Avantha Masters betting preview

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Indian signs point to David Drysdale, says Golf365 tipster Ben Coley as he looks at this week Avantha Masters in New Delhi.

The Avantha Masters is a tournament with a future as organisers hope to build India’s sole European Tour contribution into one of its premier events.

But what about the present? The 2011 renewal has a tricky look to it with a market headed by the nation’s golfing idol Jeev Milkha-Singh, who has shown only brief glimpses of his best lately after prolonged injury struggles blighted his 2010, and

Soren Hansen, at his best capable of dominating this field but still finding his feet again after personal financial problems resulted in a severe dip in form over the past 18 months.

So finding the winner won’t be easy, but if we can do it then the reward will be generous.

Firstly, let’s look at the course.

At just over 7,200 yards long, Arnold Palmer’s par-72 layout won’t have any of the modern players concerned about distance. With more than 14,000 trees lining the fairways and water hazards guarding many of the course’s holes, the emphasis will instead be on striking the ball well and rolling in a few putts.

That was certainly the case last year when the admittedly-long Andrew Dodt led the field in putting on his way to a 14-under-par winning total. In behind was Richard Finch, one of the best ball-strikers on the European Tour at present, ahead of the likes of David Drysdale and multiple Asian and Japanese Tour winner Tetsuji Hiratsuka, again players who pride themselves on accuracy from tee to green.

There’s no denying that Finch himself is of massive interest. The Manchester man arrives having clocked up greens-in-regulation rankings of ninth, first and eighth in Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai respectively.

The trouble is, his putts-per-round positions of 49th, 72nd and 63rd have meant that despite hitting the ball as well as anyone, he’s not been able to seriously contend.
Before last year’s second here, even in missing the cut by seven shots, Finch ranked better in putting in Dubai than he has done in his last three events this time around and he continued to putt well with a tie for 26th in the event itself.

If this dual European Tour winner has found something with the flat stick in the days since we last saw him in action then he must be the man to beat and it is possible that these greens will serve him better, but at almost double the price we’ll side with another ball-striker in David Drysdale.

The Scot arrives in fair form having finished in the top 15 on two of his last four starts, a record he may have built on were it not for a final round 77 in the Dubai Desert Classic last week, as well as two further strong efforts at the end of 2010.

Although no wizard with the putter himself – he ranked just inside the top 100 in putts per round on last year’s Tour – Drysdale did finish 12th in the same category on his way to a tie for 12th in the Qatar Masters which suggests that he’s stroking the ball nicely enough to contend.

That wasn’t the case here last year as he could only muster 53rd in putting, which indicates that it was only play on the greens that cost him a maiden tour triumph as he was only two shots behind Dodt at the death in a share of third.

Before the Avantha Masters last year Drysdale had missed four out of six cuts. This year he’s made five out of seven, and I’m further encouraged by strong performances in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore in the past which suggest that conditions shouldn’t pose much of a problem.

As for the fact that he’s not yet won on the European Tour, not only does last week’s DA Points victory show us what can be achieved by maidens but Drysdale is a previous Q-School graduate, meaning he knows how to play when the pressure is on.

On his personal website he suggests his game is getting better and that it’s only his driving that has prevented a really good finish and, with positive memories from this event to call upon, I’m hopeful an each-way play can be rewarded, especially if the forecast rain materialises.

Another player I like the look of from last year’s top-10 is Oliver Fisher, who looks worth a small speculative punt at the prices on offer.

After the 2008 Open de Andalucia, in which Fisher finished second to Thomas Levet, the Frenchman said: “I think he is going to be the next Nick Faldo because his game is unbelievable”. High praise indeed and it’s little surprise that the Essex golfer hasn’t quite lived up to that sort of hype. It’s undeniably disappointing, though, that he’s not been able to build on the promise that he showed during a coveted amateur career.

Fisher remains the youngest player to ever represent GB and Ireland in the Walker Cup and a year later won his European Tour card as an amateur, before quickly turning professional. There’s little doubt that the youngster – and he is still a youngster remember – has the attributes to make a big name for himself if he works hard on his game.

There’s not much to shout about in terms of this year’s results unfortunately. Fisher has failed to break 70 throughout eight rounds of golf and has made only one cut. Have I put you off yet?

Quite possibly, but when I tell you that prior to taking eighth in this event last year he’d also made just one cut despite having played an extra event then perhaps you’ll agree that it could be worth making a preemtive strike – his form figures from this event onward in 2010 read 8-3-2-7-4 – especially at such a big price in such an average field.

Two of those finishes came in Asia and he’s got a bit of form on Arnold Palmer layouts too, having clocked a top-20 in an Italian Open played at one of Arnold’s courses, so while I do feel obliged to use the word speculative once more, the price is one I simply can’t ignore.

Another young golfer who catches the eye at a big price is Thorbjorn Olesen, a talented Dane who could be spurred on by his hero Thomas Bjorn’s recent Qatar win and whose early-season form would entitle him to be among the market leaders.

However, having missed his last three cuts and having told Twitter followers that no aspect of his game feels right, I really can’t advise anyone to back him, even though I may myself.

Last on my list then is another Scot, this time Richie Ramsay. Like Fisher, the 2006 US Amateur Champion is a player with the game to climb up golf’s ladder as he showed when landing his maiden European Tour title in last year’s South African Open.

He then went on to tie for 14th here and another top-15 finish in the Italian Open further confirmed his promise before Ramsay put together arguably his finest display as a pro to take third in the late-season WGC-HSBC Champions event won by Francesco Molinari.

It was ball-striking that paved the way for that exceptional tie for third as he hit four per cent more greens than anyone else in the event and if he can get dialled in against this lot, then the event could be his for the taking.

As shown in South Africa last year, Ramsay is capable of peaking early and recent finishes

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