Fleetwood, Garcia, Reed all Favorites at Hong Kong Open
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
The Honma Hong Kong Open Presented by Amundi has become known as the event where players from the PGA, European, and Asian Tours get a chance to size each other up before the New Year! This year is no different as international names such as Tommy Fleetwood and Patrick Reed are two of the favored players in this year’s event. But they may find themselves battling a third party who seems to have rekindled his game!
Sergio Garcia is running neck and neck with Fleetwood and Reed on the favorites list according to oddsmakers at Intertops. The question for many may be if Garcia can put his somewhat unglamorous 2018 season behind him? The 38-year-old player from Spain has ten PGA Tour wins but suffered through a rough season where he failed to make the cut in eight of the fifteen Tour events that he played in.
The rough patch of play came after he started the year T7 at the World Golf Championship – Mexico Open and finished the next week in the sole position of fourth at the Valspar Open. Then came the Masters in Augusta where he suffered his first cut of the year. That kicked off a string of missing the cut in five of the next six events. The good news is that he showed a good amount of his old form at the Wyndham Championship towards the end of the season where he placed in the top-25.
Now, Garcia is tied with Reed at +600 with Fleetwood at +550 heading into the opening round at the Hong Kong Golf Club. Garcia says he’s looking forward to getting back to the course.
“The golf course is amazing,” Garcia said. “It’s a really strong test and it’s a style of course that I enjoy playing. It would be nice to contend – and see if we can add onto the resume. There’s - the erratic couple of years – that’s always a bit disappointing. But I think there are a lot of important things to play for.”
The truth is that Garcia is already playing great golf again! Only a few weeks ago he successfully defended his 2017 win at the European Andalucia Valderrama Masters. He has won that event three times. Add that to his list of wins at tournaments with the word “Masters” in the title. He’s also won the German Masters, Castello Masters, Qatar Masters and his 2017 Masters at Augusta.
Garcia is showing signs of returning to his winning form and he, along with Reed and Fleetwood, are probably the strongest players in the Hong Kong Open field this year. Here’s a look at the top-five favored players at the Hong Kong Open.
Rafael Cabrera Bello
Bello and Fitzpatrick
If there were ever a player lurking in the bushes to choose as a dark horse it would be Matthew Fitzpatrick of Briton. Fitzpatrick, at +1200, played his college golf at Northwestern in the States where he exploded onto the international golf scene. The 24-year-old golfer turned professional in 2014 and has since won five times on the European Tour while going winless on the PGA Tour. However, he carded a T7 finish at the Masters in 2016.
He went onto to win back-to-back Omega European Masters in 2017 and 2018. Doing so both years in playoff victories. The first over Scott Hend in 2017 and this past September he downed Lucas Bjerregaard in another playoff.
The other top-five favored player is Rafael Cabrera Bello coming in at +850. The Spanish born player has racked up six wins on the PGA Tour and European Tour and came close to winning the British Open in 2017 but dropped back to card a T4 during the final round. He also had an impressive PGA Championship run this past fall where he played outstanding golf while posting a T10 finish.
Hong Kong Golf Course by the Numbers
The course has an amazing history as it was established in 1889. It started as a small, almost temporary, nine-hole course. But, as play grew a permanent site was located for a larger course. The current club holds four courses with the Open being played on portions of two courses with most players coming on the Eden Course.
The course takes full advantage of the natural landscape as it features rolling terrain, masterful placement of sand bunkers and only a few water hazards scattered along fairways and near greens. Ten holes from the Eden Course and eight from the New Course are used. This is done mostly because the “newer” Eden Course is short on distance for professional play.
The composite course is known for tight tree-lined fairways with four narrow left doglegs along with two dog-legs going right. There are only two par-five holes on the composite course and four par-three holes. Par four holes make up the rest. A long par-four bending to the left with water on the right and bunkers in the landing area will great players as hole No. 1 this year.
Location: Fanling, Hong Kong Designers: New Course, 1931 - L.S Greenhill Eden Course, 1971 – John Harris Established: 1889 Par: 70 for Open Length: 6,700yards for Open Play Grass: Bermuda, Zoysia fairways Bermuda, greens
Hong Kong Open - all times ET
As with the “Asian Swing” tournaments that start off each PGA Tour season, the Hong Kong Open is broadcast late for viewers in the USA due to the time difference.
Wednesday/Thursday: 1:00 AM – 3:30 AM, Golf Channel Friday/Saturday: 1:00 AM – 3:30 AM, Golf Channel