A top class field assembles in Lake Malaren, Shanghai, for the second annual BMW Masters, which this year marks the start of the European Tour’s Final Series. This series is similar to the FedEx playoffs on the PGA Tour in the sense that the tournaments are played for larger pots than regular season events. However, the series is not a direct parallel to the FedEx Playoffs and there is no elimination element to them and the inclusion of the WGC Champions event as well as restricted fields mean that for most European Tour players, the Final Series is a watching brief only. This will have it’s critics but at a time when the PGA Tour has a number of lower key events, it does allow the European Tour a chance to take the spotlight in the golfing world, which in my opinion is no bad thing.
Last year, the event was dominated by some of Europe’s recently victorious Ryder Cup stars. Peter Hanson emerged as the winner getting the better of a battling Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald came third and fourth, and a further five of Team Europe came in the top twenty. Despite being a shade under a year away, the Ryder Cup will be a factor for all European players lining up this week, particularly for those top 24 players from the Race To The Dubai playing who are outside of the world’s top 100. A cheque for in excess 800,000 euros awaits the winner and should it go the way of the red hot Henrik Stenson it would potentially move him to a very strong position at the top of the Race To Dubai standings. He will be a tough man to beat this week but here are three I expect to go well in opposition to him:
Alex Noren might just be flying under the radar this week in an event he finished sixth in last year. His wrist injury flared up just as he was showing a great level form with back to back top five finishes in June. He is back playing pain free and with two starts under his belt, any competitive rust should have been evaporated. Those two starts have provided a lot of signs for encouragement, he, unsurprisingly, wasn’t able to put it together consistently in four rounds in either start but all of his rounds have been par or better. He had no need to make the trip to Perth and I feel that will work in his favour too this week, his putter is normally his strong suit and it looked in improving order in Portugal, he has a big chance in my eyes.
It has probably not been the year that many expected from Kaymer after he sunk the winning putt at Medinah last September. Yes, he went on and won the Nedbank Challenge and yes, he has not played without credit this year but he has not really been in a position to actually win a tournament. In actual fact, he was in a similar position at the same time last year, though his form this year has been much more encouraging. His Nedbank win continued his streak of winning events in the last 5 years, he will be looking to continue that streak and with his place inside the world’s top 50 in jeopardy, I expect him to be going out in the next few weeks looking for a big event win.
Jamie Donaldson probably left Portugal wondering what went wrong, he looked the man to beat on Sunday when firing to 3 feet on the par-3 thirteenth to set up a seemingly certain birdie and put himself one back with at least two realistic birdie chances coming home. Yet he three putted and from there he was treading water for the remainder of the round. I don’t think it will cut too deep for Jamie as it would have if he was still seeking his first tour victory and I hope it will spur him on this week to try go one better. Last year, Donaldson opened with a 62, which is the course record here and he has shown he has the game to come out on top when competing in top fields by winning in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
Finally, a mention should go to Luke Guthrie who is a player I feel we should keep an eye on in the next few months and he comes to this event as he didn’t get into the PGA Tour’s Malaysian event. He is one of seemingly endless string of top rate young American players while his form last season was nothing to write home about but his talent is clear. He was second on his first PGA Tour start in 2011 and I am impressed by his willingness to travel to China for one event. Given the exploits of Koepka and Uihlein on the European Tour, don’t be surprised to see Guthrie fully charged to make his own statement, especially coming in off the back of strong finishing sixth place finish in Las Vegas.
- This Week in Golf — Oct. 24-27 (myrtlebeachonline.com)
- McIlroy 2nd in Korea amid rules controversy (espn.go.com)
- For McIlroy, it can’t all be about the money (bbc.co.uk)
- Walker wins on PGA Tour and gets trip to Masters (mysanantonio.com)
- Race to Dubai 2013 Standings: Brett Rumford on the Rise (bleacherreport.com)
- Spieth’s decision to turn pro dates to Olympic (bigstory.ap.org)