Volvo China Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
ROSS FISHER will be hoping to turn his recent good form into a victory at the prestigious Volvo China Open at Topwin Golf and Country Club. The Englishman, who played so well during the WGC Dell World Match Play Championship, where he was a beaten quarter-finalist, and at the WGC Mexico Championship, where he finished in a tie for third place.
Those performances were enough to secure his place in the top 50 of the world rankings and get him into the field at Augusta for The Masters. He is one of the best ball strikers on the European Tour and this is the sort of company he should be keeping as a matter of course.
When you look at Fisher's swing it is difficult to imagine that anything could possibly ever go wrong but he is an inconsistent performer who depends on confidence. When he finds form he tends to go on a run, producing a series of high finishes.
He will be the first to admit that he should have won rather more than the five titles he currently has to his name, and he is long overdue another victory - his last came in 2014 at the Tshwane Open, which was played in South Africa.
The big unknown will be the home players. Golf is growing quickly in China and you sense that it is only a matter of time before a major winner emerges from this part of the world. The defending champion is The defending champion is Li Haotong. It was won in 2015 by Asun Wu, by Alexander Levy in 2014, Brett Rumford in 2013, Branden Grace in 2012, Nicolas Colsaerts in 2011 and YE Yang in 2010.
Twelve months ago, Li was in a rich vein of form and could do nothing wrong. He is a wonderful golfer and will probably be there or thereabouts on Sunday afternoon. It is a safe bet that he will not be the only Chinese golfer in contention, but I like the look of the European challenge.
One of golf's mysteries is that Thorbjorn Olesen is so seldom mentioned when pundits get together and talk about the best golfers in Europe. The 27-year-old Dane is a vastly underrated golfer. He has won four times and plays tough golf courses really well. He may not have had the best start to the season, but here's the thing - Olesen has made the cut in all five starts in 2017. He has been working hard on his game as he attempts to move to the next level, and a fifth victory is surely not far away. Apart from anything else, he is desperate to make the 2018 European Ryder Cup team, especially with the team being captained by his fellow Dane, Thomas Bjorn.
Speaking of the Ryder Cup and of underrated golfers, Bjorn will be delighted if Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger qualifies for his team. Wiesberger had chances to win here 12 months ago before a disappointing 73 in the third round. The key to his game is his driving. Wiesberger is a big hitter, but he has a tendency to be somewhat wild and Topwin GCC can be a fairly unforgiving course if you don't consistently find the middle of fairways. It measures 7,261 yards and features a tough finish - the 16th is a 212-yard par three, the 17th a par four measuring 478 yards and a closing par five of 583 yards.
Prior to his brilliant play at the Shenzhen International, which he won in a playoff over Tommy Fleetwood, Wiesberger had recorded 10 top-10 finishes on the European Tour since the beginning of 2016 and seven other top-20 finishes. It is a remarkable level of consistency, especially when you also consider that he has missed just three cuts in that time. But all of those came at majors. When you look at these statistics, the big surprise is that he had only managed three victories on Tour. He is 31 years old, and in the shape of his life, but he needs to find a way to convert his good play into regular victories. That he has the game to win two or three tournaments every season is beyond dispute.
Scott Hend and former champion Rumford are Asian specialists, and are both worth an each-way flutter here. Rumford lost his playing privileges last year but regained his tour card when he bounced back to win the IPS Handa World Super 6 in Australia in February playing some of the best golf of his life. Rumford is a ferocious competitor and when he gets into contention he stays there. His fellow Australian Hend always gives full value, whether he is stringing four or five birdies together, as he often does, or struggling to keep control of his volcanic temper. If he gets off to a good start he will be very tough to beat.
Ryder Cup captain Bjorn is also in the field, keeping an eye on some likely contenders. In his most recent appearance at the China Open in 2013 he finished tied eighth behind eventual winner Rumford, whilst in 2004, the first year the event became part of the European Tour International Schedule, he finished in second place behind Welshman Stephen Dodd.
The 46-year-old Dane has claimed 15 European Tour titles since turning professional in 1993 and will be looking to remind his fellow players that he is still capable of contending.
Brett Rumford. On the crest of a wave
Scott Hend. Big hitter, streaky putter
Thorbjorn Olesen. Due another victory
Brett Rumford. In superb form
Scott Hend. Light the blue touchpaper and walk away...
Thorbjorn Olesen. Great ball striker
Ross Fisher. Looking to continue his good form
Chris Wood. Could do with picking up a few ranking points
Li Haotong. Easily good enough to retain his title
Dean Burmester. In-form South African golfer
Alex Levy. Back to his best at last
Peter Uihlien. Playing well again
Bernd Wiesberger. One of the best and most consistent performers in Europe
Tags: european tour
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