The European Tour heads south from Gleneagles this week to the ISPS Handa Wales Open at The Celtic Manor Resort. Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand is the defending champion over the course that played host to the 2010 Ryder Cup.
The Wales Open was first contested at Celtic Manor in 2000 and since then there have been some notable winners, including Paul McGinley, Paul Lawrie, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Robert Karlsson. Last year Thongchai Jaidee held on to beat Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano by a single stroke.
A strong field has assembled for this event as players begin their quest to amass Ryder Cup points for the 2014 matches at Gleneagles. European captain Paul McGinley will tee it up this week and, as well as trying to put in a good performance himself (he was tied sixth here last year,) he’ll be keeping an eye on some of the key players.
“I don’t think it would be fair to single anyone at the very start of the qualification process,” he said. “But no matter what happens I know I will have 12 players who deserve to be on that team and who will give everything to keep European hands on that trophy next September.”
After his victory at Gleneagles last week, Tommy Fleetwood of England will look to keep his good run going. He’s joined on the start sheet by a host of Europe’s best. Former winner Miguel Angel Jimenez tees it up, so too do Darren Clarke, Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher.
ISPS – The International Sports Promotion Society is sponsoring this event for the second year of a three-year deal. ISPS, chaired by Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa, is a key supporter of the International Blind Golf Association and the group works hard to raise the profile of blind and disabled golf around the world.
Venue: The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales
Date: Aug 29 – Sep 1
Course stats: par 71, 7,352 yards
Purse: €2,090,000 Winner: €348,660
Defending Champion: Thongchai Jaidee (-6)
Thursday 29 – Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Friday 30 – Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Saturday 31 – Sky Sports 4 from 1.30pm
Sunday 1 – Sky Sports Ashes from 12.30pm
Brett Rumford – Twice a winner this year and tied sixth last week, just two shots behind the players who made the playoff, Rumford is a streaky performer and could well keep his good run going in Wales. He was top-20 in this event last year.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello – Solid if unspectacular last week, the Spaniard looks to be playing himself into form. This could be the event he plays to his potential.
Fredrik Andersson Hed – The Swede would have contended last week in Scotland had it not been for a poor final round. He’ll look to bounce back from that performance with a strong showing this time out.
Key hole: 15th. This is a brilliant risk and reward par-4 that measures 377 yards on the card but is driveable if the players opt to take the line straight from tee to green. The strategic way to play the hole is to lay up to the corner of the dog-leg and pitch on but, by carrying the ball all the way to the putting surface in one, eagle chances can be the result.
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