For the second consecutive week, the Race to Dubai event presents an extremely tricky puzzle for punters. The Vivendi Cup is a new event; a Pro-Am shared between two courses for which we have no previous course form to study. As in Austria, the line up is distinctly second division, but at least there are twice as many representatives from the world’s top 200, headed by Ryder Cup stars Padraig Harrington and Peter Hanson.
Course and stats
At less than 7,000 yards, both the Marly and Retz Courses are very short par 72s by modern standards. With the rough unlikely to be too brutal so as not to embarrass the amateurs, and sloping greens apparently presenting the chief defence, very low scoring looks guaranteed. This could well be the week the European Tour finally hosts a 59.
Obviously there’s a large element of guesswork regarding the stats, but the big hitters should thrive given the lack of penalties for inaccuracy. Ultimately though, this will be decided by quality approach play and a hot putter. In addition to the ever-important greens in regulation stats, birdie and putting average should offer a useful guide.
5pts win PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 10/1 (GENERAL)
Harrington’s decision to play here in order to build confidence ahead of the Ryder Cup could pay dividends. As the slightly controversial recipient of a wildcard, Harrington will be desperate to prove his wellbeing, and this marked drop in grade offers a golden opportunity to land his first title in over two years. His recent struggles owe everything to constant inaccuracy off the tee, which won’t matter too much around here, and there remains no superior iron player in the line up. As a dual winner of the Dunhill Links, he has a fine record in Pro-Ams too.
Larrazabal’s finest hour came in Paris when landing a 500/1 shock in the 2008 French Open, and this easy course could be the ideal opportunity for his second title. The Spaniard has never been known for his course management, but is capable of ripping a course apart when his ultra-attacking strategy pays off. He hasn’t done anything much since finishing third in the BMW International Open, but registered some good gir stats last week, and ranks an encouraging sixth in birdie average amongst this field.
1pt ew JOHAN EDFORS @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
Edfors usually requires plenty of room to produce his best, but has the quality shots to capitalise when given those conditions. It is no surprise to learn that Edfors ranks fourth in birdie average amongst this field, and looks underrated at 80/1 on the basis of his best, tournament-winning form. He also brings classy recent form to the table after top-15s against stronger line-ups in the Scottish and Irish Opens.
1pt ew RAFA ECHENIQUE @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
Again, Echenique is not known for his consistency, but the Argentinian has served notice that he is capable of winning at this level before. His best recent effort came when putting up an impressive final day performance under pressure to finish second in the Scandinavian Masters, and he also managed respectable top 25s at Loch Lomond and Crans-sur-Sierre. Echenique can usually be found near the head of the putting and birdie stats.
Finally, another big-hitting, birdie-machine type at a huge price. Vancsik’s power off the tee will reduce many of these holes to a pitch and putt, and the Argentinian won a low-scoring European Tour event of roughly the same standard at the 2009 Italian Open. As one might expect of a 200/1 chance, Vancsik has few recent form credentials, but did finish a respectable 11th in the KLM Open two weeks ago.