Frazzled looks at the low key Russian Open on the European Tour this week and has two selections in what is a very moderate field.
After the steady sequence of high class events in Europe, we now experience a real drop off in quality this week as we head to Moscow for another edition of the M2M Russian Open. This is actually the last European Tour specific event until a couple of similarly low key events, starting on 14 August with the Made in Denmark.
The prize fund for the Russian Open is €1,000,000, which is the same as the Lyoness Open, but it has failed to attract players even close to the quality of Joost Luiten and Bernd Wiesberger, with the highest ranked player in the field being Morten Orum Madsen at 154 and the market is headed by Rikard Karlberg, who has never won on the European Tour.
It is a pity that the field is so lacking in quality as the course that is being used for this event is the superb Jack Nicklaus designed Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club. It has been ranked by some, among the top 5 golf courses in Europe and Nicklaus himself has said that it is "one of the Top 10 courses that he has built". It is a mix of Parkland and Tree Lined and consists of generous fairways, penal rough and tough green complexes, very much in the tradition of Nicklaus designed courses. From a tour of the course, it does bear some of the same characteristics of Mount Juliet, which is another Nicklaus design and at 7,491 yards, the emphasis looks to be very much on powerful driving, accurate approach shots and excellent around the green play. There are 11 holes that water is in play on 11 holes which will demand precision approach play and the greens are reasonably fast at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter.
Trying to find the winner is never going to be easy and the chances are that it will be a maiden winner on the Tour, but there are some prices that are of interest this week.
Our first selection this week is Maximilian Kiefer.
Kiefer has not really delivered on his abundant promise so far in 2014, after he secured placings in 2013 such as 4th in the Nelson Mandela Championship and a runner up spot after a prolonged duel with Raphael Jacquelin in a playoff for the Open De Espana. However there has been some promise again this year with another excellent showing in the Open De Espana, where he was 5th and a recent 11th place finish in the Nordea Masters, which was gained despite starting with rounds of 70 & 74.
Kiefer's stats this year obviously do not read as impressively as 2013, but he ranks 37th in Driving Accuracy, 87th in Driving Distance and a very solid 40th in Scrambling. His GIR ranking is respectable at 103, but it is his Putting that will need to be at its very best this week, if he is to contend, as this is an area that he has struggled with this year.
Although he did not play in last year's event, he has plenty of course experience, as he finished 40th in the Russian Challenge Cup on this course in 2011 and 22nd in 2012. While these are not stellar results, they at least give him an idea of what to expect this week and the experience could prove to be very valuable. Once again, we are keeping stakes low, but at 33/1 with SportingBet, Kiefer is worth an interest each way.
Roope Kakko is our other selection this week and although the 32 year old Finnish player has not played in this event before, he has at least shown some form out in this area of the world, with 7th place finishes in the 2012 & 2013 Kazakhstan Open on the Challenge Tour.
He is having a reasonable season and has finished 24th in the Hong Kong Open, 23rd in the Desert Classic, 10th in the Joburg Open and recently he has placed 21st in the Irish Open and 35th in the Open De France. All of these were in fields of far better quality than this week and as he ranks 124 in the Race To Dubai, he really needs to take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself in this low key event.
Kakko is a very powerful driver and ranks 23rd in Driving Distance this year. He is also 78th in Greens In Regulation ("GIR"), 19th in Putts Per GIR and 48th in Puts per Round. His around the green game is steady and he ranks 91st in Scrambling. All of this suggests that he could take very well to this venue and the 55/1 with Skybet looks quite generous, given the level of opposition he faces.