After Rory McIlroy’s pathetic surrender in Dubai - his tee shot at 17 and second to the 18th must surely be among the most horrific ever played by a superstar under pressure - it is back to bread-and-butter golf at new venue Ras Al Khaimah.
Those taking the 90-minute drive north to the fourth largest of the the seven United Arab Emirates will find Al Hamra Golf Club a typical desert test, a 7325-yard 72 with no par five less than 576 and the eighth topping 600. Designed by Dubai-based Peter Harradine and son Michael and opened in 2008, it has already hosted Challenge Tour events in 2016-17-18 but the Ras Al Khaimah Championship is its main-tour debut.
With only a quarter of the prize-money offered by Rolex Series giants Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the third leg of the Desert Swing cannot attract a field of their quality but fair play to Ras Al Khaimah as it has stepped into the breach caused by the cancellation of the Qatar Masters and will sponsor again on the same layout. Only the names change - this week the Championship, next week the Ras Al Khaimah Classic.
Bernd Wiesberger heads the market but cost punters dear when imploding with victory his for the taking at the European Masters and last-round demons were again evident on Sunday when a closing 76 wrecked the Austrian’s chances of a top-five. All very odd for such a prolific winner and you can say much the same about the wretched McIlroy whose magical talent is not matched by a magical brain.
To oppose big Bernd, I’m proposing a 20-year-old and a 50-year-old, a mix of fearless youth and worldly guile. Young Dane Rasmus Hojgaard took advantage of Wiesberger’s last-hole meltdown at Crans and sank a huge putt to do it. As a three-time winner by 20, he knows how to close the deal. Hojgaard and his almost-as-talented twin Nicolai have age on their side and less fear of failure than older rivals. He too spoilt a good Dubai with a bad Sunday but has less to beat.
And if Phil Mickelson can win a PGA Championship after turning 50, there’s no reason why triple Major hero Padraig Harrington cannot do the same. Pod’s last four performances 9-20-8-12, the latest three in the UAE, indicate there’s plenty of life in this old dog. He was bubbling with an enthusiasm of a man half his age when telling Sky’s interviewer there’s even better to come. Why not now, with no big guns to bother him?
Matti Schmid, the 24-year-old German who won the Silver Medal at The Open and almost struck soon on turning pro when taking runner-up honours in September at the Dutch Open, was also in excellent shape in Dubai for three rounds. The Rookie of the Year will soon be winning at this level as will lofty Pole Adrian Meronk who coped well with being in contention at elite level on Sunday and need not be critical of himself in slipping back to a share of fourth.
The experience should stand him in good stead in lesser company this on the course where he reached a playoff with Jens Dantorp in Al Hamra’s Challenge Tour days. Five years on, this 6ft 6in giant could be looking down on the rest come Sunday afternoon. He was also going well until having to pull out in the final round in Abu Dhabi.
Jordan Smith, the winner at Al Hamra the previous year, showed his best form for a while in finishing 12th in Abu Dhabi and ninth in Dubai. He is trending well.
Robert MacIntyre continues to disappoint despite throwing himself into weeks of practice in Dubai, but don’t rule out Richard Bland who nearly gave himself an early 49th birthday present on Sunday. He forced himself into the playoff McIlroy profligately avoided but couldn’t match 9/1 shot Viktor Hovland’s first extra-hole birdie.
That put the icing on the cake of the young Norwegian’s spectacular birdie-eagle-birdie finish in real time in a tournament he looked to have lost when triple-putting the 15th. Now up to No. 3 in the world, Hovland was landing his third victory in five starts so Bland was up against it there but can again be a factor provided that gargantuan effort has not knocked the stuffing out of him.
Ras Al Khaimah Championship Golf Betting Tips 2022
- 1.5pts each-way Rasmus Hojgaard at 33/1 (Bet365) 5 places
- 1.5pt each-way Padraig Harrington at 60/1 (Bet365) 5 places
- 1pt each-way Jordan Smith at 22/1 (Bet365) 5 places
- 1pt each-way Adrian Meronk at 25/1 (Bet365) 5 places
- 0.5pt each-way Matti Schmid at 70/1 (Bet365) 5 places
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Celebrating my 52nd year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. And, of course, putting up a 150/1 winner with Stewart Cink in my very first column for Golf Monthly. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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