With its views of the Pyrenhees, the venue for this year’s Spanish Open is reputed to be arguably the most picturesque course on the Euro schedule. However, while that may be easy on the eye, it does nothing to help solve a puzzle that has been filed under ‘extremely tricky’.
Our central problem is a lack of recent, top-class course form. PGA Golf de Catalunya last hosted this event nine years ago, as well as the 1999 Sarazen World Open. More recently, the final stage of last year’s Q-School was held here. Low scoring seems inevitable, though with undulating fairways and punishing rough, accurate driving will be of the utmost importance at this tree-lined venue. The key therefore would seem to be straight driving and high-class approach play, in order to set up frequent birdie chances.
After three consecutive runners-up spots, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano starts ahead of Miguel-Angel Jimenez as the leading Spaniard for the first time ever, not to mention tournament favourite. Regular readers will know the high regard in which I hold Castano, but it didn’t take long to decide about leaving him out this week. Besides the fact that his odds adequately reflect that recent form, putting is his only weakness right now. That could be a big problem keeping tabs with the low-scoring leaders here, in stark contrast to last week’s gruelling test.
Nor do any of the other five players vying for favouritism make much appeal. Jimenez might have done, were it not for a dire weekend at the Masters, where he looked badly out of sorts. With the rest, my concerns are less about form, and more to do with some poor win ratios.
Soren Kjeldsen’s last four starts in Spain read 4th, 2nd, 1st, 1st, and given the importance of driving and putting, he would appear to have ideal conditions once again. However, if we think back to just six months ago, the idea of backing Kjeldsen at 20/1 would have produced howls of derision from anyone familiar with his appalling conversion rate over the years. Even when delivering for this column at 33/1 last month, the Dane did little to dispel concerns about his temperament; playing the first three quarters of his final round in very nervy fashion. Surely, Kjeldsen has had his share of winning turns for now.