This is a new event, though it barely seems that way, given the fact it is to be played at the venue previously used for the Mallorca Classic. The key difference with that event, last played in 2007, is the quality of the field. The Mallorca Classic used to be played in October, ensuring the presence of several big names in pursuit of the European money list. Four of the five Pula champions were Ryder Cup players.
Now, in this post-Sawgrass slot, the organisers have struggled to attract anyone of that class. Only perennial loser Soren Hansen is ranked in the world’s top 50, and only 11 of this field are inside the world’s top 200.
Course and stats
Pula previously developed a reputation as one of the toughest courses on the Euro schedule. This short par-70 places a particularly heavy premium on accuracy, and requires good scrambling skills. Wind is usually a key factor around this exposed island course, especially in the afternoon. In fact, there are strong correlations between form at Pula, and another event played at an exposed course, the Madeira Island Open. The key stats are greens in regulation, scrambling and par-3 performance.
3pts ew CHRIS WOOD @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
Loathe as I am to take these kind of short odds about a player yet to win a professional title, Wood really does stand out in this company. Hardly any of the opposition can boast good recent form, whereas Wood gave us a run for our money in third place last week. Wood’s recent greens in regulation stats have been excellent, and he’s already shown he particularly likes tough, exposed courses by making the top five in the last two Opens.
2.5pts ew GONZALO FERNANDEZ-CASTANO @ 20/1 (GENERAL)
Despite some slightly disappointing recent results, largely as a consequence of ongoing putting weaknesses, Castano should be hard to keep out of the frame. He has a classy long game, ranking in the top ten for greens in regulation on three of his last four starts, and is arguably the best wind player in this line-up. With par likely to be a good score, that weakness on the greens may be less relevant than usual. Notably, Gonzo finished seventh here as a rookie, in a much stronger line-up, back in 2004.
2pts ew JOSE-MANUEL LARA @ 28/1 (GENERAL, 30/1 BET365)
Lara fits the definition of course specialist far better than anyone else in this line-up. His five attempts at Pula produced a worst finish of 11th, twice making the top three. Prior to the weekend, it would have been impossible to make a case for Lara on form, but three sub-70 rounds to close in Italy suggest he might be coming to hand.
1pt ew ROBERT COLES @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
Coles has been playing some solid, if unspectacular stuff in recent months, recording some decent long game stats in the process. He registered three consecutive top-15 finishes in Morocco, Spain and Portugal during March and April, all amongst fields that were at least the equal of this one. Given that he won a couple of times on last season’s Challenge Tour, 50/1 looks fair about him breaking his European Tour duck.
1pt ew ANDREW DODT @ 66/1 (SPORTINGBET, CORAL)
In such an ordinary field, Dodt must rate a bit of value at 66/1. Four of his last seven starts have yielded top-seven finishes, including a win at the Avantha Masters. All of that form came in either Australasia or Asia, and if he can transfer the same level of form to a third continent, I see no good reason why Dodt shouldn’t go well again.