Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Cazoo Open Tips 2022

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It wasn’t to be for 66/1 chance Eddie Pepperell last week as the Englishman’s 21-under total proved to be a shot shy of Sean Crocker, who finally converted on a Sunday after a few near misses over the relatively recent past.

On we go and we head to Wales this week for the continuation of the Cazoo Open, formerly the Wales Open, at the iconic Celtic Manor resort which hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup. A €1.75m prize fund puts the event on a par with both the Cazoo Classic (Hillside) and Hero Open (Fairmont) that we’ve seen over the past fortnight, and the field strength is fairly similar to those two events once again as a result.

In the absence of last week’s favourite Ryan Fox, Thomas Detry and Jordan Smith share favouritism at a best-priced 16/1 at the time of writing. A Monday withdrawal from Victor Perez, coupled with earlier removals of Romain Langasque and Laurie Canter from the field, has left Callum Shinkwin, Thorbjorn Olesen and Hurly Long next in the betting for this 156-man event.

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Course Overview. The Twenty-Ten course at Celtic Manor needs no introduction – at 7,503 yards the par 71 offers a decent test to the professionals with generous fairways encouraging a healthy smash off the tee, however with water lurking on many holes there’s no room for serious waywardness.

The exposed track, which is a fusion of the old Trent Jones Jnr-designed Wentwood Hills track combined with 9 new holes added by Ross McMurray back in 2007, features five par-3s and four par-5s to create its overall par of 71, and it’s those holes that may well hold the key to success around these parts. Scoring on the par 5s is essential, as it often is for the modern-day golfer; however survival on the tough par-3s is just as critical at Celtic Manor.

The short holes play tough and those players who can tame the 3rd, 7th, 10th, 13th and 17th over the course of the 4 days should set themselves in good stead for a decent week.

Changes to the 14th and 18th has seen over 100 yards added to the course total since last year, with the par 14th now measuring 485 yards, up from 413, and the closing Par-5 is now 613 yards, up from 575.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at the Wales Open, which was played here at Celtic Manor until 2014 with the Twenty-Ten Course being used from 2008 to 2014 specifically.

In addition, we also have the 2 events held here in back-to-back week in 2020, plus last year’s Hero Open to review: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | SG Stats.

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

Winners & Prices. 2021: (Cazoo Open): Nacho Elvira, 250/1; 2020 (Wales Open): Romain Langasque, 66/1; 2020 (Celtic Classic): Sam Horsfield, 28/1; 2014 (Wales Open): Joost Luiten, 14/1; 2013: Gregory Bourdy, 40/1; 2012: Thongchai Jaidee, 125/1; 2011: Alexander Noren, 66/1; 2010: Graeme McDowell, 22/1.

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

A pleasant-looking 4 days for the players is the summary with sunny spells, light winds at circa 10mph and temperatures nudging towards the mid-70s Fahrenheit in the afternoons.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the past winners on the Twenty-Ten course from 2008-14, as well as from 2020 onwards, gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:

  • 2021 (Cazoo Open), Nacho Elvira (-16). 311 yards (35th), 65.4% fairways (9th), 73.6% greens in regulation (8th), 63.2% scrambling (23rd), 1.69 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2020 (Wales Open), Romain Langasque (-8). 314 yards (9th), 65.4% fairways (41st), 70.9% greens in regulation (13th), 76.2% scrambling (5th), 1.81 putts per GIR (35th).
  • 2020 (Celtic Classic), Sam Horsfield (-18). 294 yards (66th), 55.8% fairways (54th), 79.2% greens in regulation (12th), 73.3% scrambling (11th), 1.69 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 2014, Joost Luiten (-14). 290 yards (51st), 63.5% fairways (12th), 80.6% greens in regulation (4th), 71.4% scrambling (6th), 1.74 putts per GIR (19th).
  • 2013, Gregory Bourdy (-8). 284 yards (54th), 53.8% fairways (38th), 66.7% greens in regulation (26th), 62.5% scrambling (6th), 1.73 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2012, Thongchai Jaidee (-6). 287 yards (35th), 59.6% fairways (22nd), 73.6% greens in regulation (7th), 36.8% scrambling (55th), 1.66 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2011, Alex Noren (-9). 304 yards (1st), 59.6% fairways (9th), 76.4% greens in regulation (2nd), 70.6% scrambling (3rd), 1.82 putts per GIR (31st).
  • 2010, Graeme McDowell (-15). 283 yards (36th), 71.2% fairways (12th), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 50% scrambling (34th), 1.67 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2009, Jeppe Huldahl (-9). 274 yards (37th), 55.8% fairways (53rd), 70.8% greens in regulation (17th), 66.7% scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (6th).
  • 2008, Scott Strange (-22). 276 yards (41st), 75% fairways (22nd), 80.6% greens in regulation (10th), 78.6% scrambling (4th), 1.62 putts per GIR (1st).

Aside from Scott Strange’s win in 2008, the updates made to the Twenty-Ten Course to make it Ryder Cup ready essentially toughened it up. The yardage and course setup suggests that bombers should prosper here, however they certainly don’t have it all their own way if you look at the contenders and winners of the Wales Open before it dropped off the schedule in 2014.

No particular stats stand out from the numbers above, with winners having a generally good week in all departments with perhaps a leaning towards Greens in Regulation and Putting.

Sam Horsfield followed that trend again in 2020, finishing inside the top-15 for GIR, Scrambling and Putting Average on his way to victory; Romain Langasque also ranked 13th for GIR and 5th for Scrambling in tougher conditions a week later. Nacho Elvira was also fairly balanced across all stats when converting here last year, ranking 9th for Accuracy, 8th for GIR, 23rd for Scrambling and 10th for Putting Average.

SG Stats. From a Strokes Gained perspective, SG off the tee and SG putting was the route to success for Romain Langasque in challenging conditions at the 2020 Wales Open. Sam Horsfield’s success by 10 less shots the week before was fuelled by SG Approach and SG Tee to Green. On both occasions, SG Around The Green was seemingly the least important factor of all for both of the winners and the nearest contenders:

  • 2021 Cazoo Open, Nacho Elvira: T: 2nd; A: 8th; T2G: 4th; ATG: 23rd; P: 4th
  • Wales Open, Romain Langasque: T: 4th; A: 18th; T2G: 12th; ATG: 69th; P: 8th
  • Celtic Classic, Sam Horsfield: T: 22nd; A: 3rd; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 28th; P: 13th

Perhaps the most striking stats though came from last year’s renewal where the top 7 finishers ranked 8th, 7th, 1st, 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 6th respectively for SG Approach; in addition the same 7 players also ranked 4th, 6th, 2nd, 5th, 3rd, 8th and 1st for SG Tee to Green on the week. That’s symmetry like we rarely see on a final leaderboard.

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Incoming Form: 250/1 was the reward for any backers who managed to find Nacho Elvira last year with not so much as a top-50 finish in his previous 14 starts. 3rd to halfway and 16th overall at the season-opening Abu Dhabi Championship was positive, however that was a full 6 months prior.

Sam Horsfield’s win at the 2020 Celtic Classic came hot on the heels of his breakthrough European Tour success just a fortnight before at the Hero Open and, in all, that was the Englishman’s 4th top-10 finish in 7 starts. Romain Langasque, who won the week afterwards, was a little more difficult to find as he’d failed to break the top 20 on his previous 11 starts, although there were a couple of eye-catching rounds in his 26th place effort at the English Championship a fortnight before.

Going further back to the Wales Open, Joost Luiten had been knocking quite loudly on the door prior to victory here back in 2014, finally converting after recording two consecutive top-5 finishes. Gregory Bourdy, Alex Noren, Graeme McDowell and Scott Strange had all posted at least one top-10 finish in their past 7 starts to hint at enough form to justify an investment; however Thongchai Jaidee, and to an even larger extent Jeppe Huldahl, were tougher to find with patchy incoming results:

  • 2021, Nacho Elvira: 68/MC/MC/MC/MC/73/MC/MC/MC/55/MC/MC
  • 2020, Romain Langasque: 9/30/40/26/34/27/MC/MC/38/53/57/26
  • 2020, Sam Horsfield: 49/53/62/12/MC/MC/7/MC/MC/10/1/MC
  • 2014, Joost Luiten: 4/12/3/MC/18/51/MC/56/26/52/4/5
  • 2013, Gregory Bourdy: MC/11/MC/21/12/59/8/58/34/49/64/23
  • 2012, Thongchai Jaidee: MC/20/42/41/64/MC/29/25/21/56
  • 2011, Alex Noren: 13/31/8/MC/WD/MC/23/4/MC/5/11/MC
  • 2010, Graeme McDowell: MC/14/20/33/31/6/MC/MC/8/28/26/28/4
  • 2009, Jeppe Huldahl: 23/MC/12/49/52/MC/MC/65/MC/MC/MC
  • 2008, Scott Strange: 7/33/MC/25/2/21/MC/14/14/35/MC

Course Form (back to 2008):

If last year’s winner Nacho Elvira was a little difficult to find on current form alone, there had been some vague hints that Celtic Manor should suit if you dug deep enough into his 2020 efforts as he sat 10th and 2nd at halfway respectively before fading. Both of the 2020 winners though arrived at Celtic Manor making their competitive debuts on the track.

Going back to 2014, to back up Luiten’s current form credentials the time we played here before the 6-year break, he also arrived here having come close to victory on each of his previous two attempts at the Twenty-Ten Course and was understandably the favourite to win 8 years ago.

Like Luiten, Gregory Bourdy also had strong course form to encourage his backers prior to lifting the trophy in 2013; prior to that, winners’ form here at Celtic Manor was a little patchier:

  • 2021, Nacho Elvira: 65/39/44
  • 2020, Romain Langasque: Debut
  • 2020, Sam Horsfield: Debut
  • 2014, Joost Luiten: 2/4
  • 2013, Gregory Bourdy: 21/10/39/2/14
  • 2012, Thongchai Jaidee: 39/26/MC
  • 2011, Alex Noren: MC/39
  • 2010, Graeme McDowell: 39
  • 2009, Jeppe Huldahl: Debut
  • 2008, Scott Strange: Debut

We saw from the two events held here in 2020 that a little bit of wind can turn this from a straightforward assignment into a grind, however with little in the forecast to trouble the players this week, I’m expecting a winning total towards the upper teens under par on Sunday.

Solid tee-to-green and precise approach play tends to be key here as the Bent/Poa putting surfaces aren’t the toughest on Tour, so those who are dialled in with their irons should enjoy this week’s task.

My selections are as follows:

Eddie Pepperell 2pts EW 33/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

With Eddie Pepperell coming so close to snaring us a 66/1 winner last week at Fairmont St Andrews, dropping from the team a week later when he’s seemingly approaching the peak of his powers seems inconceivable to me.

Of course, those punters who weren’t on him last week will quite rightly point to the halving of his odds over this time last week, and to that end there’s a case to answer. The simple equation for me though having ridden the highs and lows of his performance last week is to double the stake and take the price drop on the chin.

The Englishman was clearly upbeat with the state of his game in interview and on social media, and quite rightly too. The signs were there at Hillside that his game was close, with only a second round 74 holding him back; outside of that, rounds of 68, 68 and 69 were all towards the top end of that day’s best efforts. A closing 65 for a 21-under total last week in Scotland was ultimately a shot shy of forcing a play-off with Sean Crocker, however given what we’ve seen from the American in the past on a Sunday, it would have been no surprise at all to see Eddie’s total prove good enough. It was simply Crocker’s time.

Improvements in all traditional stats from Hillside to Fairmont for the 31 year-old was evident: 10th to 6th for Driving Accuracy, 23rd to 2nd for Scrambling and 15th to 4th for Putting Average are all signs of positive momentum.

For Pepperell though, the improvement from 33rd to 15th for GIR is key as ultimately his approach play is the true barometer of the state of his game, and right now it’s very good, and perhaps there’s a little more room for improvement still. 1st for SG Approach last week underlines the point, complimented by 5th for SG Tee to Green and 4th for SG Putting, and any minor improvements from this already high standard will see him go mighty close to lifting the trophy this week in Wales.

A weekend off the last time the Oxford man visited Celtic Manor post-lockdown was no massive surprise as he’d withdrawn from his previous two starts; a more distant 4th here back in 2014 the previous time he’d played is far more appealing though, and that came off the back of an identical finish the week before at the KLM Open, so he was clearly in similarly good form back then.

The final piece of the jigsaw may be less tangible, and once again – as per last week – I refer to his LIV comments recently to complete my justification. Eddie singled out Henrik Stenson’s switch to LIV in some of his more outspoken comments on the topic in recent times, particularly in relation to his relinquishing of the Ryder Cup captaincy as a result of his decision. Clearly unperturbed, the Swede won over the weekend on his LIV debut in New Jersey. Perhaps the only reasonably response from here is for Eddie to let his golf do the talking on the 2010 Ryder Cup course this week and follow suit with victory here. RESULT: T20

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Matti Schmid 1pt EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

With light winds forecast which points to a more scoreable Celtic Manor than is often the case, talented young German Matti Schmid appeals at a backable price.

A winning score of the mid-to-high teens under par is ideal for Schmid, who’s really come alive from his limited starts on the DP World Tour when he’s been able to open his shoulders and use his powerful driving to set up short irons and attack pins, and the freshly extended track here in Wales seems ideal for him to have another crack at getting off the mark at this level.

In truth, had Sunday at the Barbasol Championship gone to plan, the 24 year-old wouldn’t likely be teeing it up here this week at all. Opening rounds of 65/63 at the first of the two co-sanctioned DP World/PGA Tour events saw Matti tie for the lead at the halfway point, and a Saturday 66 gave him a 2-shot cushion before he limped home in 77 strokes on Sunday for a tie for 8th. Disappointing for his backers, undoubtedly, however days like that are all part of the learning curve and he has the talent to put that experience to better use next time he finds himself in contention, and this week’s task is undoubtedly easier. 10th for SG Approach that week, despite his Sunday implosion, is the kind of numbers we want to see heading to Celtic Manor.

38th the following week was understandable and he’s rested since, so he should be nice and fresh as he resumes his 2022 campaign in Europe. 2nd at the Dutch Open last year (-20) was the closest that he’s come this side of the Atlantic to breaking his duck, however 3rd at the Steyn City Championship (-19) on another low-scoring track also encourages and there have been plenty of low rounds posted this year to suggest he can take advantage of the good conditions this week.

47th here last year came immediately after the Open Championship where a Saturday round of 65 had caught the attention; with a year’s more experience under his belt, I can see Schmid improving on that significantly this week. RESULT: T9

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Chase Hanna 1pt EW 80/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

One of the most consistent things about the DP World Tour is the players’ inconsistency, and Chase Hanna optimises that if you look through his record. Perhaps that’s a little unfair on some players as contending form comes and goes, however for those with aspirations of playing at a higher level, cutting out weeks and months of dross isn’t a bad start.

For Hanna, the story is fairly typical. 6 Missed Cuts to start the season suddenly gave way to a contending performance at the Qatar Masters where he eventually finished 2nd to Ewen Ferguson, and after a couple more weekends off he finished 6th and 4th at the British Masters and Soudal Open respectively. The catalyst for his improvement in form was undoubtedly in his SG Approach and Tee to Green game, and after another spell of poor results there were signs of a revival once again last week in Scotland.

30th at Fairmont St Andrews saw the 28 year-old rank 12th for SG Approach and 15th for SG Tee to Green, with his short game and putting not quite keeping up to the same level. Encouraging though, particularly as Chase played his best golf of last season around this time of year, finishing 6th here at Celtic Manor before repeating the feat a fortnight later at the Hero Open at Fairmont.

2nd for SG Approach and 8th for SG Tee to Green here 12 months ago is encouragement enough to suggest that the Twenty Ten course suits his eye, and perhaps he’ll take some inspiration from compatriot Sean Crocker’s breakthrough last week and keep the Stars and Stripes flying high for another week. RESULT: T40

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Robin Petersson 0.5pt EW 400/1 (6EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Given the massive price differentials between bookmakers offering additional each-way terms and those offering the standard, I’ve had to back Robin Petersson with just 6 places, however if he can repeat or better his effort at the last Cazoo-sponsored event a fortnight ago at Hillside then that will be largely immaterial.

A tie for 3rd place in Southport ranks as the 30 year-old’s best DP World Tour career finish by some distance, and he gets to have another chance at glory this week after a solid 12th place finish at the K Club on the Challenge Tour last week in Ireland.

Robin’s only professional victory came in August 2 years ago on home soil where he held off Marcus Helligkilde by 3 strokes, and although he’s not progressed as quickly as his Danish peer since, that recent effort at Hillside trumps any DP World Tour form that Helligkilde can boast and perhaps he can push on from here. RESULT: MC

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Joel Stalter 0.5pt EW 700/1 (10EW, 1/7*) with bet365

Finally, at an even longer price I’m taking a chance on Joel Stalter with the Each Way Extra market offered by bet365 which effectively returns a 100/1 winner for the place money at the time of writing if the Frenchman can finish inside the top 10.

Stalter was one of the few players to really hit the ground running immediately after golf returned following the Covid lockdown in 2020, and after finishing 15th at the Austrian Open, the 30 year-old secured his maiden Tour title the following week at the Euram Bank Open which was a co-sanctioned affair between the European and Challenge Tours at the time. 266 strokes over the par 70 setup was good enough for a 2-shot victory that week, and a similar total here this week on the par 71 would be a good target for those with aspirations of having a realistic chance on Sunday afternoon.

Since that point, Joel’s form has been largely forgettable with 22nd at the 2020 Italian Open his best result, until that is he stepped up at Fairmont St Andrews last week and finished 14th. Rounds of 68, 70 and 71 were solid if unspectacular before he proceeded to match Eddie Pepperell’s low round of the day on Sunday with a bogey-free 65 as his putter caught fire.

13th for SG Approach and 22nd for SG Tee to Green may not sound spectacular, however relative to the numbers that preceded that effort this year they were a revelation, and with his exemption for that aforementioned success in Austria a thing of the past, building on last week’s effort has got to be at the forefront of his mind. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:05BST 1.8.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.