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Paul Williams' Tips for the 2012 Sicilian Open. Follow Us On Twitter @Golfbetting
With just a week to go before the first Major, it's no surprise that the number of 'big names' playing in this week's Sicilian Open has taken a sharp nosedive this year - all those who are Augusta-bound are either playing in Houston or spending this week relaxing and practicing. That's not to say we should ignore this event though as there's always the potential to pick a winner and line our pockets ahead of the main event in a little over 7 days time!
Matteo Manassero headlines this week after narrowly missing a place in Morocco despite sharing the lead going into the final round at the Trophee Hassan II, in turn costing us a tidy profit on the week from both the headline tip and the EW double with Tiger Woods. The Italian missed out on a place at Augusta as a result by not winning on Sunday, however he arrives in his homeland in strong form and the bookies quite rightly chalk him up as favourite in the 15/2 region.
Following last year's inaugural Sicilian Open, we've moved north-west up the coast to the Verdura Golf Resort & Spa, outside of the coastal town of Sciacca, a Kyle Phillips creation which opened in 2009 and hosts its first European Tour fixture here this week. The event will be played on a composite of the resort's 2 18-hole courses resulting in a Championship Course expected to play 7,375 yards this week, although from the tips it could be extended to nearly 7,600 yards for its par of 72. The links-style setup will add a new dimension to this event, however it remains to be seen how tough the course will play with only gentle see breezes forecast and wall-to-wall sunshine for the 4 days.
With no further course history to go on, my selections are as follows:
Let's get this one out of the way quickly: Manassero could quite easily win this in front of his home crowd if he's still got the motivation to win this week after the disappointment of missing out on a place at The Masters.
I'm treating this more of a 'saver' bet than an all-out selection though as I do have reservations about his desire this week, plus the course looks a bit lengthy for the teenager, however arriving here as he does with form of 2/6 in the last fortnight he has to have a great shout of adding a third European Tour trophy to his collection. This is a level playing field in terms of venue experience, plus he'll enjoy more a little more width after struggling off the tee a little in recent weeks which has surely cost him at least one win, if not two as the rest of his game is in great nick. RESULT: M/C
Grace is a must-bet for me this week as he looks to extend his incredible start to 2012 following back-to-back victories in January and entry into the World's top-100 players as a result. Now is the time for the South African to push on and head towards a coveted top-50 position and a third victory in 2012 is more than feasible in a field that lacks a great deal of quality and form.
Grace's second win came in a much higher grade as he took the new-format Volvo Golf Champions at another links-style course at Fancourt. The composure required to beat Goosen and Els in a playoff having seemingly blown his chance early in his final round demonstrated Grace's class and potential and he'll arrive here knowing that he has another fantastic chance of a victory. The 23 year-old understandably took a few weeks to recover from his back-to-back victories with a couple of poor events, however 35th at Doral (with an excellent 3rd round 64) and 25th last week on a tight course both suggest that his form is coming to a head once again and it's time to jump on board...RESULT: M/C
Richie Ramsay has been bubbling away close to the surface for a few months now without finding a way to break through and secure a second European Tour victory. 2011 ended with 3 top-4 finishes in his last 6 events and he must have felt that a victory was imminent in 2012, however the new season has started slowly for the Scot. However progressive performances in Marbella (33rd) and Morocco (17th) suggests a player whose form is on the ascendancy and this week could easily see a further step towards a second piece of silverware.
With the course being an unknown quantity it is always worth looking at proven ball-strikers who can keep themselves out of the worst of any trouble and the ever-reliable tee-to-green game of Ramsay is amongst the best on show this week in that regard. RESULT: T19
Course architect Kyle Phillips has designed, or re-designed, a number of courses that are used on the European Tour and one piece of Phillips-related form fits in perfectly with David Lynn, namely the Hilversumsche course in Holland which has been the on-off venue for the Dutch Open over the last decade or so. Lynn has an excellent record at Hilversumsche with form of 23/18/1/9/34/2 and clearly reacts on the layout - now this is a very different course in Sicily, however any similarities in green design, structure and bunkering will no doubt help Englishman Lynn settle in to this layout quicker than most.
Lynn has also shown some good form lately, with his 4th place finish in Marbella a fortnight ago demonstrating that his ironplay is in great nick as he his over 83% of greens in regulation - he'll enjoy the width here and could easily go close once again this week. RESULT: T37
Last but by no means least is Aussie Richard Green who could easily be overlooked following 2 consecutive missed cuts. Last week's effort in Morocco can be forgotten as he was getting back into competitive golf after a 6-week break and he'll be fully acclimatised and ready to go in Sicily on a course that I think suits him down to the ground. Brought up on the coastal courses in Melbourne, it's no surprise to find that Richard has a strong record on seaside and links courses - 4th at Carnoustie in 2007 is a great example, however you'll also find contending performances at the likes of the Irish Open (2nd 2011, 5th 2010). With his 2-year exemption by winning the 2010 Portugal Masters expiring this year, it's time for Green to get to work on securing his playing privileges and this represents a great opportunity to bank a decent cheque. RESULT: T11
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:10BST 27.3.12 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
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