2014 Volvo Golf Champions Betting Preview
Louis Oosthuizen is set to defend his title at Durban Country Club, as the European Tour kicks off 2014 with the Volvo Golf Champions from South Africa.
2014 Volvo Golf Champions Fact Sheet
- Course: Durban Country Club
- Location: Durban, South Africa
- Yardage: 6,734 yards, par 72
- Defending Champion: Louis Oosthuizen
- Five Consensus Favourites: Charl Schwartzel, Jamie Donaldson, Thomas Bjorn, Louis Oosthuizen and Joost Luiten
- Thursday – 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
- Sunday – 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
Key Storyline(s) This Week
It’s the first event of 2014 for the European Tour, and much like the PGA Tour did last week at Kapalua, this is a field comprised mostly of 2013 winners. Throw in a few European legends like Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, and you’ve got a pretty decent 36-man field to start the season. For those that are eligible, it’s also the first crack at moving up on the European Ryder Cup team list which is pretty important for players like Matteo Manassero and Paul Casey who are likely on the outside looking in at the moment.
The other thing I’ll be really keeping a close eye on is the performance of Manassero, who will be debuting new equipment this week after signing on with Callaway. With the short course, he should be a perfect fit here, but I’m a little hesitant to go down that path with him without seeing how he plays. Here’s hoping he adapts to his new gear faster than Rory McIlroy did.
Durban Country Club
The Durban Country Club is one of the best courses in South Africa. It’s been around since the 1920′s, and as you can see from the above yardage, it’s very short. You don’t find many professional courses that play under 7,000 yards anymore, but Durban is one of the most unique courses in the world. It was built on sand dunes, causing some of the wildest undulations that you’ll ever see.
Many players won’t take driver out of the bag until late in their rounds because of how narrow the fairways are, and when you combine that with the massive undulations all over the course, what you get is a place that puts a premium on accuracy and genuine shot making. Last year’s winner, Louis Oosthuizen, definitely provides those qualities when he’s playing well.
Ernie Els once said that “Durban is one of those special courses which test every club.” It’s one of my favourite courses to watch on TV too, as you don’t get to see this type of course often enough worldwide.
Thoughts On The Favourites
- Charl Schwartzel: Schwartzel is the best player in the field, without question and his track record at Durban is pretty impressive, even though he’s only played here three times in the last twelve years. Those appearances have yielded nothing worse than a tie for 15th back in 2002, and also contain a runner-up and a T4 last year. In twelve competitive rounds at the course, he’s been over par just once and he comes in on a nice hot streak, having finished outside the top seven in an event just once since the end of September.
- Jamie Donaldson: Donaldson is also in good form, with top-10 finishes in five of his last six starts dating back to October. In two trips to Durban, he’s finished inside the top-16 both times, including last year with a final round 66 likely giving him some confidence coming into the week. He’s arguably the most underrated player in the world right now.
- Thomas Bjorn: At this point, I’d be shocked if Bjorn didn’t make it on that European Ryder Cup team. His last two starts have produced a win and a runner-up, and last year saw a top-10 finish in his first appearance at the course with all four rounds played at par or better. Don’t forget that his last start, the win at the Nedbank, also came in South Africa.
- Louis Oosthuizen: Oosthuizen is an interesting play this week because he loves the course, but hasn’t done anything positive of note in a very long time. He’s only had three rounds above par in fourteen tries, and as mentioned above, he did win here last year. Unfortunately, he’s only placed inside the top-10 in any tournament twice since that win last January, due to a combination of injuries and inconsistent play. I have no idea what to expect from him this week.
- Joost Luiten: In a short field, Luiten gets in as the fifth favourite despite never playing a round on the course as a professional. He’s been inside the top-20 in each of his last three starts, but he does run very hot and cold. Without any course form, it’s tough to recommend Luiten in this spot.
Branden Grace (Best Odds 22-1 at bet365)
Grace didn’t have the best season in 2013, and only has two top-10’s worldwide since the middle of July. Thankfully, that second top-10 came in his last start at the Nelson Mandela, and he has always played well in his native South Africa, including a T7 here last year after an opening round 75. There’s no better place for him to get back on track than right here in a short field.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Best Odds 25-1 at bwin)
Castano seems to be flying under the radar here a little bit and I’m not sure why. In a short field, he sticks out from a talent perspective, and he ended 2013 with two solid tournaments in Japan and here in South Africa. Last year at this event, he started slow with a 75 but followed with rounds of 70, 69 and 68 to get into the top 20. Like him to crack the top-5 here this week.
Paul Casey (Best Odds 29-1 at Betfair)
We haven’t seen Casey since the middle of November, so he should be well rested coming into a tournament that he won three years ago. Yes, it was at the Royal Golf Club back then and not Durban, but when Casey was one of the best in the world a few years ago, this was the type of course he excelled on. Last year, he fired three consecutive 69’s from Friday to Sunday and he showed flashes in the second half of 2013 that he was turning things around.
David Howell (Best Odds 66-1 at bwin)
Only listing Howell here based on previous form at Durban, where he has two top-10’s in four starts. At this price, he’s worth a flyer but keep in mind that since winning the Dunhill, his best finish was a tie for 34th at the DP World Tour Championship.