We remain on European soil this week as we head to Malaga for the Open de Andalucia. The tournament is promoted by Ryder Cup star Miguel Angel Jimenez and for the second year running we're playing at the Parador de Malaga Golf. So what do we know about the Open de Andalucia which will help us get a result this week? This is the 5th instalment of the current Open de Andalucia tournament, although there is a bit more course history to dig through in the shape of the Turespana Masters Open de Andalucia which was played between 1992-1995 and again in 1999 which, perhaps of importance, was played at the same course (before the recent changes) in 92 and 99.
At a par of 70 and a little over 6,800 yards, this course will be all about heavy scoring. Previous winners have been in reasonable form with recent top-40 finishes, however blistering recent form hasn't been a factor. For me, this is likely to almost turn into a pitch-and-putt competition, so recent form with the flat stick is critical on the bent/poa surface.
The betting market is dominated by Spanish pair Alvaro Quiros (13/1 SkyBet) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (14/1 Paddy Power) with rest of the field at 30/1 or longer. This makes for an interesting dilemma - either of these 2 could easily win, however is there more value in picking a longer priced each way chance....I'll opting for the latter! Quiros has struggled a little since his win in Dubai and finished 3rd from last at Doral; in addition I rate him as a Bermuda green specialist and the fact that this is bent/poa is a negative in my opinion. Jimenez has been a little erratic of late with positive results in Bahrain and the Match Play interspersed with some mediocre performances in between. Most telling for me is that The Mechanic struggled to juggle playing host and performing well last year when in a similar position in the betting, ultimately finishing 55th.
So who's in my team then? A bit of youth and experience, although I'm not necessarily looking for a future Open Champion as proved to be the case with last year's winner Louis Oosthuizen; instead I've picked 5 longer-priced players who have each got a chance of an each way finish or better this week:
Del Moral isn't the first name you think of when asked for a Spanish golfer, however we might just find him go some way to correcting that over the course of the week. The 25 year-old regained his card by finishing 2nd at Q-school and this could be the perfect opportunity to move his career to the next level by securing his first European Tour win.
The man from Valencia (not Del Monte) has been playing well all season with 5 cuts from 5 starts and progressive form of 49/14/18/22/5 - that last effort coming in Sicily on Bent greens where he topped the combined putting stats...that's the kind of positive flat stick form I'm looking for here. Finished 14th in this event in 2009 then 36th last season when playing nowhere near as well as at present - look for him to go very close this week. RESULT: T36
Another Spaniard in my team this week is JM Lara who also hails from Valencia. More experienced than Del Moral, 33 year old Lara has 2 European Tour wins under his belt including a playoff victory in last seasons Austrian Open against David Lynn so has some good experience to draw upon if he finds himself in contention.
Lara is erratic as form of MC/MC/3 proves over the last 3 tournaments, however if you look deeper you'll find that there's a positive correlation in his history to Bent-based putting surfaces, plus if you can catch him when he's coming into form then a win is a distinct possibility - he finished 4th in Holland the week before winning in Austria last season, plus had form of 3/9 before winning in Hong Kong in 2006. Was 2nd for putts per GIR in Sicily having hit 77% of greens - if he can match that again he'll go very close indeed. RESULT: T8
My final Spanish player is the ever-inconsistent Pablo Martin, however followers of my tips will know that I avoid him on anything over then Bent greens and I believe that much of his inconsistency is down to an aversion to Bermuda putting surfaces. This is a home tie for Martin - he was born in Malaga and has played this course countless times. He retained his Alfred Dunhill Championship trophy this year with another sublime putting week and although he's shown little form since, I think you'll find him able to play freely this week on a course he knows like the back of his hand and vociferous local support cheering him on. RESULT: T63
Moving away from Spanish players, Scott Jamieson also makes my staking plan after his 2nd top 6 finish in 3 events in Sicily. The 27 year-old Scot qualified by rights from the Challenge Tour with his 6 final events boasting a form line of 2/6/17/8/5/17 - he's clearly taken that into this season and could easily bag another EW payout at a silly long price. RESULT: T11
40-something Bickerton could be my most profitable selection of the season and I reckon the bookies have got this price seriously wrong. 3 times a winner on Tour between 2005-2008 (all on Bent) before injuring a wrist which kept him out of most of the 2010 season, the Englishman has eased himself back into competitive golf this season with a series of missed cuts before last week's 34th place finish in Sicily.
It was the manner of that 34th place finish which interested me most, however. As always, Bickerton was arrow-straight off the tee hitting 85.7% of fairways (1st in the field), however it was his putting (his weakest suit) which made me sit up - he led the way with just 113 putts last week, plus was 5th for putts per GIR. His lack of length off the tee won't be punished around this short course and 300/1 quite simply has to be taken on - if nothing else out of simple curiosity to see if he can improve further and contend this week as my ton-plus tip. RESULT: Missed Cut
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:00GMT 22.3.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
We run a weekly competition on our facebook group where you can win a £25 free bet with Paddy Power simply by predicting who will win each week’s events – it’s great fun and free to join, here’s a link to the page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/254181393361