Centro Nacional de Golf hosts the Madrid Masters for the first time, though we have seen this course fairly recently as it was the venue for the 2007 Spanish Open. That leaves us with what could well be a unique scenario; where the defending tournament champion is also the last man to win on the course, albeit in a different event. Clearly on that basis, CHARL SCHWARTZEL likes this layout and must rate a strong contender, and I’ll return to his claim shortly.
 
The stats from 2007 are particularly interesting, which makes for an equally interesting betting guide. The leaderboard on that occasion showed a massive bias towards long hitters, and even more towards those hitting a high percentage of greens in regulation. Equally, I’ve never seen a course where par-4 scoring was less relevant. As over half the holes on any course are par 4s, normally scoring on these holes is much more important than the par 3s or par 5s, but here all three are roughly equal. As well as obviously course and recent form, analysis of these key stats lies behind my analysis here.
 
The two favourites, while class acts, are well worth taking on. In the case of 8/1 chance Sergio Garcia, surely this doesn’t require too much explanation after a very disappointing season. Sergio’s record in his homeland; two wins and five runners-up from his last ten attempts; means we must take his chance seriously, but I’m not interested in taking single figures. He just isn’t reliable enough in a finish, and with low scoring expected this week, there must be a doubt that this terrible putter will make enough birdies.
 
Despite returning to somewhere near his best at the Dunhill Links, Luke Donald did nothing to dispel his own ‘bottler’ image either. Starting the final round in the lead, on a course that has always favoured front-runners, Luke never got in a blow on Monday. In any case, he too is a player I’d much rather back on a course that demanded accuracy rather than the ability to accumulate lots of birdies.
 
It may be in response to the participation of these two Ryder Cup stars that we can get 25/1 about course specialist Schwartzel, which must represent a bit of value. Normally, I’m loathe to back defending champions, but these odds are simply too big in a field that doesn’t have any great strength in depth. Schwartzel remains very much the type of player who particularly thrives on certain types of course, but usually struggles on others, so it was no great surprise to see him struggle in the Dunhill Links. Nevertheless, after starting with a disastrous 80, a pair of 67s to follow at least shows some resilience and reads pretty well.