Fiji International Preview

Fiji International
Co-Sanction: OneAsia Tour & PGA Tour of Australasia
Natadola Bay, Championship Course, Fiji
15-18 October 2015

Introduction

It's the 2nd year for this million-dollar tournament after a successful inaugural event in August 2014, won in a canter by Australian Steven Jeffress with a 10-under 278.

Steven returns this year after a solid 2015 that has included 4 Pro-Am wins in Australia and even a trip to Doral where he finished 62nd in the WGC-Cadillac. A recent 5th in the Kolon Korea Open in September suggests he's in good enough nick to repeat.

National golfing hero, 52-y-o Vijay Singh, will again return to play after a creditable 10th last year on a course he designed. Vijay will naturally supply the main media focus, along with USA nearly-man Matt Kuchar & Kiwi up-and-comer Ryan Fox.

Course Overview

Natadola Bay is an idyllic 45-minute drive along the coast from Nadi International, in the direction of Suva.

The course itself is a 6,566m (7,200-yd) Par72 and last year's winning score, with only five players finishing under par, show that it's anything but a pushover.

It's a hilly, undulating, tight, pastoral / parkland paspalum-grass track with a number of typical links holes beside the ocean. And, of course, the wind can blow as it did for most of last year's event.

The air is humid & the greens are intelligently-bunkered and quick. In addition, the rough is severe and Natadola Bay thus presents a proper challenge in accuracy and weather & course management; a place where breaking par can be the exception rather than the rule!

Course History

The top finishers last year were:

1

Steven Jeffress

69

70

69

70

-10

278

2

Jake Higginbottom

68

69

71

74

-6

282

3

Terry Pilkadaris

70

76

69

71

-2

286

3

Andrew Dodt

68

71

71

76

-2

286

5

In-Hur Hoi

70

72

70

75

-1

287

6

Tae-Hoon Kim

74

74

69

71

0

288

6

Ryan Fox

69

76

70

73

0

288

6

Michael Sim

71

70

71

76

0

288

9

Hyo-Won Park

73

72

76

68

1

289

10

Vijay Singh

73

74

70

73

2

290

10

Brad Kennedy

70

71

70

79

2

290

12

Anirban Lahiri

74

69

75

73

3

291

12

David Smail

76

71

67

77

3

291

12

Cameron Smith

71

68

73

79

3

291

15

Josh Younger

72

75

76

69

4

292

15

Richard Lee

74

75

74

69

4

292

15

Peter Cooke

70

73

77

72

4

292

15

Brendan Jones

70

73

76

73

4

292

15

Nathan Holman

69

73

74

76

4

292

15

Scott Laycock

74

71

71

76

4

292

View the complete 2014 results here.

In addition to the 2014 Fiji International the course, which opened in 2009, has also hosted the following minor, non-Tour, events:

  • 2009 Fijian Open, won by Aussie Matt Griffin;
  • 2010 Fiji Open;
  • 2011 Nomura Cup Asia-Pacific Teams event and;
  • 2012 Natadola Bay Fiji Classic.

Early Market

No real surprises in the early Tuesday markets (see below), although some significant disparities do exist between bookmakers, so shop around!

Matt Kuchar 4.00 - 5.00
Vijay Singh 11.00 - 15.00
Ryan Fox 13.00 - 19.00
Matthew Millar 19.00 - 23.00
David Bransdon 23.00 - 26.00
James Nitties 26.00 - 29.00
Josh Geary 26.00 - 34.00
Steven Jeffress 29.00 - 34.00

Nick Cullen, Aron Price, Mathew Goggin, Aaron Townsend & a couple of others are next, hovering around the 51.00 mark.

Kuchar certainly has the right to be favourite but as a guy who wins far too rarely, and with wind predicted to have a major impact, I'll certainly be looking elsewhere for betting value!

Second favourite, Vijay, at age 52 and without a win anywhere in seven years is equally hard to like at his price!

Discussion

Having dismissed the two favourites, next on the list is Ryan Fox, a Kiwi late developer with a solid 2015 under his belt, including Australasian & Euro Challenge Tour wins along with making the cut in The Open Championship. He was 6th in this last year and looks a 20/1 shot to me. Can't back him at anything shorter.

Sheer weight of numbers, 83 Australians, suggests the winner, as in most past Fijian events, will be another of those damned Aussies! I agree.

With the wind expected to have an effect, on an already tough course, the number of prospects narrows by excluding players who won't handle windy conditions, those with impatient temperaments and those who will spray their drives a bit too often.

Bet Selections

On these bases, I've narrowed my considerations down to the following Australians:

  • Last year's winner Steven Jeffress (34.00);
  • Peter Cooke (151.00 - 201.00) who was 15th at Natadola Bay last year and has been playing consistently well on the PGA China Tour;
  • Injury-stricken Michael Sim (51.00 - 67.00) who was 6th last year and who looked good enough when 8th in the Queensland Open a couple of months back and;
  • Jason Norris (41.00 - 71.00) who has compiled a wonderful South Pacific record in recent years, including Top15's on all four recent occasions he's played the South Pacific Championship in Noumea.

My final two selections are: Steven Jeffress to win and Peter Cooke each way (and Top10 or Top20 if you can find a price).

Cheers and Good Luck with your golf punting!

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