Throughout this tournament’s long history, that predates the European Tour itself, there has never been a line-up to compare with this year. In addition to five of the world’s top 11 ranked players, the lure of Race to Dubai riches has encouraged PGA Tour stars such as Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott and Heath Slocum to make this rare summer journey beyond the States. With the Scottish Open and British Open to follow over the next fortnight, it also makes sense to properly acclimatise and get a run going.
Recent results here, however, don’t suggest the big-guns will have it all their own way. Prior to Martin Kaymer’s win last year, the shortest odds of the previous seven champions was 66/1, including three of the decade’s greatest shock winners, in Malcolm Mackenzie, Philip Golding and Pablo Larrazabal. That may be slightly misleading though, as a scour through recent places reveals numerous big names. Perhaps more than usual. With the notable exception of the latest two young champions, Kaymer and Larrazabal, experienced players over 35 have a particularly good record.
Course and stats
Straight driving usually proves the difference at Le Golf National. Those hitting fairways will get plenty of birdie opportunities, while those that don’t are being tormented by deep rough and water. The layout is pretty exposed, making scoring very tough if the wind gets up. Largely as a consequence of that exposure, an early tee time has tended to prove a significant advantage.
The three most important stats to follow are driving accuracy, greens in regulation and scrambling.
Betting selections
3pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 18/1 (20/1 BLUESQ)
Despite never really looking like keeping pace with the leaders in his homeland last week, Kaymer deserves another chance on the basis of his superb top ten in the US Open, and much more besides. When I recommended him for the Order of Merit, the French Open was particularly in mind. Not only did he win last year, but Kaymer also went pretty close here as a rookie. And while one could also make a strong case for several other classy players near the head of the betting, Kaymer is the only one of the leading seven with a favourable early tee time.
1pt ew HEATH SLOCUM @ 55/1 (BET365, SKYBET)
Solid PGA Tour form must always be respected in Europe, as Luke Donald proved last month. Slocum has been as consistent over there as almost anyone in this line-up recently, finishing inside the top-12 on four out of six events prior to the US Open. This layout, with a strong emphasis on driving accuracy, should be ideal.
Canizares looks a vastly improved performer this year, twice nearly winning in his Spanish homeland and generally recording impressive figures. He barely missed a green in regulation over the weekend when registering another top ten, making it six top 25s from his last eight starts. Last year’s 13th at Le Golf National was respectable enough, when in nowhere near this level of form, so with an ideal early tee time, there is every prospect of a strong week.
0.5pt ew GARETH MAYBIN @ 100/1 (GENERAL)
Apologies for the repetition, but I remain adamant Maybin will break through sooner or later, and he cannot be ignored at this price. Gareth has now missed only one of his last 24 cuts, usually thanks to very accurate driving. He should be happy enough to have made the cut last time on his US Open debut, and must have high hopes back on a course where he made the top ten during last year’s rookie season.
0.5pt ew GRAEME STORM @ 100/1 (GENERAL)
Storm’s victory here in 2007 remains his sole professional title, and four consecutive Paris top 25s confirm that this must be one of his favourite courses. This year has been disappointing so far, but he did make a top ten in Italy last month and has been one of the most accurate drivers lately.