With Europe?s finest at Wentworth, this has the look of a second-order event but a competitive one nonetheless. The market leaders are 20/1, and with plenty of live coverage this at least has punting potential over the weekend when the Matchplay has been whittled down to the last-four. Pre-tournament betting is rather tricky though, as we have no previous course form to work from.
The new venue is reported to be an undulating, tree-lined venue with several dog-legs, placing a premium on positional play. Wind can be a factor, but the early weather forecast suggests calm conditions so I expect we?ll see low scoring.
Without the top dozen or so players, this would be barely better than Challenge Tour standard, so any of the market leaders who can perform close to their best would have very strong claims. At his best, THOMAS BJORN would be a shoe-in. The fact that Bjorn is playing here, no doubt in pursuit of Ryder Cup points, is a tip in itself. The cracks in his long game have re-appeared over the past fortnight, but its also worth remembering that he was 4th in the Mercedes Benz Championship last month. 20/1 looks too big to ignore in the hope that he can return to that form.
Rising Spanish star Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano starts favourite on his local course, but I?m not convinced the extra attention won?t be as much hindrance as help. By his own admission, six playing weeks have left him feeling a bit tired and in any case, two of his three tournament victories have come outside the Med.
Another youngster, Rory Mcllroy, is bound to be all the rage having made an immediate impact upon turning professional. I do certainly think the hype in his case is justified and expect we are seeing the emergence of a superstar. Spain is a very different affair though to St Andrews and the sort of links golf that clearly is Mcllroy?s forte, so for now I?ll wait and watch before jumping aboard the bandwagon.
Rather I prefer the chances of another superstar in the making, MARTIN KAYMER. 25/1 is considerably shorter than the price we?ve been backing him at usually this year and he certainly now owes us some place returns at least. We must persist though, as the young German will surely open his account at this level soon. 15th at the weekend was another fine effort considering his lack of links experience, and this test should be more suitable. In two previous visits to Spain, Kaymer made the top-15 and was placed in a similar type of event in Portugal earlier this season.
Sweden?s FREDRIK ANDERSSON-HED comes into the argument on the basis of a series of decent efforts in stronger company than he faces this week. He made the top-5 at Gleneagles and The Belfry, with a respectable 16th in Germany in between. His case is also strengthened by two top-6s on his last two trips to Spain.
JOHN BICKERTON is usually seen to best effect on positional layouts such as this one that require sound course management. He?s been in consistent form lately with four top-25s from last five starts, recording good long game statistics in the process. Furthermore, Bickerton has a decent record in Spain too, winning the Open de Canarias two years ago and twice making the top-4 since.