The last action for golf punters in the calendar year tees off on Friday with the Royal Trophy, a team event between Asian and European golfers, staged for the first time at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China.
This will be the seventh renewal, with Europe winning four of the previous six and Asia the other two – including last year following a play-off after the two teams tied 8-8. This is a Ryder Cup style tournament that features four foursomes on Friday, four fourballs the following day before eight singles matches on Sunday.
Jose Maria Olazabal captains the Europeans for the third time, hoping to end an unenviable record of played two lost two. His opposite number is YE Yang, who is taking charge of the Asians for the first time.
Neither side is top notch, but even with Hideki Matsuyama pulling out with a thumb injury – the Japanese star would have been the highest ranked golfer on show at 23 – Asia still have more in form players.
Asia’s lowest ranked golfer is Kyung Tae Kim, at 151, a player who hasn’t missed a cut since May, can boast eight top 25 finishes in his last nine starts and went unbeaten in this event last term. The Europeans lack of recent time on the fairways is also a concern for the visitors, with most having put the clubs away since the end of the regular European season in mid-November.
The in-form quartet of recent Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat (four top tens in his last eight appearances), Ryo Ishikawa (six in 11), Thongchai Jaidee (four in seven) and Kim Hyung Sung (five in six) make the home team must bet material.
With Matsuyama absent, Kim is a fair pick for top Asian points scorer. Bernd Wiesberger, the top ranked European at 52, a player who won the Indonesian Masters earlier this year and who played in Thailand last week, looks the pick of the Europeans.
My three best bets – Asia to win, Kim Hyung Sung for top Asian points scorer and Wiesberger for top European points scorer.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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