THE China Open venue is the Binhai Lake GC which was designed by Schmidt-Curley Design with the help of Pete Dye. It is a long, flat, windswept, links-style track with wide fairways.
There are 10 waterfront holes and small, undulating greens are protected by a number of Dye's trademark sleeper-faced bunkers.
The rough is dormant and far from penal and last year the greens were slow, running at just 8.6 on the stimpmeter.
Even though the tees were moved up on a number of holes last year, Binhai still played monstrously long and although relatively short hitters, Marcus Fraser and Francesco Molinari, finished in the top 10, big-hitters held a significant advantage.
Winner Branden Grace, and runner-up Nicolas Colsaerts worked their way clear of the field and fought out the event between themselves by round four and ranked 5th and 1st respectfully for driving distance.
How you preformed on the par fives was key last year. Grace played the long holes in -11 and Colsaerts -10 whereas, 3rd and 4th-placed finishers Richard Finch and George Coetzee managed -4.
It's not impossible for a short-hitter to win but conceding length for 72 holes on such a long track is a major disadvantage.
With just one staging at Binhai it's maybe a bit early to give too much credence to any course correlations but a couple of events may offer a few clues.
Given that Grace went on to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last season and that Binhai is a links-style course it makes sense to consider that event as a good guide.
Ben Coley, who tips up monster hitter Alvaro Quiros in his excellent preview, makes a very sound case for form at the Doha GC, home of the Qatar Masters.
There wasn't a huge disparity between morning and afternoon scores on either of the first two days last year with the averages for the four sessions ranging between 70.71 on Thursday morning and 72.36 on Friday morning but those who were drawn early-late enjoyed a two-stroke advantage over the two days.
As it's an exposed track, keeping an eye on the weather forecasts, and in particular the wind speeds, is a sensible tactic. At the time of writing the forecasts suggest those drawn late-early may get the better of it this year but that may well change before Thursday.
For in running trading purposes, only the par-five 2nd hole played easier than the finishing hole (also a par 5) 12 months ago but other than the 18th, the finish to Binhai is tough – holes 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 ranked 2nd, 5th, 9th, 7th and 3rd hardest respectfully.
Favourite Alex Noren shot the course record of 63 on day three last year and comes here fresh of a tied 6th finish at the Ballantine's Championship on Sunday, so his credentials are obvious enough but he led last week's event through 54 holes so there's a good chance he's mentally a bit jaded.
Of those to the fore in the market, defending champ Grace looks the best bet. He was a comfortable winner last year (three strokes) and impressed on his US Masters debut last time out but it's never easy to defend a title and he's just a shade short.
Recent Avantha Masters winner, Thomas Aiken, is trading as third favourite and he'll enjoy the test. Fairly long off the tee and a good wind player, I can see him going well but he doesn't win often enough to consider backing at just 21.0.
When I started looking at this event last week one player stood out like a sore thumb – Paul Lawrie. Despite a disappointing opening round of 72, which left him languishing in a tie for 82nd, Lawrie managed to finish tied 14th and if anyone is suited to a lengthy links-style windy test it's the Aberdonian Ryder Cupper and former Open champion. There is, however, one huge negative – his putting.
With the rest of his game in good order I was really hoping to see an improvement with the flatstick last week but he averaged 33.5 putts per round and you can tell by his blog entries it's starting to get to him.
If he putts that badly here he has absolutely no chance so it's a big gamble but if he does finally find something, 48.0 is a massive price for the second highest-ranked and most experienced player in the field.
Maximilian Kieffer was superb in Spain two weeks ago when he pushed Raphael Jacquelin all the way in a record-equalling nine-hole play-off. The German European Tour rookie is long off the tee, showed in Spain he handles windy conditions and looks a winner in waiting to me. I suspect he may well have been a shade shorter had this event immediately followed the Open de Espana and I was happy enough to take 61.0 in the Betfair Fixed Odds market.
Emiliano Grillo is another big-hitting rookie who looks capable of a breakthrough soon and after finishing inside the top 16 in four of his last five events I thought he was also worth including before the off at 85.0.
Last and definitely least, I've felt compelled to throw a few more pounds at yet another monster-hitting rookie Andreas Harto. Again, this test looks right up his street and hopefully, with the absence of too much rough, the young Dane can keep the far-too-common disaster holes of his card this week. He's developed a bad habit of making eights just lately and that's always going to hinder!
Paul Lawrie @ 48.0
Maximilian Kieffer @ 61.0
Emiliano Grillo @ 85.0
Andreas Harto @ 250.0