Frazzled previews the Open De Espana and has 3 picks headed by Victor Dubuisson.
The European Tour finally docks on continental Europe for an extended period of time after making a brief appearance in March for the subsequently abandoned Madeira Islands Open. The Tour will now until the Hong Kong Open in late October and it's my guess that many of the players will be as happy about that as us writers and viewers, as the travel and vastly different climatic conditions are bound to become tiring and take their toll.
The venue for the Open De Espana this year is the Greg Norman designed Real Club De Golf El Prat on the outskirts of Barcelona and the club has played host to the National Open on a number of occasions, but only once since the club relocated to Terrassa, after the extension of the Barcelona airport. This was in 2011, when an emotional event, held in the aftermath of the death of Seve Ballesteros, was won by Thomas Aiken.
The venue has also hosted the Peugeot Challenge on the Challenge Tour in 2005 & 2006, so there is some course form to consider and it does provide us with a guide as to what is required this week.
Course and Requirements:
I must admit that I saw very little of the 2011 renewal so I am largely basing conclusions from that event on the statistics available and assessing the test that is presented this week from the course videos and some of the comments from the players.
Once again the Violet course is being used week, which is composition of the Yellow Course (Holes 1-9) and the Pink Course (Holes 10-18). The front nine seems to be quite exposed, while there are a lot more tree lined holes on the back nine. However it seems that the back nine is the more straightforward test and ranked easier in the 2011 event.
The fairways are described as generous and flat and that is backed up by the views of the venue that have been available, but the real test is with the second shot. Most of the greens seem to be well protected with quite deep bunkers and they are large and undulating, with plenty of run-off areas to punish less than precise approaches. They are set to run to 11 on the stimpmeter which is about average, but there does look to be quite a premium on accurate approach play and on scrambling and we will be looking for these strengths in the players that we select.
The course measures 7,298 yards, so is not excessively long and with the generous landing areas, you would think that the bombers would relish the chance to attack it. However course management will be key as this is far from an easy venue and even though the weather forecast is favourable, it is unlikely that scores of much lower than -12 will be needed to win this week, if that target is reached at all.
Event form is also important as some of these Spanish Open venues can be quite similar and players have a habit of showing form at a number of the different courses.
The Spanish players are very popular in the betting this week, but the pressure on them is usually immense and although Miguel Angel Jimenez was victorious last year, we would tread carefully before backing the home contingent at less than favourable prices. This is especially true of Pablo Larrazabal, who is very popular this week as a result of it being his home course, but he can be fragile under pressure and the spotlight on him this week is enough to give him the swerve at 28/1.
Dubuisson might seem like a strange pick given the season that he seems to have had and the fact that he is nearly as likely to withdraw before his tee time as he is to win the event, but he really should relish this test and being back close to home may well be the tonic he needs. He seems to have various troubles off the course, including injuries and possibly some psychological issues, but he is still managing to produce some very solid golf and his last 12 tournaments have seen him finish 2nd in the Perth International, 2nd in the DP World Tour Championship, 4th in Abu Dhabi and a solid 17th in the Houston Open on the PGA Tour.
He has been a late withdrawal from a number of events for various reasons, but if he has arrived here with his "A" game then he looks quite a big price at 33/1 against this calibre of field. With the exception of Sergio Garcia, we could confidently say that Victor is the equal of any other competitor this week and given that one of the real strengths in his game is his accurate approach play, which compliments his immense power off the tee, then the course really does set up well for him. An early tee time playing with Jimenez and Tommy Fleetwood looks to be exactly what he needs and he is our first bet this week at 33/1.
1.25 points each way Victor Dubuisson at 33/1 with Boylesports and Stan James.
Noren is our second pick this week, despite the fact that his record in this event is not outstanding. He has finished 10th (2008) and 11th (2011) in this event before and the fact that the 11th was at this venue is a big positive. Noren has also shown some excellent form at Spanish Venues in the past, with 3rd placings in the Castello Masters in those same years of 2008 and 2011.
Noren has made an excellent return from injury this year and while he has cooled off since a brilliant Desert Swing series, he produced some solid golf in China at the China Open and the Shenzhen International. He has had a few weeks off to prepare for the events in mainland Europe and we would expect him to come out with all guns blazing over the coming weeks.
His game should be well suited to this venue as he is very accurate with his irons, ranking 26th in GIR this season and he is an excellent around the green player, ranking 10th in Scrambling. He was less than accurate with his irons here in 2011, but some excellent putting kept him in contention and if he can read the greens as well this week, then he looks to hold solid claims.
1 point each way Alex Noren at 40/1 with BetVictor, Stan James and Betfred
Richard Green is our final pick this week. The Australian was 2nd last year and he has proven many times in the past that he is suited by some of these tricky tests and also by the Mediterranean venues. He has previous won the Portugal Masters and has also been second in the Estoril Open De Portugal.
Green has had a solid 2015 season so far, making every cut on the European Tour, posting 3 Top 25 finishes, including 18th most recently in the China Open. In addition he gained a victory in the Victorian Open back home, so he arrives here with his game in good order.
He is far from the longest or most accurate from tee to green, but his real strength is his putting and his around the green play. He lies 19th in Putts Per GIR this season, 10th in Putts Per Round and 5th in Scrambling. We would be hopeful that the course will play something close to as tough as it did in 2011 and if that is the case, then Green should thrive over the 4 days and he is worth an interest each way and also at 3/1 with Stan James for a Top 20 Finish.
0.5 points each way Richard Green at 66/1 with Stan James and Paddy Power
1.5 points win Richard Green - Top 20 Finish at 3/1 with Stan James