The Race to Dubai hits the European mainland this week, with the first of six events scheduled for Spain. Though numerous tournaments have been played in Andalucia over the years, this specific event has only been around since 2007, and this will be the third different course used. All three previous champions were proven winners of high-class European Tour events, but given the limited nature of this field there must be every chance that will change.
Course and stats
Parador de Malaga has been seen on the European Tour before, albeit way back in 1999. The winning total that year was a massive -24, which is unlikely to be repeated as two of the par-5s have been converted to par-4s, bringing the par down to 70. Nevertheless, scoring is expected to be pretty easy, as the fairways are wide and the greens receptive. The main defence would appear to be wind, for while the course is generally tree-lined, it is by the sea. If memory serves though, (and I think it does as I recall backing the 1999 runner-up, Steve Webster, at a big price), it would be stretching things to describe it as a links.
With such limited recent course knowledge, the key stats remain unclear. The wide fairways offer an advantage to long-hitters, but the 1999 result and reduced par suggests otherwise. In my view, a hot putter will be essential to keep pace with scoring, with the most important stats being putting and birdie average.
4pts win ALVARO QUIROS @ 12/1
The last time the tour came to this venue, the leading Spaniard in the field, Miguel-Angel Jimenez, took first prize. That honour goes to Quiros this year, who has a great chance to gain compensation after going reasonably close in every single strokeplay event he’s played this year. Sixth place last time out in the WGC event at Doral reads particularly well. The only slight concern is that this layout is a par-70, with two par-5s, thereby reducing some of this massive hitter’s advantage. However, the fairways are pretty wide here and its easy to imagine Quiros overpowering it.
1.5pts ew THOMAS LEVET @ 35/1 (VCBET, 40/1 LADBROKES)
Following last week’s similar birdie-fest involving a virtually identical field, we should have a good idea about who’s in form for this putting contest. Given that of the Hassan Trophy principals, he boasts by far the best form in Spain, Levet seems particularly good value at these odds. He has won in Spain in each of the past two years, landing this event in 2008 plus the 2009 Spanish Open.
1pt ew GARETH MAYBIN @ 45/1 (GENERAL, 50/1 LADBROKES)
Choosing which of last week’s failed selections to retain was a close call between Maybin and Peter Lawrie. Neither disgraced themselves by any means in sharing tenth place, and both may improve a little on this shorter layout. Gareth had a decent record in Spain during his Challenge Tour days, and played pretty well in the region last autumn.
1pt ew MIKKO ILONEN @ 55/1 (BET365, TOTE)
Ilonen took the eye over the weekend in third place, improving his score with each round. That was his best result since finishing runner-up at the Madrid Masters last autumn, though in addition 13th in Abu Dhabi was a decent effort against high-class opposition. The common thread between all three of those events was the emphasis on low scoring; conditions which usually favour this strong putter.
1pt ew DAVID HORSEY @ 55/1 (GENERAL, 66/1 LADBROKES)
Horsey has been on my radar since registering three consecutive top-20s amongst top-class line-ups during the Gulf Swing. That forced the bookies to slash his odds, but a couple of moderate efforts later, they’re back into value range. Rather like Maybin, Horsey showed enough during his rookie season to suggest a breakthrough win at this level could be on the cards.
0.5pt ew SHANE LOWRY @ 90/1 (SPORTINGBET, 100/1 LADBROKES)
Given that he turned professional less than a year ago, in the wake of a shock 1000/1 triumph at the Irish Open, Lowry’s lack of consistency is understandable. His best golf is very good though, as illustrated by that win, plus top-four finishes behind top-class players in Japan and Abu Dhabi. All the evidence so far suggests the young Irishman is best on target golf courses, and Lowry’s stats in the putting and birdie average departments suggest this easy layout should be ideal.