The Race to Dubai returns to the European mainland with a completely different proposition to last week’s co-sanctioned event in Korea. I missed the Ballantine’s Championship while away on holiday, but from all accounts, the weather was terrible with strong winds the key factor. In contrast, Seville is expected to be warm and sunny, so don’t count on last week’s form being replicated. Missing that gruelling test could well prove to be an advantage now.
This event has previously been played at various venues, including this one in 2008. Due to the regular change of scenery, there aren’t any particularly interesting trends from past results. Only two champions this century were rank outsiders; Christian Cevaer and Kenneth Ferrie; but equally the only favourite was Sergio Garcia. The rest were all middle-ranking European Tour players ranging from anywhere between 20/1 and 100/1. A clearer guide may lie in examining previous results at this specific course.
COURSE AND KEY STATS
In addition to the 2008 Spanish Open, Real Club de Golf de Sevilla also hosted last year’s Andalucia Open, the 2004 Seville Open and, later the same year, the World Cup. It was toughened ahead of that World Cup, so form prior to 2008 could be misleading. There is no evidence that huge hitters like 2004 champion Ricardo Gonzalez were particularly well suited in either recent events, which were won by short and straight hitters Soren Kjeldsen and Peter Lawrie.
At little over 7,000 yards, this par 72 places a greater emphasis on driving accuracy than distance nowadays. With the rough reported to be very penal this year, that should be even more the case. Also, with the greens running at 12 on the stimp-meter, controlled accurate iron play is essential.
2.5pts ew SOREN KJELDSEN @ 18/1 (GENERAL)
Kjeldsen began the week as a 33/1 chance when delivering for this column in last season’s Andalucia Open on this course. Naturally, I have some reservations about taking these shorter odds, but his claims are simply too obvious to ignore. The strong emphasis on accuracy, along with very fast greens, are the absolutely ideal conditions for Kjeldsen, who can also boast solid recent form across the Atlantic in much better company. He was sixth at the WGC-CA Championship, and wasn’t disgraced at either Redstone and Augusta.
2pts ew EDOARDO MOLINARI @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
While there were some reservations about Kjeldsen’s odds, I didn’t have to look twice before snapping up 25/1 on Molinari. His form over the last nine months is nothing short of outstanding. During that period, he’s won three individual titles plus a World Cup alongside his brother, and made the top-five in illustrious events on both tours. His penultimate effort, finishing second at the elite Arnold Palmer Invitational, is a level of form that most of this field could only dream about.
1.5pts ew IGNACIO GARRIDO @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
Beaten just a single shot when finishing runner-up two years ago on this course, Garrido is again fancied to emerge as the top home candidate. He can usually be relied upon to hit a high percentage of fairways and greens, and has a consistent recent record, making his last four top-25s including third place in Morocco.
1pt ew RICHARD FINCH @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
80/1 seems a very big price for a man who’s been runner-up twice in his last five events, especially given that he made the top ten on his only previous visit to this course. Finch’s forte is tee to green accuracy, so with the rough more penal than usual, everything seems in place for another good week.
1pt ew DAVID DRYSDALE @ 80/1 (GENERAL, 90/1 BOYLESPORTS)
Again, these odds are too big to ignore on one of the most accurate drivers on the European Tour, particularly given that he was runner-up on this course last year. Clearly the layout suits, and he tends to go well in Spain, also finishing third in October’s Madrid Masters. He lost nothing in defeat to Kjeldsen last year, fighting hard for most of the final day, so could be worth an interest to go one better and land his maiden European Tour title.