Our final Europe-based event of the season takes us to arguably the best course on the continent, Valderrama. Described as the 'Augusta of Europe', the 90 or so players who are taking the trip to the south of Spain are, as always, in for a real treat on the Robert Trent Jones Snr designed course.
There are a multitude of sub-plots this week - there are those trying to retain their cards, those trying to break into the top 60; however none moreso than the fact that Tiger Woods will definitely lose his OWGR number 1 status on Sunday evening with either Lee Westwood or Martin Kaymer picking up the reins. Kaymer must finish in a 2-way tie for 2nd or better at Valderrama to take over the top spot - if he doesn't then the man from Worksop will take the helm without even lifting a club, such are the vagaries of the OWGR system!
On to the tournament then. Similar to last week, the course is set just a few kilometres from the Mediterranean coastline, this time a little further south. It's a typical Trent Jones test in many respects with narrow, undulating fairways leading to tiny, sloping and fast bentgrass G2 greens. At a shade under 7,000 yards the course isn't long by today's standards, however it is still a stern test in all departments which can turn positively nasty if the weather closes in, as is expected over the weekend...
Whilst this is the first Tournament under the 'Andalucia Valderrama Masters' title, we do have a wealth of course history to work back through as the Volvo Masters was held here annually until 2008. I've included the stats from this event in this week's predictor model, plus you can see the final 2008 leaderboard here: 2008 Volvo Masters
So this week I'm looking for some course experience as well as recent form, however more than anything I want someone capable of grinding out a result on a tough course. Hitting greens in regulation is far from easy around here - the leaders will be hitting in the 60-65% bracket I'd say - so excellent scrambling is also key. In short you need to be the full package! My 10 points are as below - for my top 20 tips for this tournament click here.
Peter Hanson 2pts EW 28/1 with Up to £200 in free bets via this link: Bet 365 £215 Free Bets
Swede Hanson gets my top pick ahead of more obvious choices like Kaymer and McDowell for a number of reasons. Discarding Hanson's 2 Ryder Cup team-mates wasn't easy, however I suspect the pressure of potentially taking the #1 spot may prove just too much for the German, whereas McDowell hasn't been at his best in strokeplay since Pebble Beach, not withstanding a good finish in Austria which was a far easier affair than this.
Hanson's first win on the European Tour came the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar in Cadiz back in 2005, however his recent form is far more important here as he's having the best season of his career. His win in nearby Majorca back in May came in tough weekend conditions, much as we're expecting here, on a similar course in terms of length; his more recent win in the Czech Republic was on another tight, undulating course with bentgrass greens similar to Valderrama. All in all I feel this course setup and conditions will suit the Swede down to the ground.
13th back here in 2008 and 4th in 2005 behind Ian Poulter, Hanson can clearly play the course and a tight setup where there's a premium on Greens In Regulation - Hanson sits in 20th for the season with an impressive 71.8% strike rate - will be right up his alley. RESULT: T47
The evergreen Aussie is another player having a cracking season and followed up with his 3rd European Tour victory a fortnight ago in Portugal - he has now finished inside the top 14 in 5 of his last 8 events. Struggled on the par 3s last week dropping 7 shots in total, however I never expected him to follow up his victory with another prominent performance, so this week he holds much more appeal.
For me, Green has the all-round game to compete here - arrow straight, putting well and a great scrambler to boot. Finished 7th here in 2008 and given his current form could go a few places better this week. Finishes of T-13 in 2002 and T-15 in 2004 also suggest that the course suits Green's eye. RESULT: T21
The price on Martin has collapsed following his missed cut last week, however it's worth looking a little deeper before discarding the Spaniard from the reckoning. Having picked up his 2nd European Tour event in South Africa at the start of the season, Martin has struggled somewhat until his 6th place finish in Portugal a fortnight ago - which should have been a victory but for a decidedly wobbly finish. The hangover from that tournament was evident with a first round 80 last week, however Martin shook that off with a joint best-of-the-day 64 on Friday to miss the cut by just one shot.
If you look at Martin's history of positive performances you'll find one thing in common - he loves bentgrass greens. His win as an amateur in Portugal in 2007 was on bentgrass, as was his second win in South Africa this season. His other 2 top 10s have also come on bentgrass this season so I'm happy to invest in that theory this week. RESULT: Missed Cut
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:30BST 26.10.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
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