Favourite backers were denied a trip to the payout window by a rules infringement last week, when Rory McIlroy’s two-shot penalty meant the former world number one missed out on the title in Abu Dhabi by a single stroke.
And punters who side with the market principles in the second leg of the Desert Swing, the Commercialbank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club, could also be out of luck, as, if recent renewals of this event are anything to go by, those anywhere near single figure odds should be avoided.
The last five champions have all been 50/1 or bigger, and while Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson – who vie for top spot in the outright betting list at 8/1 – have huge claims on both current and course form, the Spaniard’s tetchiness over an alleged rules breach (proved unfounded) last week is a negative, while potential backers of the Swede will find few crumbs of comfort in his missed cut in Abu Dhabi.
Doha Golf Club, which can be affected by desert winds, stretches out to 7,400 yards and although big hitters such as Adam Scott and Alvaro Quiros (33/1) have been successful in the past, more strategic players like Paul Lawrie (66/1) and Thomas Bjorn (16/1) have also proved their worth.
For me, the key numbers this week will be putting average (the last four champions have ranked in the top five for the week) and greens in regulation (three of the last five winners have ranked in the top five).
Robert Karlsson’s continued re-emergence from the wilderness saw him claim a third top ten in his last four worldwide starts in Abu Dhabi and, as a past winner at Doha, the former European number one, who must surely be inspired by the way Stenson has fought his way back to the top, cannot be ignored at (33/1) – especially as he ranked inside the top 25 of four of the five main stats categories last week.
George Coetzee’s game ticks all the right boxes and, after finishing runner-up to Chris Wood at Doha 12 months ago and fourth on his 2014 debut in Abu Dhabi last week (when he ranked second in putting), he must be backed at 25/1.
Lastly, Thongchai Jaidee, whose form figures read 10-9-10-10, looks overpriced on the Ladbrokes book at 50/1.
His adjusted scoring average is only marginally worse than the likes of Garcia and Stenson, his GIR numbers are strong, while three successive top 20s at Doha, including ninth in 2013, mark him down as a value play.
My three off the tee – Karlsson (33/1), Coetzee (25/1) and Jaidee (50/1).