Ras al Khaimah Championship Odds: 35/1 JB Hansen heads our picks for the UAE
Resident golf tipster @JWorsley89 got another tied place last week and was very close with two other selections. This week he has six selections for the Ras al Khaimah Championship in the UAE, which starts on Thursday.
Ras al Khaimah Championship Tips
- JB Hansen 35/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1.25 pts ew
- Nicolai Hojgaard 35/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1.25 pts ew
- Matthias Schmid 66/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew
- Brandon Stone 66/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfair) – 1 pt ew
- Daniel Van Tonder 100/1 – 1/5 6 places (Williamhill) – 1 pt ew
- Jorge Campillo 125/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 0.75 pts ew
We really have been treated to two thrilling golf tournaments to kick off the DP World Tour 2022 schedule. Viktor Hovland was the latest winner, coming from 6 behind at the start of Sunday’s final round in Dubai to force a playoff with Richard Bland, thanks to an incredible birdie-eagle-birdie finish.
That wasn't the only drama, as Rory McIlroy, tied for the lead going down the last, needing a birdie at the risk/reward par 5 to win outright, a par getting him into the playoff, hit his ball into the water to drop to 3rd. Leaving Hovland to pick up his 3rd victory in five starts and deny the likeable Bland another victory in this twilight of his career.
In the U.A.E we remain this week, with the tour heading to Al Hamra Golf Club for the next two week. Starting with the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.
It’s a new event and the first time we will see the Peter Harradine designed course on the DP World Tour schedule. Though it has played host to three Challenge Tour events over recent years. With the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge from 2016-2017 and then the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2018.
Also worth noting that Harradine has designed two extremely familiar courses that had been regulars on the DP World Tour until recently. Abu Dhabi Golf Club, which hosted the Abu Dhabi Championship from the event’s inauguration, before being replaced by Yas Links this year and Doha Golf Club, which hosted the Qatar Masters from 1990-2019.
You look at this course and it certainly bares resemblance to Harradine’s other designs, though in truth that is true of many courses in the desert of the Middle East. It’s open and exposed, with water well in-play throughout.
As a desert course it’s no surprise to see an abundance of sand, particularly around the paspalum putting surfaces, that are severely sloped in places. Run-off areas providing further danger around the greens.
Due to the openness of the course and its length, in which this par 72 can stretch out to 7345 yards, it screams out as a course you can attack with driver. Which certainly looked to be the case when we look at the winners of those three Challenge Tour events.
Jordan Smith won in 2016 and has since become one of the strongest ball-strikers but particularly drivers, on the DP World Tour, ranking 14th off-the-tee last season. With Adri Arnaus picking up the CT Grand Final in 2018. For all his short-game engineered much of the good golf he played last year, at that point he was a renowned excellent driver of the ball.
Even when looking at runners-up like Adrian Meronk and Victor Perez, we find strong ball-striking types who excel or at least have excelled off-the-tee.
The conditions are expected to be breezy across the week, with the wind potentially picking up in the final round. This should make this course bare some teeth as there’s enough danger around here to catch players out if not in complete control of the golf ball.
It’s the first event of the year in which I feel like we have a proper DP World Tour field. Most of the top stars have now exited, with many now headed to the Saudi International this week before heading stateside for a big upcoming run of events.
Richard Bland at #53 in the world is the top ranked player, which just goes to highlight his incredible performances over the last 12 months. Bernd Wiesberger and Robert MacIntyre are the next top ranked at #62 and #63 respectively, with just another six players from inside the world’s top 100 attending Al Hamra Golf Club this week.
Bernd Wieserger deservedly heads the market and with a game that looks likely to suit, comes into this as the man to beat. Though 11/1 is just about short enough for me to leave him alone.
From there on in it’s wide open and I’m going to pass over the likes of Romain Langasque and Adrian Meronk, who’ve started the year well, for a couple of Danes who finished last year strongly. Starting with JB Hansen.
The strong end to 2021 for Hansen saw him hit the top 25 on his final 6 starts of the year. With no doubt the best two results from that run his final two. As he landed us a 50/1 winner when winning the Dubai Championship, following that with an excellent 9th place finish in the season ending DP World Tour Championship.
He showed little weaknesses in that end of season run. Iron play and putting the two standout areas in his game, ranking 19th on the greens and 44th in approach last year. Whilst the driver can sometimes be a burden for Hansen, he was driving it well enough at the end of the year too.
Without question the nerves rise when watching him around-the-greens. He can make even the simplest of up and downs look difficult at times. I’ll be hoping he’s at his ball-striking best this week, for his and my own sake.
He has a good record here from his days on the Challenge Tour, with finishes of 7th and 13th. The victory in the Dubai Championship further enhances his chances, with the likes of Adrian Meronk & Grant Forrest, who possess top 10s here at Al Hamra, hitting the top 10 there too.
Although the bare form on his first two starts of the year don’t appear to be overly impressive, he’s played better than they suggest, with most parts of his game firing at some point. He drove it well enough when 62nd in Abu Dhabi and though ultimately dropping down to finish 66th in Dubai last week, thanks to a really poor weekend, he was tied for the lead after round one. Showing that quality in approach that we saw at the end of 2021.
He’s now had two weeks to blow the cobwebs away. With that, I think Hansen will put everything together that he’s shown in glimpses over the previous two weeks and put up a much improved result here at Al Hamra.
Similarly to Hansen, Nicolai Hojgaard has failed to fire in the opening couple of events of this year. Now back in calmer waters and at a course which should suit his game, I think the hugely talented young Dane will get his year started in earnest.
Spending much of the early part of his career in the shadow of twin brother, Rasmus, Nicolai showed last year that he possesses every bit as much talent. Picking up his first title in the Italian Open, in September, part of a really strong end to the year for him.
One in which he finished top 25 in seven of his final nine events of 2021 and signed off with two top 5s. The first a 2nd place finish in the Portugal Masters and then an impressive 4th place finish in the DP World Tour Championship in a stellar field on his final start.
His game is engineered by excellence tee-to-green, where he ranked 10th on tour last season. Particularly impressive is his ball-striking, ranking 21st in approach and 26th off-the-tee. Also one of the longest drivers, as he ranked 4th in driving distance last year.
Hojgaard adds to this with a solid short game, ranking 47th around-the-greens and whilst not consistently at his best with the flat-stick in hand, he’s proven capable of putting together bunches of good putting.
Like many, he hasn’t played here before but this big open, resort course should be very much to his liking, if results like his win in Italy and 2nd in Portugal are anything to go by. Though two missed cuts to start the year isn’t ideal, the ball-striking has been there for the most part and I think his quality long game will see him bounce back in style this week.
Germany’s big-hitting Matthias Schmid really caught the eye when taking home top amateur honours at last year’s Open Championship. Since turning pro straight after, he’s put up some strong performances on the DP World Tour and looks a good ball-striking type. Very much in the mould of those players who went well at this venue on the Challenge Tour.
Since turning pro, Schmid has teed it up on the DPWT on ten occasions. Missing just three cuts and hitting the top 25 five times, also possessing a 14th place finish in his final start on the tour as an amateur in Germany.
The best of those performances was a 2nd place finish at the open and exposed Bernardus Golf, which hosted the Dutch Open last year. That impressive finish was down to an excellent display of ball-striking, which was also the case the week after when he finished 9th in the Dunhill Links.
For all the short-game appears inconsistent at this stage, he has shown quality in those areas of his game too and there’s a real feeling this former #10 amateur possesses the game to go right to the top.
He had a tough time on his first start of the year, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi but bounced back well with a 35th place finish in Dubai last week. Which would’ve been even better if it wasn’t for a really poor final round. Though it was encouraging to see his long game looking in good shape again.
I firmly believe Schmid is already capable of winning at this level, which some of those performances on the tour back up. He has a ceiling higher than most in this field and if bringing his ball-striking best to Al Hamra, can pick up a first title, truly establishing himself as one of the brightest prospects Europe has to offer.
As mentioned, quality drivers should have an advantage this week and as the 3rd best driver on the DPWT in 2021, Brandon Stone very much fits the bill. After a solid start to the year, where he followed a 72nd place finish in Abu Dhabi with 26th last week in Dubai, he can once again go well in the Middle East.
Stone has continued to drive it well in these first two events of the year, though the biggest encouragement I took from either performance was the improvements in approach play he showed last week. An area of his game that has all too often failed to fire over recent years.
This solid start is a continuation of the golf he played at the end of the year. Where he showed on occasion that he only needs one other part of his game to click with the driver on a given week to have a decent performance. Such is the asset that the driver is for Stone.
No previous appearance here for but these big, open resort courses are his bag. His two best performances in the latter part of 2021 coming when 12th in the Czech Masters and 32nd in the Dutch Open. Two courses in which you can attack with driver. Other notable career performances, such as runner-up finishes in Oman and Portugal adding further strength to his cause.
Stone is a three-time DPWT winner and is still only 28-years-old. His brilliance off-the-tee should stand him in good stead this week and if able to replicate the improved approach play he showed in Dubai, will be a danger on this suitable setup.
Another South African up next and I thought Daniel Van Tonder looked a big price this week. His strength is with the driver, ranking 7th on tour last season and though he only finished 43rd last week, he was the 10th best player tee-to-green. A poor week with the putter, which is his biggest weakness, hindering him from progressing further up the leaderboard.
Van Tonder’s solid start to this year is not a surprise as we saw him sign off 2021 in style, winning his home open in South Africa and has been in good form since two weeks prior, when he hit the top 20 in the Dubai Championship. Which could be a good pointer when looking at the performances of Hansen et al at the course.
Throughout any poor run of form, the one constant in Van Tonder’s game is how well, for the most part, he drives the ball. Like Stone, it’s the improved iron play which stands out last week, as he recorded his 3rd best approach performance since becoming a regular on the DPWT.
No doubt the putter is a cause for concern, and he’ll need to find something in that area of his game to get involved. Though with the quality of his game off-the-tee, the noticeable improvements he made in approach last week and just the simple fact that with that South African Open win, he’s now won 7 times since 2019, I feel he’s worth rolling the dice with at this number on a setup which should setup favourably.
After a largely uninspiring last 18 months, Jorge Campillo started to show some more consistent form towards the end of 2021, including a 2nd place finish in the Mallorca Golf Open. He’s continued that form into 2022, making the cut in the opening two events and with his tee-to-green game looking in much better shape, can win again in the desert.
In the opening two events of this year, where Campillo followed a 48th place finish in Abu Dhabi by finishing 55th in last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, he’s shown visible improvements with his game tee-to-green, particularly off-the-tee. Where he’s gained strokes in each of those two starts. Something he hasn’t done since 2020.
He has too shown form in approach and around-the-greens, with the putter being the only club that has failed to fire at all so far. This in contrast to last year, with that solid run towards the end predominantly down to the putter.
That has always been the strength of his game, but he’s often been able to marry it with some solid enough ball-striking. Which has helped him on his way to two DP World Tour titles.
The most recent of those was in this part of the world at the Qatar Masters, at Education City in 2020, a course not too dissimilar to this week’s venue. Form in this part of the world not exclusive to Education City as he finished 2nd in Qatar the year previous, at Doha Golf Club, as mentioned a course designed by this week’s designer, Peter Harradine. Also possessing a runner-up finish in Oman. There’s no doubt these open, desert courses in the Middle East suit Campillo’s game.
The improvements only appear small but when a player has been struggling so much in those areas of his game it becomes a huge positive, particularly the driving performances. If he can maintain that level of tee-to-green performance and find his typically excellent putting, this looks just the type of test to get the best out of the Spaniard.