The PGA Tour’s season officially ended last week at Disney, so now we get a healthy dose of golf’s “silly season” here in the United States until the 2013 season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Hawaii. Before I look at this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open on the European Tour I would like to recap last week.
I was hoping to predict my fifth winner of the season to cap off a solid year, but U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, my choice, finished T40. Charlie Beljan was the winner, and while I know very little about him, I do know he’s an American, so I hit there on the winning nationality at -450 as well as on Brendon De Jonge to finish outside the Top 10 (also -450). The lone head-to-head prop I recommended also hit as Justin Leonard (-130) beat Jason Kokrak (even) by two shots.
This week is the penultimate tournament of the European Tour’s schedule. There’s not a ton of drama overseas because world No. 1 Rory McIlroy shot a final-round 65 and finished third last week in Singapore to clinch the money title in Europe to go with his U.S. crown. McIlroy is the youngest European money champ in 32 years and joins Luke Donald from last year as the only players to win both. Look for McIlroy also to sweep the Player of the Year awards on both Tours. McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner were the nominees announced on Monday for PGA Tour Player of the Year.
The main drama is for the European Tour regulars who are attempting to qualify for the big-money 60-man field at next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. In addition, players who finish in the Top 15 of the Race to Dubai are guaranteed a spot in next year’s British Open.
Outside of McIlroy, 2012 Ryder Cup players Paul Lawrie (Europe) and American Matt Kuchar are in the field, as is European captain Jose Maria Olazabal and one of his assistants from Medinah, Miguel Angel Jiménez. He won this event in 2005 and then again in 2008. The other notable American is John Daly. He actually has had a decent year but withdrew from last week’s event due to fatigue. Probably didn’t help that Daly was 11-over with seven holes to go in his second round at the time.
Golf Odds: UBS Hong Kong Open Favorites
To no shock, McIlroy is the Bovada favorite at 5/2. He is the defending champion. Last year, McIlroy won by two shots over France’s Grégory Havret by holing his bunker shot on the final green. McIlroy finished sixth in 2010 and runner-up in the 2008 and ’09 Hong Kong events. But what motivation could he possibly have at this point? He even said this already this week now that the money title is wrapped up: “To be able to come here and really only have to play half decent is a nice feeling, but then I want to end the year with another victory.'' Yeah, his mind isn’t in this.
Kuchar is next at 16/1 as he makes his debut in the tournament. Kuchar is one of the busiest players on the PGA Tour so he doesn’t make it over to Europe usually for events outside of the British Open. The Players Championship winner closed his PGA Tour season with a T10 at the Tour Championship.
Matteo Manassero is next at 18/1, and this kid is the next big thing. The 19-year-old Italian drained a 12-foot eagle putt to beat Louis Oosthuizen on the third playoff hole last week for his third career European Tour title and first of 2012. Manassero missed the cut in Hong Kong last year but was T2 in 2010.
Paul Casey and Y.E. Yang round out the favorites. Casey (20/1) was T10 last week, his third straight Top-10 finish on the European Tour. He’s looking for his first win of 2012; Casey struggled big-time in limited PGA Tour action and hasn’t played this tournament in seven years.
Yang is looking for his first victory in Europe since 2010 and he hasn’t won in the States since his big upset at the 2009 PGA Championship. Yang has played this tournament the past three years, with a best finish of T7 in 2011.
Golf Odds: UBS Hong Kong Open Picks
There are a few Top-5 props for this week: Go “yes” on Casey (+400) but “no” on McIlroy (+155), Kuchar (-500) and Manassero (-550). There were two holes-in-one last year so I would go yes on that prop at +110.
But my pick as best value to win is England’s Simon Dyson at 33/1. He has improved his finish in each of his past four European Tour events. Dyson didn’t play in Hong Kong last year but was runner-up in 2010 and eighth in 2009. Dyson also is quite familiar with Asia, as he won three times on the Asian Tour in 2000 on his way to winning Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and Order of Merit.