Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Cazoo Open Tips

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It wasn’t to be for 54-hole leader and 33/1 pick Louis Oosthuizen last week, whose approach play couldn’t quite match that of Collin Morikawa at Sandwich when push came to shove. A decent final day for Brooks Koepka was a bonus though and we head west to Wales with a little bit of welcome momentum, despite another golden opportunity being missed.

After last year’s hastily arranged double-header at Celtic Manor, it’s great to see the former Ryder Cup track back on the schedule this year as the Wales Open grabs a title sponsor in the shape of online car retailer Cazoo. The two events here last year presented us with two very different results, with Sam Horsfield winning at 18-under before Romain Langasque triumphed a week later despite taking 10 shots more, to highlight that this track does have some teeth when conditions allow.

With Robert MacIntyre getting a late entry for the 3M Open on the PGA Tour courtesy of his top-8 finish at Royal St George’s, the field strength has taken a hit which leaves Matt Wallace as the clear favourite at a best-priced 9/1 at the time of writing. Sam Horsfield, Justin Harding and Aaron Rai rate as 16/1 shots at best, with the likes of Laurie Canter, Jordan Smith and Adrian Oteagui around the 20-25/1 mark with most bookmakers.

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Course Overview. The Twenty-Ten course at Celtic Manor needs no introduction – at 7,393 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.

cazoo open tips

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 last summer in back-to-back weeks to review: Current Form | Event 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.

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

For a summary of winners’ odds on the European Tour for the past 10 years click here.

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

The warm and sunny conditions that we saw in Kent last week have been largely mirrored in South Wales over the past few days and that’s likely to continue into Thursday with the opening day forecast to be hot and sunny with light winds.

From there the weather could begin to change though, with Friday seeing the potential for stronger winds (15-20mph) before rain blows through on Saturday and the wind switches from East to West. Sunday looks calmer and fresher with the risk of thundery showers in the afternoon.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the past winners on the Twenty-Ten course from 2008-14, as well as the two events from last year, gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:

  • 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, Thonghchai 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 last year, 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.

From a Strokes Gained perspective, SG off the tee and SG putting was the route to success for Romain Langasque in challenging conditions at last year’s 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:

  • 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

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

Incoming Form: Sam Horsfield’s win at last year’s 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:

  • 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, Thonghchai 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):

Both of last year’s winners arrived at Celtic Manor making their competitive debuts on the track. To back up Luiten’s current form credentials the time we played here before then, 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 7 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:

  • 2020, Romain Langasque: Debut
  • 2020, Sam Horsfield: Debut
  • 2014, Joost Luiten: 2/4
  • 2013, Gregory Bourdy: 21/10/39/2/14
  • 2012, Thonghchai 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 last summer that a little bit of wind can turn this from a straightforward assignment into a grind, however we’ve got a real mixed bag here weather-wise and players will need to be adaptable enough to deal with changing conditions as the tournament progresses.

Thursday promises to be scoreable as Wales enjoys the last full day of the UK’s current heatwave, before more testing conditions are presented to the players over Friday and Saturday. Sunday could then be a shootout with potentially softened up greens combined with lighter winds,

What does this all mean? Well I suspect a winning score somewhere between the two extremes of -8 and -18 from last year is likely, so a player who can both grind and score heavily when the opportunity presents itself would be handy. 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 of late should enjoy this week’s task.

My selections are as follows:

Daniel Van Tonder 2pts EW 50/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Robert MacIntyre’s late decision to fly to the US for the 3M Open both weakens the field here this week as well as removes a player from the list who would have had a genuine chance of success.

In Bob’s absence, Matt Wallace has been installed as the clear favourite at no better than 9/1 and, like 3 years ago around this time, the Englishman has his work cut out if he’s going to be any kind of factor in the shake-up for Ryder Cup qualification. In truth the boat has probably already sailed, but one thing we know with Matt is that he won’t give up his dream easily and that does make him dangerous at this kind of level, despite some indifferent finishes over his last half dozen starts.

At the price I can’t take Wallace this week though, and Sam Horsfield only makes marginally more appeal at almost double the odds given that he withdrew from the Irish Open with a niggle and has finished MC/67 in his two starts since.

In a field where there are more reasons to exclude players than include them, I’m leading with 50/1 shot Daniel Van Tonder who impressed for the first two rounds last week at Sandwich on Open debut and could build on that this week. 7th to halfway at Royal St George’s could have gone either way; as it was, he went backwards and eventually finished in a tie for 40th which has kept a firm lid on his price.

It was less than 4 months ago that we saw van Tonder win his first European Tour title, defeating Jazz Janewattananond in a play-off in Kenya. 44th at Kiawah Island on Major debut was no disgrace and the 30 year-old ranked 19th for Driving Accuracy, 4th for GIR and 2nd for SG Tee-to-Green; that tee-to-green performance was no fluke as he excelled on exactly the same metric when victorious in Kenya at the end of March and that bodes well for this week’s task in my view.

As well as that breakthrough European Tour success, Daniel also has 7 Sunshine Tour titles to his name – including 4 wins in a 6-event stretch last year – and he almost made that 8 when losing out in a 4-man play-off at the Limpopo Championship at the end of April. He was the 4th-best putter in the field that week to remind us that he’s not lacking in that department either, and with the continuing trend of multiple post-lockdown winners in world golf – Collin Morikawa being the latest – I can see the South African adding his name to that list in the very near future.

A debut this week at Celtic Manor may put a few punters off I guess, however both Sam Horsfield and Romain Langasque took to this layout perfectly on their first attempt last year, and if we’re looking from someone with the ability to get out of the blocks quickly while scoring is good then I’d point to 5 first round leader positions from his last 27 starts globally as a strong indicator. RESULT: MC

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Richie Ramsay 2pts EW 35/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Watching his caddie Guy Tilston help guide Marcel Siem impressively through last week’s Open Championship might be the inspiration that Richie Ramsay needs to get back to winning ways now that the 1-week loan is over.

With Tilston back on the bag, the 38 year-old will be looking to pick up where he left off prior to The Open, where finishes of 4th at the Irish Open and 15th at the Scottish Open have been more than noteworthy, not least in the fact that the Aberdeen man is putting very nicely which isn’t normally his strength. For a player who I’d associate far more with a tidy tee-to-green game, 11th for SG Putting in Ireland and 2nd on the same count in Scotland is a green light if he can marry it up to a good week from tee to green.

That effort at Mount Juliet was Ramsay’s best finish for 4 years on the European Tour and followed a consistent spell of 9 cuts made in his previous 10 starts. 9th and 3rd for SG Approach in the first two Canary Islands events is a useful pointer for this week and he’s been scoring well during this spell of form, shooting 65 on 5 occasions, including in the 3rd round of the Scottish Open in decent company.

Form here at the Twenty Ten is mixed with 3 missed cuts from 7 starts, however a best of 10th in 2009 where he led heading into the weekend suggests that he’s comfortable enough on the track when his game’s in good shape and his wider results in the UK are impressive enough to consider him a contender for this week. RESULT: T25

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David Law 1pt EW 125/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

At a longer price, one of the other eye-catchers in Scotland was Aberdeen’s David Law who has the game to improve on his debut 37th place finish here last August.

The 30 year-old got to grips with the long-game demands of this layout on the tougher of the two renewals, ranking 10th for SG Approach and 14th for SG Tee to Green despite his mid-division finish. That effort came off of a far worse string of results than we’ve seen in recent times from the Scot, and I suspect he could threaten the places here or better this week.

After a torrid time in the spring where he missed 6 consecutive cuts, the first glimpse of an improvement came in Denmark where he ranked 13th for SG Tee to Green on his way to a tie for 52nd. With his confidence boosted, David finished 7th the following week at the Porsche European Open, fuelled by a ranking of 3rd for SG Approach which would be ideal should he repeat it again here this week. That was his first top-10 finish since winning the Vic Open in 2019 and although he’s not built on that massively since, there were certainly signs in Scotland that there’s some good golf left in him this season.

Rounds of 67,67 and 69 at Renaissance put Law in 8th place heading into Sunday and with the chance of recording a really strong finish in far loftier Rolex Series level than this week; although 72 to close was disappointing, overall there were far more positives than negatives to take out of the week.

If a fast start this week proves to be pivotal given how the forecast shapes up, then David’s two first round leader positions since lockdown eased last year is up there with the best on show this week, and he was quick out of the blocks again as recently as last month, sitting 2nd in Germany after day 1. More of the same this week and we could see him hang onto a paying position for this bet. RESULT: T18

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Niall Kearney 1pt EW 200/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Finally, I wonder if Ireland’s Niall Kearney can take some inspiration from compatriot Seamus Power’s win over on the PGA Tour last week and make a breakthrough of his own on the European Tour.

The 33 year-old hasn’t made the same kind of career progress that his 2009 Walker Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood has, that much is evident, however there are signs that the 33 year-old is increasingly comfortable competing at this kind of level and that he has the scoring ability to take advantage of the scoreable days in this week’s event.

Stepping up from the Europro Tour to the European Tour courtesy of partial status from his Q School effort was always going to be a tough ask from limited starts, however finishes of 30th at the Golf in Dubai Championship and 21st in Gran Canaria hinted at more to come before his finished the final Canary Islands event in spectacular fashion, signing off with a round of 61 to finish 4th, having previously carded a 64 in the second round.

A fast start in Germany for the BMW International Open saw the Dublin man in pole position heading into the weekend before eventually drifting to 12th place. That’s more useful experience under his belt nevertheless, ranking 3rd for GIR and 6th for Driving Accuracy which translated to 4th for SG Approach and 7th for SG Tee to Green, and offers encouragement for this week.

A debut appearance here at Celtic Manor doesn’t overly concern given what we saw from last year’s 2 winners around these parts and with a couple of low-grade Irish PGA Championship titles to his name – the second of which was by a monumental 14 strokes – he has form the other side of the Irish Sea that isn’t a million miles away from this week’s venue. RESULT: T40

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:35BST 17.8.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.