Golf pundit Jason Daniels is here to preview the final tournament in the 2022 golfing calendar, the Mauritius Open.
Nathan Kimsey E/W40/1
Jens Fahrbring E/W175/1
Rather like Ewen Ferguson in Denmark, last weekend saw Adrian Otaegui mugged by a much-improved performance by the eventual winner, this time at the Alfred Dunhill at Leopard Creek.
Take nothing away from either Oliver Wilson or Ockie Strydom, but every so often golf reminds you how frustrating a game it can be, even if making a profit for the week.
One more proper betting event before the novelty of the PNC Championship, and it’s over to the Mauritius Open to give a boost before the delights of the PNC Championship and a well-deserved break.
European golf fans have not seen the Mont Choisy golf course before, but it looks absolutely stunning. It may be without the wildlife of Leopard Creek, but the course, on the island’s north, is breath-taking.
There are few clues to the type of player required for this week’s test and potentially we can look at the designer, Peter Matkovich, who also designed the Heritage course used for the 2015, 2017 and 2019 running of this event, and at the opposite end of the isle.
The last time Mauritius held its championship, Rasmus Hojgaard won the first of his three DP World trophies, beating Renato Paratore and Antoine Rozner in a play-off, whilst both the previous Heritage winners, Dylan Frittelli and George Coetzee also won via a play-off. That may be something or nothing, but check out prices for an unusual four-timer on Matkovich courses.
Coming off a trio of decent graded South African events, it may be prudent to be in form, or at least with confidence in your game, as both Hojgaard and Frittelli used almost polar opposite methods to achieve their victories.
The then 19-year-old ranked top-10 off the tee but outside the top 45 in greens found, whereas Frittelli ranked highly for greens, and had he putted better than his 35th rank, would surely not have needed extra holes to beat Arjun Atwal.
We will go to war with just three selections in a hard-to-read event, but hopefully with some justification for each.
Yes, yes, I know, but Tom McKibbin I have to be with when most big names are not around.
Of course, full respect to both Thomas Detry and Dean Burmester, but when seeing combined odds of around 85/40 for these two, we have to look further down.
The Belgian deserves to be right up the top of the betting market, but it’s certainly not my game to be taking around 11/2 for a player that has never won on the European/DP World Tour or co-sanctioned event, and whilst I am a long-term fan of the South African, his focus is surely making the most of his PGA Tour card in 2023.
19-year-old (20in a week’s time) McKibbin is going to be a superstar.
Much of his qualification for such plaudits is in the 2023 Players To Follow profile, and repeating it here seems futile.
However, as a synopsis, we have a previous top-class junior and amateur playing out of Rory McIlroy’s home club, Holywood, who Padraig Harrington says will “win quick.”
A constant contender throughout his first year on the Challenge Tour, the Northern Irishman’s first three events at the top level have been more than satisfactory.
Whilst the figures put up on the South African swing need ‘careful’ interpreting, the finishes do not. 18th, 15th and 13th over the last three weeks, the last two (at the long Blair Atholl and last week at Leopard Creek) see him rank highly for greens-in-reg, perfect here. Want to be a bit cynical? Okay, scroll down to when he was 10th at Galgorm Castle in August, and witness a field-topping performance off the tee and a ranking of 4th for tee-to-green.
Put that in your calculations when reading that, in his opinion, he hasn’t played that great!
“Yeah pretty happy, I've been solid. The last two weeks I haven’t played great, the first week I was pretty solid but these last two weeks it’s nice to see a few good finishes for not having my best stuff,’ sahttps://t.co/lJCXw8hX52
— Irish Golfer (@IrishGolferMag) December 11, 2022
McKibbin could make many people look silly if he cannot make an impact over the next 12 months, but I reckon they/we are safe.
There is a theme running through many of the top finishers here, with Crans, Kenya, Valderrama and Qatar featuring heavily alongside the more obvious Joburg and Tshwane events, a series of connections that lead to a much more speculative wager.
Take a punt with Swede Jens Fahrbring, an impossible-to-read player, but one who can pop up when least expected, and whose best form might see him challenge for a top-10 at least.
The 38-year-old journeyman constantly flits between the two European tours, winning two events, in 2013 and 2015, at Challenge Tour level – in Norway and the Czech Republic – but again had to battle through the six-round Q-school to gain his card for 2023.
He made an immediate impact back at the top level with a third place finish at the South African Open, playing in the final group before succumbing by a couple of shots to Lawrence, a previous winner at Joburg and Crans.
The Swede lost a play-off for the Kenya Open at Muthaiga in 2018 (winner Lorenzo Gagli was runner-up at Crans in 2019), leaning towards a connection with Kurt Kitayama, winner of this week’s event in 2018 and runner-up at Karen, whilst Lawrence was also a silver medalist at Muthaiga to Ashun Wu, 6th at Crans and 7th at the Dom Pedro, one of Coetzee’s favoured tracks!
While I’m on a roll, Fahrbring’s 10th at the 2020 British Masters at Close House was behind previous Mauritius play-off combatants Paratore and Hojgaard and third-placed Justin Harding (winner in Kenya and Qatar).
I’ll fully admit I have no idea how he will play this week, and I reckon nor does he, but it’s clear his driving is to blame for much of what might be stopping him from being a consistently good golfer. He’ll know that, though, and a slight improvement off the tee may be enough to grab a nice profit in some way.
The improving David Ravetto was awfully tempting, but he’s in that 2023 preview and that will have to do for now, so row along with improving Nathan Kimsey for the last leg of a small staking week.
The Lincolnshire player has certainly taken his time showing his best on the main tours after an impressive amateur career.
A member of the best of home team events, Kimsey was selected for the 2013 Walker Cup alongside the likes of Matt Fitzpatrick, Jordan Smith and Callum Shinkwin, halving his first day match against a certain Justin Thomas.
Bubbling under the top level, the now 29-year-old became the first player ever to come through every stage of Q-school and win the final stage, in the process beating Eddie Pepperell and Tom Lewis to the hard-earned gold medal.
— DP World Tour Q-School (@DPWTQSchool) November 17, 2016
As with many a ‘future star’, things haven’t always worked out, but 2022 has certainly been his year with a play-off win at Le Vaudreuil (an event that Kenyan winner Aaron Rai also won) preceding three top-six finishes before a victory at the Challenge Tour finale meant he gained champion status.
Past winners of the Challenge Tour Order of Merit that have won at the top level include JB Hansen, Jordan Smith, ‘Beef’ Johnston and Tommy Fleetwood, so whilst Kimsey might have a bit of work to do, he is another to have impressed in the three co-sanctioned events in South Africa.
Lying in fourth place at the halfway stage in Joburg, a poor third round led to an overall 13th place finish, whilst again he was good to halfway (16th) at Blair Atholl, a course far too long for him. Last week, he again caught the eye, moving from 31st place after the opening round to lie in second place at halfway.
That Friday round was spoiled only by a final hole bogey, the other 17 holes comprising two eagles and five birdies, and it was maybe a reaction to that impressive outing that caused a third round 74, moving in the wrong direction.
With nothing dropping on payday, Kimsey impressed with his final nine holes, recording four birdies in five holes before a late bogey saw him post a 3-under 69 to finish just outside of the front page.
Full of confidence and playing well, this short track means the longer hitters won’t overawe him. Kimsey can exploit some excellent recent performances with the flat stick, something very much lacking at this lower level of the DP World Tour.