way of undulations on this track but the course is routing around four lagoons so water is going to be in play on a number of the holes. Pin positions might be easy this week with another tournament here next week.
There is a pretty lucrative event going on in Saudi Arabia this week which has detracted something from the field here but a number of the up and comers and seasoned campaigners on the DP World Tour have remained in the UAE to tee it up. The headliner this week is the Ryder Cup star Bernd Wiesberger, who will be looking to take advantage of those away to land a ninth title at this level. Robert MacIntyre is among those looking to stop him.
There are a number of players in the field looking for their first DP World Tour win and they include Adrian Meronk, Thomas Detry and Julien Brun while those who have victories to their name include Jordan Smith, Romain Langasque, John Catlin, the Hojgaard brothers, Richard Bland, JB Hansen and Johannes Veerman. Experienced pros such as Padraig Harrington, Danny Willett and Edoardo Molinari are also in the field.
Bernd Wiesberger will tee it up as a 12/1 favourite to win the competition this week. On the face of it when you consider the megastars are selling their souls for the cash out in Saudi Arabia that would look a big price although the concern is that this is going to be a pretty low scoring week and the Austrian has lost ground on the field with the putter in nine of his last 10 starts. Admittedly some of those were in much stronger fields than this but not all of them were so until his short stick begins to cooperate he isn’t for me at a skinny price.
Jordan Smith is the second favourite at almost double the price of the Austrian at 22/1. He has one significant advantage on a number of players in the field this week in that he has played and won on the course before, having been successful here in 2016. He has started the year pretty nicely as well, especially in the long game department so if his putter goes well he may reward plenty of punters at a perfectly fair price.
Romain Langasque and Adrian Meronk come next on the best prices at 25/1. Langasque was my pick last week but couldn’t quite find that low round which would have fired him right into contention but he has two events of form around here and finishes of 6-4 so he’ll be popular while Meronk lost out in a playoff here in 2017 and comes here having been in contention last week. If course form is your thing then both of these players will be on your shortlist.
Robert MacIntyre comes next in the betting at 30/1 on the best prices, although he is generally a 25/1 shot in most places. He is another who has course form having finished sixth here on the Challenge Tour in 2018. The Scot has missed both cuts in this part of the world this season so form is definitely an issue but this is a lower grade to the ones he has been operating in over the past couple of weeks. Sky had him in their studio after one of the rounds and he didn’t exactly cut a confident figure to me so I’m happy to leave him alone too.
There aren’t many boxes that Jordan Smith doesn’t tick this week. He arrives here in decent form and he is driving the ball brilliant. In two of his last four starts, including a loaded field last week, he has led the field in strokes gained off the tee and that is significant because you do have to drive it well here. The one downside is that his putter can be a little hit and miss but some of that is negated by the fact that he has experience of these greens which not everyone in the field does. He also has experience of winning here and quite often golfers get an extra pep in their step when they return to the scene of lifting a trophy. Smith has started the campaign in excellent form in better company than this and looks a leading runner to me.
Those who have followed my golf picks for a while will know I’m a fan of the big hitting Polish player Adrian Meronk and I think this could be his week to deliver the goods. He was very good last week for 63 holes but found the back nine when in contention in a Rolex Series event a little too much for him, but we shouldn’t forget established winners such as Justin Harding, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy all had mares in the glare of the winning line last week so it isn’t like Meronk was alone. I think at this lower level in lesser company the Pole has every chance here. He was inside the top 15 in strokes gained putting last week and has been putting well in the UAE for a while now. He drives it brilliantly and those are the two statistics I’m after this week so I like Meronk here.
I’ll go with a couple of outsiders this week as well with the first of those being the South African player Shaun Norris, a man who opened the season with a third placed finish in the Joburg Open, albeit the event was shortened to 36 holes after the rise of the Omicron variant and travel problems but he is a player who has played well on the Japanese Tour in recent times and who should be able to raise his game at this lower DP World Tour level. Norris is generally a decent driver of the ball and his putting in the Joburg Open was very good which are the two requirements this week. Although he is yet to do anything special on the DP World Tour, he was sixth in Abu Dhabi a couple of years ago and that would have had a much stronger field than this. He has previously gone well in Dubai as well so this part of the world brings out some of his better golf. He might be a big price this week.
I’ll also take a chance on Andrea Pavan as well. I might be barking up this particular tree a little too soon but there might not be many opportunities to get on so I’m going to take a chance here. Pavan had one of the worst years you could imagine in 2021 but he has started 2022 in much better shape. This is a man who at his best has won four times on the Challenge Tour and twice on the DP World Tour and unlike some in this field he has experience of this course. He was in the top 20 here in 2017 and in the last two weeks he has found his game again. He gained more than six strokes on the field from tee to green last week and if the confidence can continue to return with the putter then he could be back contending in events again. He’s a monster price here if some of the form he showed in the opening two weeks of the year is more the norm again rather than freak occurrences.
Back J.Smith to win Ras al Khaimah Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back A.Meronk to win Ras al Khaimah Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back S.Norris to win Ras al Khaimah Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back A.Pavan to win Ras al Khaimah Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-7)