Volvo China Open: Branden Grace returns to defend his title


The European Tour remains in Asia for the Volvo China Open this week and Branden Grace is back to defend the title he won in such style last year. The South African landed this tournament when it was held at the Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club for the first time last year and he will be hoping for more success when the event returns to the same course on Thursday.

Grace’s three-shot win in 2012 was one of four European Tour events he has won during his fledgling career. Grace looked as if a fifth title would be just around the corner when he started the ‘Desert Swing’ of the season in fine fashion at the beginning of the year, although his form has tailed off since. Grace will be hoping that his tie for 18th at the US Masters last time out was a sign of a return to form and he goes in as a 14/1 chance with Betfred this week.

It is Alexander Noren who starts favourite ahead of Thursday’s tee-off though as the Swede can be backed at 12/1. Noren is in decent form on the European Tour as he has finished tied-sixth in each of his last two appearances, at the Malaysia Open and the Ballantine’s, and he is bidding to improve on another tied sixth finish in last year’s China Open.

Pablo Larrazabal also arrives in good nick as he has thrived in Asia in recent weeks, with the Spaniard finishing tied 17th at the Avantha Masters before securing successive top-six finishes in Malaysia and at the Ballantine’s. Larrazabal is bidding to improve on a decent record at the China Open as his last three appearances in this tournament have seen him finish 8th, 10th and 18th respectively, with Betfred going 22/1 on his chances of victory this week.

Meanwhile, Victor Dubuisson is bidding to improve his own fine record in Asian tournaments and he often tends to thrive in this part of the world. In 2012, the Frenchman tied 11th in Malaysia and third at the Ballantines before finishing in the top-four of the China Open, while he has continued in a similar vein this year by going 17th at the Avantha Masters prior to successive sixth place finishes in the Malaysian Open and Ballantine’s. Dubuisson is still waiting for his first European Tour win but that maiden victory will surely come sooner rather than later and he looks a tempting price at 33/1 with Fred.

Also at 33/1 is Kiradech Aphibarnrat and the Thai star arrives in excellent form. Aphibarnrat secured his maiden European Tour win by beating Edoardo Molinari by one shot in Malaysia recently and he has been producing some excellent golf of late, with his last seven appearances yielding six top-six finishes prior to his tie for 11th at the Ballantine’s last week.

Elsewhere, David Howell cannot match the exceptional form of the aforementioned players but the Englishman has been one of the most consistent players around. Howell, a four-time winner on the tour, has yet to miss a cut this season and he has finished in the top-10 in three of his last six outings. That sort of reliability ensures he could be there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon and Betfred price him 40/1 this week.

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