Golf Preview: Australian Open & Hong Kong Open

Less than a week after the European Tour season for 2017 came to an end, the Race to Dubai begins again – teeing off in Hong Kong, whilst the rest of the world head Down Under for the Australian Open.

And despite less than a week after claiming his crown as Europe’s top-dog – Tommy Fleetwood will begin his defence at the Hong Kong Golf Club.

“New season – let’s go again,” said Fleetwood.

“I found it amazing that I started the season here last year, 12 months ago, and then you were watching the last shot be played in the Race to Dubai to decide what happened. I find it amazing when you have that much time and it all comes down to that.

“Even though it’s the new season we’re carrying on tournaments, this is the fifth week away now but we’ll keep working hard and keep doing the same things.

“When we do get chance to sit down, we’ll have a look at what was good in 2017, what could be improved on and we’ll make sure that we make those adjustments and then look at goal-setting as well.”

Fleetwood leads a stellar field, which also includes Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia – the two players he fended off to land the European Tour crown.

And Rose, who only just missed out on the title by one shot in Dubai, will also be in Hong Kong – featuring in a tournament he won in 2015.

The defending champion is Australian Sam Brazel, who was a shock winner of the event 12-month ago but will be trying for back-to-back successes.

“I didn’t think my game was that good coming into last year, so you never know,” said Brazel. “I think my golf game really suits the course, I am going to go out there and try to do my best, but I’m going to go out and enjoy being defending champion.”

In Australia, with the PGA Tour taking a week off, the other big tournament on show this week is the Australian Open – featuring defending champion and world number two Jordan Spieth.

Spieth has actually won two of the last three, and is the hot favourite to win again at The Australian Golf Club.

Whilst Spieth is fancied to take the crown and is hugely popular, the home fans will no doubt be backing Jason Day – who is hoping for a big Sunday shoot-out with one of his biggest rivals.

“I would love to play with Spieth [in the] last group on Sunday, that would be the greatest thing,” said Day.

“He’s [Spieth] had some tremendous finishes here in the Australian Open, I think he’s won twice.

“At the Australian Golf Club, it’s kind of suited his eye; he hits it very straight, which is what you need around here because when you hit driver around here there are some [tight spots] that you have to hit into because there are some bunkers that are well placed.”

The pro’s point of view…

Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.

The Australian Open looks a very juicy field but I think that Jason Day could make the home crowds very happy.

In Hong Kong, Justin Rose is on fire – I don’t see him not finishing in the top-ten.

The Bookie says…

We caught up with Betfair’s Joe Dyer to get their views on this week’s action

Short prices dominate in this week’s major golf events with Jordan Spieth just 9/4 to win the Australian Open – a Tiger Woods in his prime price if ever we saw one!

It’s not much better on the European Tour where favourite backers will get no bigger than 9/2 about Justin Rose holding off the field at the Hong Kong Open.

A phalanx of Aussies are lined up to deny Spieth but only 5/1 Jason Day can be considered world-class. Nevertheless with Betfair paying five places and Spieth so short this looks a decent event for each-way players.

It’s a slightly different story in Hong-Kong where in-form, proven winners Sergio Garcia (13/2), Matthew Fitzpatrick (10/1) and Tommy Fleetwood (14/1) are out to stop Rose.

Seven places are paid this week and one that immediately catches the eye is David Lipsky at 55/1. The American is simply a better golfer in this part of the world, finishing fifth in the last running of this event and runner-up in Malaysia a few months later.

A payout of 11/1 even on the place looks achievable in a field that lacks a little depth.

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