One might have thought that, with this week’s event being played at the forthcoming Ryder Cup venue, many of the likely combatants would have grabbed the chance to gain a bit of early course knowledge. However, some bizarre scheduling from Race to Dubai organisers means that most of the leading Europeans returned to their overseas bases after the flagship BMW PGA Championship a fortnight ago. Surely it would have made more sense for the Tour to stay in Britain for a second consecutive week, and the Madrid Masters held now, rather than in-between?
Consequently, I doubt more than a handful of this field will make Colin Montgomerie’s final line-up. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of class on display, most obviously from bang-in-form Luke Donald, who re-entered the world’s top-ten with Sunday’s win in Madrid.
Previous results at the ‘Twenty Ten’ course, however, suggest we should be very wary of backing favourites. In the two renewals since the Celtic Manor event switched to this course, both winners started in triple figures, with Jeppe Huldahl starting at a mammoth 500/1 last year. Nor were the places much easier either.
Course and stats
Those two previous results further complicate matters on a course that is hard to define as suiting a particular type of player. This par 71 has five par 3s, yet the results don’t suggest any greater emphasis on scoring over those short holes. With the Ryder Cup in mind, one would expect a risk-reward affair, that will reward attacking golf and a hot putter. That emphasis on ‘bravery’ might explain the good performances of the likes of Danny Willett and Rafa Echenique, but consistent, accurate types like Scott Strange and Ignacio Garrido also thrived.
My conclusion is that very few players can be written off. Indeed, while I’ve restricted my analysis to 20 players for reasons of space, at least twice that number are probably worth a mention. The key stats previously were greens in regulation and putting average, so analysis of these areas, along with birdie conversion, seems the most sensible strategy for form students.
2pts ew RHYS DAVIES @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
His price may have shortened considerably, but the case for Sunday’s runner-up is too strong to ignore. I’m expecting putting to be even more important than usual this week, and there are very few hotter players with the flat-stick. Davies has home advantage in Wales, and had already made a top 20 on this layout before this remarkable rookie season. Furthermore, he’s already shown he can hold his form well and bounce back from a near-miss. After a close third in Malaysia, Davies produced a superb performance to win the following event in Morocco. He certainly lost nothing in defeat over the weekend.
1pt ew LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN @ 50/1 (SPORTINGBET, TOTE)
Davies’ victim on that occasion in Morocco was Oosthuizen, who went into my notebook as one of the unluckiest losers of 2010. Happily, he bounced back immediately with a resounding victory in the Andalucia Open. He’s only played three times since, including acceptable failures at Augusta and Wentworth. Sunday’s top 25 suggested he’s finding his groove again, and as Oosthuizen tops the putting stats over recent months, 50/1 looks a very big price about him recapturing that stellar spring form.
1pt ew GREGORY BOURDY @ 60/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES)
Bourdy has made the top 25 in the last three Wales Opens, and on the basis of some very consistent figures over the past year, looks likely to be there or thereabouts. His last six starts have produced a worst of just 34th, including top tens in Spain and at the high-class Dubai Desert Classic. It is only six months since the Frenchman bagged his third Euro Tour title in as many seasons; a record that illustrates that he knows how to get the job done.
1pt ew GARETH MAYBIN @ 70/1 (SPORTINGBET, STAN JAMES)
As I’ll explain shortly, there are a plethora of Euro Tour maidens who warrant strong consideration this week. The best value in my view lies with Maybin, whose most recent effort was to qualify for the US Open. He’s made every cut since his opening event of the year, driving the ball very accurately in the process and making a high number of birdies. Second at the Ballantines was just the latest of several near-misses in Maybin’s two seasons on tour. He must be persevered with when available at these type of attractive odds.
1pt ew ROBERT ROCK @ 80/1 (BETFRED, TOTE)
Here’s another player looking for his first title, although Rock has been around a lot longer than Maybin. Three runners-up spots last season suggested it can only be a matter of time, and after a good recent run, Rock is worth considering again. He is putting particularly well right now, as seen with Sunday’s fifth place in Madrid where he topped those stats. I’m further encouraged by the fact he was very well positioned after the first two rounds last year, before dropping back to a respectable 26th.