Tournament Preview – 27th February –1st March 2020

 – Johnny Bell

Kurt Kitayama

Tournament Notes

  • Held at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat, Oman
  • 144 man field
  • The Oman Open has been apart of the European Tour schedule since 2018 however, many golfers in the field will have course history dating back to 2013
    • 2013 – 2014 Al Mouj Golf played host to the National Bank of Oman Classic on the Challenge Tour
    • 2015-2017 Al Mouj Golf hosted the Challenge Tour Grand Final

The Course

Al Mouj Golf 

  • Links style course with 30 degree weather
  • 7,365 Yards
  • Par 72
  • Greens are paspalum sea dwarf grass
  • Plenty of bunkers that will penalize any wayward shots of the tee
  • The course stretches out over six kilometers of coastline in the Gulf of Oman
  • A number of holes along the coastline will have the wind push the ball towards the bunkers as players attempt to avoid the water
  • Winning score 
    • – 7 (2019)
    • – 16 (2018)
  • Cut line 
    • +4 (2019)
    • E (2018)

Previous winners

2019Kurt Kitayama-7Oman Open
2018Joost Luiten-16Oman Open
2017Clement Sordet-15Challenge Tour Grand Final
2016Bernd Ritthammer-21Challenge Tour Grand Final
2015Richard Gouveia-7Challenge Tour Grand Final
2014Max Orrin-7NBO Golf classic
2013Roope Kakko-14NBO Golf classic

The WIND

Far too often, the wind narrative is overblown and over analysed. This week however, is the time to buy into that narrative. The 2019 Oman Open had the second round halted due to a nasty sand storm; the delay resulted in the eventual winner Kurt Kitayama playing 33 holes of golf on Sunday. The course typically plays easier in the morning with calmer conditions however, as of Monday morning there does not appear to be any distinct wave advantage. The current forecast for Thursday and Friday predicts wind gust in the range of 28 km/h – 33 km/h in the morning and afternoon. If players can make it to the weekend, both Saturday and Sunday offer much more favourable conditions with wind gusts in the range of 17 km/h – 18 km/h.

Al Mouj Golf

Nevertheless, do not take my word for it; hear from some of the pros to play at Al Mouj Golf.

Max Orrin – round three in 2014

“Every time you get on the tee you’re just praying you keep it straight, it is scary. At the 18th all I could think about was, ‘will I make the carry over the sea’? It was 160 yards with the wind but you’re thinking, if the wind picks up any more what am I going to do?”

Pedro Oriol – round three 2014 

“It was pretty tough out there,” 

“I was hitting it really well but I knew it was going to be tough in the couple of holes. It was straight into the wind coming in, and it was blowing about 30 miles per hour but it felt like 50.”

Johan Edfors – 2014

“It’s one of the best courses we’ve played all year,”

“With the wind, it plays really tough, the front nine is OK but the last five holes are seriously tough.

Oliver Lindell – round three 2017

“The plan for the day was to make zero bogeys and I did a pretty good job of that,” 

“It was pretty difficult out there, you always have to hit good shots on this course to get close, and it was playing really tough today.”

Gaganjeet Bhullar – round two 2019

“These conditions are, by far, the toughest I’ve ever played in,” 

“The goal is to keep the ball in play, hit a lot of fairways and greens in regulation and give myself a lot of birdie looks. That will be the key for the next 36 holes. Anybody who plays in regulation and makes key birdies will be at the top of the leaderboard.”

Brandon stone – round three 2019 

“It’s very challenging out there, the wind is absolutely brutal,” 

“To sign for a 70 today is something to be very proud of.”

“It’s so tricky out there with the conditions. They made the correct decision yesterday to suspend – the greens were too quick and the ball was just blowing off. The course is in incredible condition, it just shows how brutal this wind is.

The Field

The top European Tour Golfers played in Mexico last week at the WGC Mexico and most of the big names have elected to stay in North America with the Players Championship coming up in a few weeks. The field for the Oman Open will be lead by Thomas Pieters, Martin Kaymer, Hoatong Li and recent Vic Open winner, Min Woo Lee. Other notable entries include Shaun Norris, Andy Sullivan, Eddie Pepperell and 2018 winner Joost Luiten.

Quick Notes – Top of the betting board 

Thomas Pieters (+1100) 

Course History 

  • 2019 – T6

Current Form  

  • T3 (Saudi) T37 (Dubai) T30 (Abu Dhabi)

Martin Kaymer (+1400) 

Course History – 

  • No course history

Current Form 

  • T13 (Saudi) T16 (Dubai) T8 (Abu Dhabi)

Thomas Detry (+1800) 

Course History – 

  • 2019 – T40 
  • 2018 – T31

Current Form 

  • T6 (Saudi) T32 (Dubai) T55 (Abu Dhabi)

Joost Luiten (+2000) 

Course History – 

  • 2019 – T19 
  • 2018 – 1

Current Form 

  • T44 (Saudi) T66 (Dubai) T42 (Abu Dhabi)

Min Woo Lee (+2500)

Course History – 

  • 2019 – MC

Current Form 

  • 1 (Vic Open) MC (Saudi) T15 (S.A. Open) 

Gavin Green (+2500) 

Course History – 

  • 2019 – MC
  • 2018 – 68

Current Form 

  • T3 (Saudi) T27 (Dubai) T21 (Abu Dhabi) T15 (S.A. Open)

Adri Arnaus (+2800) 

Course History – 

  • No course history

Current Form 

  • T27 (Saudi) T3 (Dubai) T51 (Abu Dhabi)

Haotong Li (+3000) 

Course History – 

  • No course history

Current Form 

  • MC (Vic Open) T21 (Saudi) MC (Dubai) 41 (Abu Dhabi)

Shaun Norris (+3300) 

Course History – 

  • No course history

Current Form 

  • T37(WGC) T56 (Dubai) T6 (Abu Dhabi) T36 (S.A. Open)

Key Stats

  • Heavy consideration will be given to strong links and wind players
  • Driving Accuracy 
  • Greens in regulation
  • Bogey Avoidance

Official Selections

+ 5000 Benjamin Hebert

At + 5000 Benjamin Hebert will be my official selection to win the Oman Open. Hebert does present a slight risk with travel, coming back from the WGC Mexico, where he finished T18. Hebert however, has two consecutive top 20 finishes at the Oman Open and a T37 finish back in 2014 at the NBO Golf classic. Hebert is also coming off at a T27 finish in Saudi Arabia and a T45 finish in Dubai in which both tournaments played through some difficult conditions. Hebert has yet to win on the European Tour but has six victories on the Challenge Tour. During the 2019 season, Hebert finished runner-up in three different tour events, losing all of them in a play-off. Look for Benjamin Hebert to break through for the win this week in Oman!

+ 6600 Clement Sordet

Teeing it up in Oman for the sixth consecutive year, Sordet should be comfortable with whatever playing conditions present themselves this week. Sordet battled strong winds and a sand storm in 2019 that haulted play and finished in a tie for second. The 2017 Challenge Tour Grand Final offered more favourable scoring conditions and Sordet picked up the win. Sordet appears comfortable and confident playing at Al Mouj Golf and at +6600 he will present good value to win further down the betting board. 

Also, consider: 

To complete the trifecta of Frenchmen this week in Oman, at +17500 for his experience and familiarity with Al Mouj Golf alone, Julien Guerrier makes for a nice long shot selection, though a top 10 or top 5 bet maybe the best option here. 

Draft Kings 

Play –

Thomas Pieters (10,600) – Finished T6 in his first appearance at Al Mouj Golf in 2019. In great form and played through windy conditions in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Pieters is always a threat to be the first round leader.

Thomas Detry (10,000) – Detry finished T40 in 2019 and T31 in 2018.  Detry has made all four cuts to begin the year finishing T6 (Saudi) T32 (Dubai) T55 (Abu Dhabi) and T38 (S.A. Open)

Joost Luiten (9,700) – Winner of the 2018 Oman Open and finished T19 last year.

Adri Arnaus (9,400) – Arnaus will make his first appearance in Oman but has been in solid form playing in the Middle East, finishing T27 (Saudi) T3 (Dubai) and T51 (Abu Dhabi).

Andy Sullivan (9,100) – Sullivan finished 70th in 2019 and T16 in 2018.  Sullivan has been solid so far in 2019 with the exception of a disqualification in Dubai for an incorrect scorecard – T27 (Saudi) DQ (Dubai) T21 (Abu Dhabi) and T6 (S.A. Open).

Jordan Smith (9,000) – Smith has played in Oman for three consecutive years, finishing T12, T26 and T17.  Recently Smith made all three cuts playing in the Middle East, finishing T56 (Saudi) T32 (Dubai) and T21 (Abu Dhabi).

Benjamin Hebert (7,900) – Was one of only six players in the 2014 field to shoot under par during a third round that featured 30 + mph winds. Hebert also has two consecutive top 20 finishes at the Oman Open. Most recently, Hebert is coming off a T18 finish at the WGC Mexico.

Alexander Bjork (7,600) – Bjork finished T12 in 2018 and participated in the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2016 and 2015 finishing T7 and T24 in the 45 man field. Bjork also played in the NBO Golf Classic in 2014 finishing T53. Recently Bjork has made all three cuts in the Middle East finishing T27 (Saudi) T45 (Dubai) and T69 (Abu Dhabi).

Scott Jamieson (7,600) – Jamieson finished T9 in the 2019 Oman Open. Bjork also played in the NBO Golf Classic in 2014 finishing T53. Recently Jamieson has made all three cuts in the Middle East finishing 69 (Saudi) T32 (Dubai) and T8 (Abu Dhabi).

Aaron Rai (7,400) – Finished T37 in the 2018 Oman Open and participated in the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2017 and 2016, finishing T14 and T34. Rai is coming off a T27 finish in Saudi Arabia.

Clement Sordet (7,300) – Sordet has arguably the best course history in Oman, playing the Challenge Tour Grand Final all three years, finishing T34, T22 and winning in the event in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, Sordet finished T37 and T2 at the Oman Open. Sordet is also coming in with two consecutive top 20 finishes on the Challenge Tour.

Fabrizo Zanotti (7,300) – Zanotti has two consecutive top 10 finishes at the Oman Open (T2 and T7).  Zanotti missed the cut playing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi but most recently, he is coming off a T56 in Saudi Arabia.Julien Guerrier (7,100) – The 2006 British Amateur Champion has struggled to hold his place on the European Tour, obtaining his Tour card through qualifying school or the Challenge Tour three times. As a result, Guerrier has played in Oman during all three variations of the tournament. In 2013 and 2014 on the Challenge Tour Guerrier finished T33 and T34 respectively. At the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2017, Guerrier finished T20 in a 45-man field. In 2018, Guerrier finished third at the Oman Open.