The DP World Tour remains in the UAE this week for the Ras al Khaimah Classic, the immediate follow up to last week. With this being the last event on this tour for a month those in the field will be eager to maximise their earning potential.
As with the Ras al Khaimah Championship last week, this event is new to the rota and remains to be seen whether it is here to stay or is merely a means to an end to keeping the tour going while staging events elsewhere in Covid times continues to prove difficult.
We are at the Al Hamra Golf Course, the track which stage the event last week, once again here. The course remains the par 72 it was last week and the 7,325 yards is the same yardage. Now that we have a recent week of form to go by it should make selections a little easier. We saw last week that water is in play on a number of the holes but what we also saw was that those who could get it out there off the tee and attack the short par fours and reach the par fives could make hay.
If we look at the statistics from last week the bigger gains were made in the long game. Nearly the entire top 10 gained strokes from tee to green whereas each of them recorded at least one round where they lost strokes on the field with the putter. I think the longer hitters whose long game is in good order are the ones to focus on this week rather than the short game which we thought might be valuable last week.
A strong number of players who were in the field last week are teeing it up this week as well. They include the winner Nicolai Hojgaard and the man who was his closest challenger over the course of the week in Jordan Smith. Adrian Otaegui, Matthieu Pavon and Haotong Li were other members of the top five who have decided to tee it up again this week looking to go fractionally better on what was the course debut for one or two of them last week.
There are some other key names who weren’t in the field last week which are here this time around. Adri Arnaus had a good week in Saudi Arabia as did Pablo Larrazabal and they will be looking to back that up here. Rafa Cabrera Bello is another who has made the trip from Saudi Arabia for this tournament. Others in the field who catch the eye are Rasmus Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre, Richard Bland and Andy Sullivan.
As you would imagine after such a dominant win last week Nicolai Hojgaard is the 12/1 favourite to win this event as well. We do have some back to back week at the same course form to go on since the pandemic started and as yet nobody who won the first week won the second. I’m not massively surprised by that because winning takes a lot of mental and emotional reserves and it would be that which puts me off him here. It is so hard to go to the well for eight successive rounds but at the same time he was so emphatic last week I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he is in the mix again.
Jordan Smith chased him home last week and he is a general 18/1 shot to go one better this week. That was the second time Smith has been in the top two on this golf course having won the Challenge Tour event here back in 2016 so he must be relishing the thought of another go on this track. If chasing Hojgaard home last week hasn’t taken too much out of him then you would think he is primed to go very well again here.
Adri Arnaus had a good week in Saudi Arabia last week and he is 22/1 to win around here for the second time in two starts after he landed the Challenge Tour competition back in 2018. Arnaus is known as one of the longest hitters on the tour and statistically he has been posting excellent numbers with the putter. The question really is whether you feel comfortable backing someone yet to win at this level at this price.
Rasmus Hojgaard watched on as his brother won last week and you would imagine the family rivalry will have fired him up a bit for this week. Nobody was longer in the field than Rasmus last week but he never capitalised on his length with a disappointing final round of 75 seeing him outside the top 40 overall. You would think he’s a lot better than that effort and clearly has the tools to deliver the goods around here. If he is back to his best then he could be considered a decent price at 25/1.
Jordan Smith was my main bet last week and given that he won the tournament that went on behind Nicolai Hojgaard I have to be on him again. He didn’t do a lot wrong last week other than maybe being on the wrong side of the draw in the first round. He posted -19 for the final 54 holes and if he has that sort of scoring power with him this week then he is going to take a bit of stopping. Four times in the eight times we have had successive weeks at the same course has someone from the top five the first week won the following week and that trend may well continue with Smith who has the length to go well and who leads the field in strokes gained off the tee and from tee to green over the last three months.
If Smith doesn’t win this week then Adri Arnaus very well could do. The Spaniard has already won around here which negates the fact he hasn’t won at this level in my mind. He is another long hitter off the tee whose numbers in the long game department are to my liking. Arnaus went well in Saudi Arabia last week and conditions here aren’t going to be a great deal different to those he faced out there. Arnaus might not have won at DP World Tour level yet but he has had four top 10s in his last eight starts and interestingly in all of those his putter has delivered great numbers. Having already won here in the past he has to be a leading contender this week.
Oliver Bekker made it into the top 10 last week despite not being able to get anything in the hole in the final round. He ranked fourth last in the entire field for strokes gained putting in the final round last week but up to that point he had gone very well. He carded -15 for the opening three rounds which had him sat in fourth place going into the final round. If he can hold his nerve a little better in the key moments this week then he could easily follow his countryman Dean Burmester as a player who made the top 10 and then won on the same course the following week when he did it in the Canary Islands last year.
Lukas Nemecz didn’t do a whole lot wrong in defeat last week and the big hitting Polish player could be a big price this week. His first round last week was his worst round but he was one of those in the field who hadn’t played the course before so perhaps he needed the spin around here to get to grips with it as over the final three rounds he posted -15 which will have him competitive around here with a better start. He has tasted the course and what it is all about now. He is long enough off the tee to me more than competitive here and with a slight improvement on last week his price could soon look a little daft.
Back J.Smith to win Ras al Khaimah Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back O.Bekker to win Ras al Khaimah Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back them here:
Back A.Arnaus to win Ras al Khaimah Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back L.Nemecz to win Ras al Khaimal Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: