That leaves PETER HANSON as easily the best of the rest. He too enjoyed a good Open, registering his second consecutive top-25 in a major, and has shown a clear liking for Barseback before. Hanson finished runner-up here in 2004, and also made the top-10 back in 2001. As those Major results show, he has made strides since those days, suggesting this consistent player is bound to be there or thereabouts over the weekend.
All of my other four picks are selected on the basis of their impressive long game stats in recent months. Firstly, STEVE WEBSTER has been striking the ball particularly well all year, and after twice finishing runner-up, the Englishman could be overdue a bit of luck. 11th place at Loch Lomond last time out was another decent effort, so Webster should arrive at a course he already knows well with plenty of confidence. Three of his five previous visits to Barseback have yielded top-25 finishes, including 8th most recently in 2004.
FABRIZIO ZANOTTI is a relatively new name on the European Tour, but the Paraguayan’s recent performances suggest he could be here to stay. Four of his last seven events have yielded top-25s, and all were amongst fields boasting greater strength in depth than this one. Those good results were largely due to some highly impressive greens in regulation stats, which should serve him well around Barseback. Of course, there’s an element of guesswork on his course debut, but Zanotti’s recent exploits, most memorably when 2nd in the Spanish Open, warrant respect and a shorter quote than 80/1 in my view.
Previous events at Barseback also show that this is not a course that holds too many terrors for young, inexperienced players. Adam Scott and Luke Donald both won here early in their career, while another high-class youngster, Nick Dougherty, twice made the frame earlier this century. Looking even further back, the fact that a very inexperienced 22 year-old Geoff Ogilvy made the frame here in 1999 tells a similar story.
Therefore, this looks the perfect opportunity to get behind two of the most highly-rated prospects around, DANNY WILLETT and RAFAEL CABRERA-BELLO. Regular readers will know about my high hopes for these two youngsters, particularly Willett. The 21 year-old from Sheffield has bags of improvement to come, but just 12 months after turning pro, he looks ready to win at this level. Four of his last seven events have produced top-10s, and there should be more to come around this ideal set-up. In particular, I expect to see Willett make hay on the par-5s this week.
Cabrera-Bello represents a much riskier betting proposition after missing five consecutive cuts, but at 100/1 he’s still worth a small punt. Had this event, with the identical field, been played before those five poor results, he would have been less than half those odds. That level of respect was earned by making six top-20s in eight starts, largely due to some impressive long game stats. I’m always prepared to give good young players a chance when on a bad run, and sooner or later this talented Spaniard will be in contention again.
Finally, a few words about the rest. Peter Lawrie has made the top-15 on his last two visits, and was next in line for the staking plan. Niclas Fasth is also interesting, having shown some improvement lately, but those snippets of recent form are accounted for in reduced odds. Similarly, Loch Lomond runner-up Raphael Jacquelin has seen his odds slashed as a consequence, and looks no forlorn hope on a course where he’s made the top-5 before. Alex Noren certainly possesses the talent to win an event of this stature, but has yet to show Barseback is really his course. And while I could never have a win bet on perennial loser David Lynn, he looks a solid bet in the place markets on the basis of good recent form and 6th place in 2004.
Next page advised bets…