Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Cazoo Classic Tips 2021

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After the final day shenanigans at Galgorm Castle a week ago, it was almost a repeat performance at the WGC St Jude last week with Harris English, Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith all making a mess of the final day to eventually leave the door open for Abraham Ancer to secure his first PGA Tour victory via a play-off.

Whilst my remaining hope Daniel Berger wasn’t quite as guilty as the aforementioned trio, he’ll be disappointed on reflection with bogeys at the 14th and 15th, then par at the easy par-5 16th, which could have easily meant he reached a winning total had he played those hole at 1-under as he might well have expected.

In Scotland, the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews was a washout for me though so we move south of the border to the London GC in Kent, looking for a change of fortune at the Cazoo Classic which claims to be the re-birth of the English Open that ran up until 2002. Similar to last week though, the tangible course form comes from different sources, most predominantly the European Open which was played here in Kent in both 2008 and 2009 and forms part of this week’s course stats.

Bernd Wiesberger heads this week’s field at around 18/1 from the likes of Andy Sullivan, Masahiro Kawamura, Richard Bland and Victor Perez in what’s a largely similar quality of field to last week’s affair in Scotland.

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Course Overview. Opened in 1994, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Heritage course at London GC is an exposed, parkland affair built at 500 feet of elevation which can make it susceptible to the wind.

Tall fescue grass lines the fairways and gives the course a little bit of a linksy feel to it in places; fairways are generous and greens large, however with 4 lakes to contend with and the threat of a lost ball in the longest of the grass for the seriously wayward, an element of control from off the tee would appear to be favourable.

At 7,327 yards for its par of 72, the course has been lengthened slightly since the European Tour last visited this layout, however it’s not massively long by modern standards and the USGA standard bentgrass-based greens will allow good shots to be rewarded.

cazoo classic tips

Tournament Stats. With the 2008 & 2009 European Opens held here at the London Club, we have a starting point at least in terms of course form to combine with the regular current form stats: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

After a soggy weekend, the weather in southern England will clear up for this week’s event with high pressure dominating. Sunny spells, light winds and temperatures reaching the low 70s Fahrenheit will make this a pleasant event for players and spectators alike.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Stats from the two European Open events held here in 2008 and 2009 give us a starting point as to the type of player who might go well around these parts:

  • 2009, Christian Cevaer (-7). 263.6 yards (67th), 50% fairways (44th), 68.1% greens in regulation (13th), 73.9% scrambling (2nd), 1.73 putts per GIR (26th).
  • 2008, Ross Fisher (-20). 302.1 yards (1st), 62.5% fairways (23rd), 75.0% greens in regulation (3rd), 66.7% scrambling (5th), 1.67 putts per GIR (3rd).

The disparity in Driving Distance between Cevaer who was virtually rock-bottom of those who made the cut in 2009, and Ross Fisher who topped the charts the year before, tells us that there are different ways to approach this track. Gary Orr and Stephen Dodd also featured prominently for the short hitters in 2009, whereas Alvaro Quiros redressed the balance.

GIR numbers weren’t high in either of the renewals, however maximising chances to find the putting surfaces and scrambling well when missing seemed key, despite differing levels of difficulty from the two renewals.

Scoring Splits

  • Christian Cevaer (-7): Par 3: -1; Par 4: +1; Par 5: -7; 15 Birdies, 7 Bogeys.
  • Ross Fisher (-20) : Par 3: -1; Par 4: -7; Par 5: -12; 2 Eagles, 22 Birdies, 6 Bogeys.

Ross Fisher’s 20-under total in 2008 was fuelled by playing the par-5s in -12 across the 4 days, and in total the top 5 finishers were an aggregate -62 for the long holes. Despite being much tougher the following year, most of the scoring was still achieved on the par-5s and players need to be taking advantage of those holes if they have aspirations of winning the title, while keeping their card as clean as possible elsewhere on the course.

Incoming Form: Christian Cevaer would have proven to be a tough player to pick out in 2009 with no top-30 finishes in his recent past. Ross Fisher, on the other hand, was a little more logical with two top-12 finishes in his past 4 starts, despite finishing down the field the week before at Le Golf National:

  • Christian Cevaer: 40/MC/MC/MC/MC/60/59/31/52/34/MC/MC
  • Ross Fisher: 25/10/MC/34/56/42/24/68/10/MC/12/64

With just two events from a dozen or so years ago to study for this week and with only a fifth of the field having any competitive experience of the track, this week’s selections require a little bit of a leap of faith.

That said, I suspect the scoring this week with sunny skies, light winds and drying conditions underfoot will lead us more towards Fisher’s winning total than Cevaer’s. Fisher ran out a 7-stroke winner back in the day so 20-under may be a little misleading as he played exceptionally well despite a reasonable breeze at times, however I suspect that with favourable scoring conditions this week it shouldn’t be a relentless grind for the players.

Looking at the 2008 leaderboard in a little more depth, Sergio Garcia came 2nd to Fisher ahead of Graeme McDowell, David Frost and Soren Hansen. That list screams control over all-out aggression, GIR over scrambling and bogey avoidance over streaky birdie-making. That said, having the game to successfully take on the scoring holes with quality Total Driving could be the key to unlocking this puzzle.

My final selections are as follows:

Vincent Norrman 2pts EW 33/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The top two in the market, Bernd Wiesberger and Andy Sullivan, are undoubtedly proven at this level with the Austrian winning as recently at May and the Englishman winning on English soil this time last year for his 4th European Tour title. Either could win this week at anything approaching their best, although Wiesberger will need to putt a little better than of late and Sullivan will need to sharpen up his irons, however neither are a bet for me.

Masahiro Kawamura has been playing some competitive golf lately, however of the next rung of players I’m taking a chance on the emerging talent that is Vincent Norrman.

Having only turned professional in June having finished 12th of the men at the Scandinavian Mixed as an amateur, the Swede went on to finish 5th on his pro debut the week afterwards, making an albatross ace on a par-4 on Saturday and earning himself a start at the Irish Open alongside a measly bottle of champagne for his glorious tee shot. 1st for SG Off the Tee and 1st for SG Tee to Green that week had many an observer scribbling in their notebook.

61st in Ireland was neither here nor there, although he did still rank 6th for SG Off the Tee, however we followed that up with 10th at Celtic Manor – despite shooting a 10 on his final hole on Saturday – where he ranked 7th for both SG Off the Tee and SG Tee to Green, before finishing 11th in Northern Ireland.

Yes, given his limited starts it’s fair to say that his leading of the European Tour’s SG Off the Tee stat could be a little misleading, however there’s little to suggest that he won’t continue to play in the same vein moving forwards and with a ranking of 2nd for Driving Distance and 52nd for Driving Accuracy he would appear to have exactly the kind of game I want to see this week.

The sponsors have been quick to latch onto his potential by offering the 23 year-old another invite here and he looks like the kind of player who could quickly get off the mark on the European Tour. Ross Fisher shot 63 playing this track ‘blind’ in 2008, having declined the chance to play a practice round, and with only a few players in this field with decade-old course experience, Norrman won’t be at a massive disadvantage here. RESULT: MC

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Chase Hanna 1pt EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

The production line of young Americans plying their trade this side of the Atlantic continues to throw up new names and Chase Hanna could be one that’s increasingly prominent on leaderboards over the coming months and years.

Although he’s been on the professional circuit since 2018 on the Latinoamerica and Korn Ferry Tours, it’s only recently that the 27 year-old has really stepped up his game, recording 7 of his best 8 OWGR-yielding finishes since May and finishing inside the top-7 on 7 of his last 12 starts globally as confidence has grown.

3rd at the Dimension Data Pro-Am, 6th, 7th and 2nd in consecutive weeks on the Challenge Tour in June, then 6th (Euram Bank Open), 6th at the Cazoo Open and 6th again last week at the Hero Open suggests that he’s found some good momentum in his game.

Driving those results over the past 2 outings on British soil has been some sparkling long-game statistics: 2nd for SG Approach and 8th for SG Tee-to-Green at Celtic Manor was eclipsed last week in Scotland where he topped both of those stats as well as hitting over 84% of greens in regulation.

12-under for the par-5s at Fairmont was beaten by just one other player and, like Norrman, Chase won’t be overly disadvantaged by the track this week given it’s not been used for over a decade on the European Tour. RESULT: MC

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Bryce Easton 1pt EW 150/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

At a similar kind of price to Hanna, Garrick Porteous was tempting given he’s from Colchester which isn’t the longest of hops over the Thames and he was pounding out the greens in regulation last week in Scotland. Finishing on the same mark last week though and more than twice the price is Bryce Easton and he gets the nod given the price differential.

The 3-time Sunshine Tour winner is a strong tee-to-green merchant when playing his best golf, as is evidenced by top-50 rankings last year in terms of Driving Accuracy and SG Tee-to-Green, despite only recording 1 top-10 finish and missing more cuts than he made.

2021 hadn’t been a great deal better as he flitted between the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, however 8th at the Cazoo Open at the end of July and 10th last week at St Andrews marks a step-change in performance with the putter picking up the slack.

A 2nd round 75 at Celtic Manor was the only reason he wasn’t far closer to the lead after 4 rounds, however a weekend 64/68 was beaten by just 1 other player and last week’s closing 66 was also encouraging after a Saturday 71 took him out of the equation. 3rd for SG Putting in Scotland was his best effort on the European Tour and at 24th on Tour for Par-5 Scoring, the 33 year-old would seem to have the raw ingredients to go well again here this week. RESULT: MC

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Alvaro Quiros 1pt EW 200/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Enigmatic is a word bandied about some players with the likes of Victor Dubuisson taking things to the extreme, however I’ll happily use it to describe Alvaro Quiros despite not having the same penchant for fishing and tournament withdrawals as the Frenchman.

At his best, the 38 year-old is – or perhaps was – a long-hitting, high-GIR merchant who had enough sparks with the putter to win 7 European Tour titles between 2006 and 2017. 3 of those wins came in the desert, another two on coastal tracks in the Algarve and Sicily, and tracks with sufficient room from off the tee have tended to be his forte, not withstanding the odd contending performance at Valderrama to flummox us all.

His most recent win at the Rocco Forte Open in 2017 came in a season where he missed 15 of 20 cuts, withdrew from another, and only showed the briefest glimpse of form the week before when he finished 22nd in a low-grade affair in Portugal courtesy of a final round of 65. Yet it’s just that trend that peaks my interest here having seen him finish 16th last week for just his 2nd top-20 finish of the season, closing with a 66, and making 28 birdies over the course of 4 days which was beaten only by eventual winner Grant Forrest.

108 putts last week translated to a putting average of 1.59 and nearly 5 strokes gained with the putter, however it was 7th for SG Approach that really caught the eye, his best rank on that count for over 2 years on Tour. 2nd here in 2009 came after a 16th-place finish at Wentworth the week before and although he’s neither reliable nor the force that he used to be, he’s shown that he’s still capable of winning when the stars align. At the price on offer I see no reason to leave him out this week. RESULT: T35

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:30BST 9.8.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.