The European Tour moves from Morocco to China this week for the third running of the Shenzhen International at Genzon GC.
Course form actually outstrips event form as the par 72 was also host course for the 2014 China Open. That’s where the players will be heading next week so the Shenzhen should also offer some good clues for that.
Last year, Soomin Lee emerged as the surprise winner, the victory for the Korean adding to Kiradech Aphibarnrat’s success in the inaugural edition. It means that Asian players have won a Genzon in both 2015 and 2016.
Bubba Watson was the headline act for both those tournaments and returns again this year. It should be a great fit for him but he’s not cracked the code so far.
Genzon, which opened in 1994, is a par 72 measuring 7,145 yards and has generous fairways. It was designed by Neil Haworth, the man behind Sheshan International which stages the WGC-HSBC Champions. Cashing in on the par fives is crucial. Last year’s winner Soomin Lee collected an eagle and nine birdies on the four long holes and 2015 champ Kiradech Aphibarnrat played them in 8-under when winning with 12-under in 2015. With yardages of 547 (2nd), 536 (9th), 543 (13th) and 575 (17th), they really are gettable.
Winner, Winning Scores, Stats
2016 -16 Soomin Lee (DD: 28, DA: 50, GIR: 30, Sc: 4, PA: 3)
2015 -12 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (DD: 22, DA: 32, GIR: 22, Sc: 23, PA: 6)
As for the 2014 China Open at Genzon....
2014 -19 Alexander Levy (DD: 7, DA: 11, GIR: 5, Sc: 23, PA: 3)
Notes: Putting has certainly been the strongest stat at Genzon given the evidence we have.
Temperatures are decent and could sneak up to 80 degrees but t-storms are in the forecast all four days so we could see some disruptions. Winds also pick up on the weekend.
The Leading Contenders
Bubba is the big draw card for the third straight year but those who thought he might blow away the field in 2015 and 2016 may have very different thoughts this time. Watson was T29 and T8 in those two events and returns this year in pretty horrid form. His missed cut at Augusta means he hasn’t made the top 20 in seven strokeplay starts in 2017, that run including three weekends off. He did win the HSBC-Champions in China in 2014 but he’s a long way short of the levels he hit there.
In elite company, Wiesberger made his third straight cut at the Masters (T46), won two of his three matches at the WGC-Dell Match Play and took T45 at the WGC-Mexico so should find it much easier to shine in this drop in class. Indeed, T3 at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia before that trio shows exactly that. It’s his debut in the event but he’s been a solid if unspectacular performer in China with five of his last six finishes between T13 and T28.
In three starts at Genzon (two in this event, one in the China Open), Fleetwood is 2-3-19 so course form alone will make him a popular pick. He also posted a top three in the Hong Kong Open on his last visit to this corner of the globe. More recently, the Englishman has really started to justify his immense potential with a win in Abu Dhabi and solo second at the WGC-Mexico Championship. Despite missing the cut at Augusta, he’s second in the Race to Dubai behind Sergio.
Fisher should feel enthused by his lucrative time Stateside after he booked his spot in the Masters (T41) by reaching the quarter-finals of the WGC-Dell Match Play. That had come on the back of T3 over the border in the WGC-Mexico Championship. It’s put him 7th on the Race to Dubai and back in the world’s top 60. He’s a two-time runner-up in China (2007 HSBC Champions and 2014 BMW Masters) and has six top 20 finishes in his last eight starts there. Part of that run is T15 and T16 at Genzon the last two years.
A 75 on day one left Luiten behind the 8-ball in Morocco last week but he battled away to take T13. He was -11 for the par 5s at the Trophee Hassan II so to only finish at -3 was overall somewhat frustrating. Still, he should be sharper here and we know he likes the course following his T2 here 12 months ago. T16 at the HSBC Champions on his last start in China, Luiten will again be at the front of plenty of gamers’ thoughts.
A winner at this venue in 2015 (67-69-68-72) although he made a poor job of defending the title last year when T65. Apart from that win, the big Thai has only managed one top 10 finish in 16 other starts in China so don’t just presume he excels here; that’s far from the case. Aphibarnrat played some good golf on the Desert Swing (4-9-MC) and, most recently, posted T22 at the Hero Indian Open.
Jaidee made no impression at the WGC-Dell Match Play on his last appearance but before that had back-to-back top 15s on the European Tour (Dubai Desert Classic and Maybank Championship). Perhaps surprisingly, this is his first start at Genzon but, despite no wins, his record on Chinese soil is littered with good finishes (three second places) and includes four top 15s in his last five visits.
It’s been a quiet start to 2017 for the Dane. He’s been in the money on all five starts but hasn’t bettered his season-opening T29 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Olesen watchers know fine well that he can pop up with a big performance when least expected so he’s always worth considering given his ability to land the big cheques. Adding to his appeal is T8 here last year and solid form in China – two top 10s and a further two top 20s from his last five visits.
After shooting 80-77 on his Masters debut in 2016, Sullivan made it through to the weekend this time (T48) so that was a step forward. He arrived at Augusta National on the back of T15 in the Shell Houston Open while T20 at the WGC-Mexico Championship offers further evidence of his well-being. The Englishman was only T54 on his last start in this event but he posted T8 at Genzon in the 2014 China Open so the course form is there.
Li shot a third-round 65 alongside Bubba here at Genzon in 2015 but just missed out on becoming the first Chinese player to win a European Tour event on home soil when losing to Kiradech Aphibarnrat in a play-off. That record was broken by Ashun Wu just seven days later but Li did get it done in 2016 when, still just 20, he landed the Volvo China Open after closing with a bogey-free 64. Later that year, he posted T2 in the prestigious Turkish Airlines Open and, more recently, we saw him finish T5 in the Maybank Malaysia. A serious contender on home soil.