Other obvious candidates worthy of a mention include the Hansens, Soren and Anders, plus Alex Noren. Again, all of these three have enough class to dominate in this slightly weaker company than usual, but as I’ve argued repeatedly, their poor win ratios deter any sort of bet. Soren Hansen proved this theory beyond doubt last week, somehow managing to finish outside the top-10 despite an opening round 63. Noren will surely break his duck sooner or later, and this birdie-fest does look ideal. However, the promising Swede hasn’t played competitively for two months, so could be a little rusty. Of these three, preference would be for Anders Hansen, who has twice been runner-up in this event.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t look a week for laying out large stakes, so besides those two confident bets on Schwartzel and Quiros, I’m focussing on bigger-priced candidates. Initially, I’d planned on backing Danny Willett again, but now he’s withdrawn I’ll go for another promising birdie machine, ESTANISLAO GOYA. Winner of the recent Madeira Island Open, showing excellent front-running temperament in the process, the 20 year-old Argentinian ranks third amongst these in the ‘birdie average’ stats, (behind Quiros and Soren Hansen). That should be a crucial asset this week, and it must also bode well that he’s already won in Italy on last season’s Challenge Tour.
Others worth a mention include last week’s winner Thomas Levet, though it would surely be asking too much for back to back successes. Thomas Bjorn played his best golf in ages in Spain, but is hard to fancy in a birdie fest. Another of last week’s failed candidates, Anthony Wall, would appear to have ideal conditions again. However, very low scoring may not be ideal for either of the two leading Northern Irish candidates, Darren Clarke and Gareth Maybin.
One player who I do think will improve significantly on recent efforts with the extra emphasis on birdie chasing is an old favourite of mine, FELIPE AGUILAR. Since landing my biggest ever priced touch at 150/1 in last year’s Indonesian Open, Aguilar has contended a few times to show further evidence that he is more than capable at this level. His best golf always seems to come at low scoring venues, which we saw again when the Chilean finished 2nd at the Heineken Classic in Australia about ten weeks ago. Since then, none of the venues have really suited his attacking game, so it could pay to ignore a disappointing series of efforts in this most recent period.