Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Cyprus Open Tips 2020

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Adri Arnaus threatened to give us (and half of the golf punting public it would seem) a winner last week, however he left far too many shots on the course over the 4 days in Italy and ended up 3 shots adrift of Ross McGowan’s 20-under total. Giving 4 shots to the field on the par-5 4th hole over the first 3 days was the difference ultimately, with a hole that was well within his reach producing three bogeys on days 1-3.

After that disappointment, a fortnight in Cyprus sounds like a fantastic idea right now and plenty of the European Tour’s regulars have jumped at the chance to play this week. Both this week and next will be played at PGA National Cyprus on the Aphrodite Hills Resort, however with a subtle twist for next week, if we’re being polite.

This week will be a regular strokeplay event, albeit once again with a limited field of just 105 players. The Cyprus Shootout follows next week which we’ll cover in full detail in week’s time, however for now we’re dealing with a regular tournament with a regular cut and a regular scoring format before next week’s fun and games.

Andy Sullivan heads the field this week at a general 12/1 at the time of writing and the Englishman’s looked in good nick since accumulating a massive 27-under total to win the English Championship at Hanbury Manor last month. The likes of Joost Luiten, Thomas Detry, Sam Horsfield, Marcus Kinhult and Matthias Schwab all rate around the 25/1 to 28/1 range in this relatively short field.

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PGA National Cyprus, Aphrodite Hills Resort, Paphos, Cyprus. Designer: Cabell Robinson, 2002 with 2017 updates; Course Type: Resort, Coastal; Par: 71; Length: 6,956 yards; Fairways: Bermuda; Rough: Bermuda; Greens: 007 Bentgrass.

Course Overview. As Greek legend would have it, this week’s track takes us to the place where Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, is said to have emerged from the sea at her birth. An 18-hole Championship golf course was named after her accordingly on the outskirts of Paphos, and it promises to be a beautiful backdrop for this week’s event with stunning views of the Mediterranean on a number of holes.

Features including horseshoe greens, cross bunkers, ponds at holes 10 and 18, an 18th century kiln and an old olive press in the middle of the fairways on holes 1 and 8 add character to the course, and shots over a canyon on the 3rd hole and a ravine on the 7th add further intrigue.

Originally opened in 2002, the sub-7,000 yard layout was renovated in 2017 to USGA standards and now boasts the PGA’s endorsement, becoming PGA National Cyprus. An exposed, coastal track designed for the tourist trade with wide fairways and large, true bentgrass greens, we should see plenty of birdies once again this week.

3 of the par-5s measure between 536 to 556 yards with only the 627 yard 3rd presenting too much of a challenge to the longer hitters, and with 2 of the par-4s measuring around 360 yards with the option to make them driveable for all, attacking play is likely to be the order of the day with good weather forecast.

cyprus open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Cyprus Open, however as mentioned above, this is the first European Tour event being held at the venue: Current Form

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. Beautiful weather is expected for the 4 tournament days this week, with virtually unbroken sunshine and temperatures hitting the low 80s Fahrenheit each day. Winds will be light in the mornings before picking up to 10mph in the afternoons to keep the leaders honest over the weekend.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

With the additional events added to the schedule up to this point, we’ve generally been able to glean something from either very old events or results on the Senior Tour, however this week we have a truly blank canvas. This is the biggest sporting event of any description that Cyprus has hosted to date and we’re relying on specification only I’m afraid.

So what do we know? The course is coastal, and some players undoubtedly play some of their best golf with the sea in close proximity. With that, as is often the case, the layout is exposed and susceptible to the elements and the breeze will pick up a little in the afternoons to present a little more of a challenge.

Greens are relatively new, re-laid as part of the 2017 renovation here, and are USGA standard 007 Bentgrass. Large and forgiving in style to cater for the tourist trade primarily, these should produce a lot of birdies to those finding the surfaces with regularity.

At a touch under 7,000 yards for the par of 71, the course is set up for some low scoring and with 3 of the 4 par-5s in range for most of the field, plus 2 short par-4s to attack, the aggressive players will be licking their lips here this week.

My final selections are as follows:

Sami Valimaki 2pts EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The early withdrawal of Adri Arnaus on Monday has tightened up the prices for the leading players this week and leaves a gap between favourite Andy Sullivan and his closest challengers. The Englishman is worthy favourite as the highest-ranked player in the field and with a runaway victory to his name this side of lockdown, plus a 3rd place finish on his last start in a classy field at Wentworth, however at around 12/1 any value in his price departed weeks ago.

Marcus Kinkult was the closest for me of the market leaders given some strong recent finishes and coastal form to his name, and although another investment in Matthew Southgate was tempting, I’m going to pass on both and instead support the talented young Finn Sami Valimaki.

The 22 year-old broke our hearts earlier this year when he beat our man Brandon Stone in a play-off in Oman to secure his maiden European Tour title and that coastal form should hold up well on a test like this week’s. 4 wins on the Pro Golf Tour last year alone suggests that the Nokia man has only scraped the surface of what he can achieve at this level and further success will surely follow thick and fast.

After a stuttering start as Sami got himself in tune with life in the bubble following lockdown, his form has picked up once again with a 6th place finish at the Celtic Classic, 2nd at the Wales Open and 10th at Valderrama, all on debut don’t forget. Another impressive debut performance came on his last start at Wentworth where he finished in a tie for 13th, whilst leading the field for Greens in Regulation. The fact that he’s adapting so readily to the different demands of these established tracks is testament to his ability in my view, and this week’s task on what’s essentially a neutral venue for the whole field can only be a positive.

Aggressive from off the tee without losing too much accuracy, Valimaki has also impressed with the flat stick in 2020, ranking 1st in the field for SG Putting when winning in Oman and more recently 3rd on the same count on the bentgrass greens of Valderrama. Positive in every Strokes Gained category at Wentworth on his last appearance suggests that all aspects of his game are in good shape and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see him win here this week. RESULT: T6

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Joakim Lagergren 2pts EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Coastal golf appears to be the best fit for Joakim Lagergren and the Swede should enjoy the European Tour’s first visit to Cyprus.

3 wins on the Nordic Golf League and a win apiece on the Gecko Tour and Challenge Tour are all well and good, however the 28 year-old finally got his maiden European Tour victory 2 years ago and, quite predictably, it was by the coast at the Sicilian Open where he held off Mike Lorenzo-Vera in a play-off.

As so often happens when a player breaks through, the next few months were a struggle. 15 missed cuts from 23 starts tells its own story, however for the past 12 months or so he’s looked far more competitive and increasingly likely to add to his trophy cabinet before too long.

3rd at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links was Lagergren’s 3rd top-4 finish in that event and there’s further form in the vicinity of the coast in recent weeks with a 3rd place finish on the Algarve at the Portugal Masters.

Even inland in recent weeks, we’ve seen some decent efforts from the Stockholm man, fuelled by some long and fairly accurate driving and a warm putter. 24th at Valderrama and 32nd at Wentworth were both good efforts on courses that don’t play to Joakim’s strengths and both times he produced top-10 performances on their bentgrass greens. 5th overall at the Irish Open was another notable effort in recent weeks and overall I think there are far worse bets out there at this kind of price point given his fit for the course. RESULT: T41

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Sebastian Soderberg 1pt EW 90/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

At a slightly longer price than my leading pair, I’m also backing Sebastian Soderberg who’s shown enough signs of form since lockdown to warrant some support here.

Finishing a solitary place off the bottom at the St Jude in August wasn’t the Swede’s plan for his WGC debut I’m sure, however that effort’s sparked him into life on the European Tour and in truth he could easily have added to his breakthrough win at Crans-sur-Sierre last autumn.

10th at the Celtic Classic saw the 30 year-old sit in 3rd place heading into the final day and he improved on that the following week at the same venue, co-leading into the final day before finally succumbing on the 72nd hole as he tried to chase down Romain Langasque.

27th a couple of starts later in Portugal on a track that may prove to hold some correlation to this week doesn’t sound that interesting, however he opened with a round of 66 (5th after day 1) and closed with a round of 64 to suggest that his game was still pretty much there or thereabouts.

A withdrawal from the Irish Open followed as a precaution as one of his close contacts contracted Covid, however he bounced back with a 9th place finish in Scotland a fortnight ago with another strong finishing round, this time a 65. Of course, his final rounds efforts need to come when he’s in contention rather than improving a mid-division position, however positive vibes nevertheless and having already won on a short track in the Swiss Alps, perhaps this week’s setup will appeal to him.

Certainly we’ve seen him hitting a lot of greens of late, and with 25 birdies he was beaten by eventual winner Adrian Otaegui in terms of red numbers at Fairmont a fortnight ago. RESULT: T63

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Alexander Levy 1pt EW 110/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

On a seemingly flat track where low scoring is once again likely to be the order of the day, it would be remiss of me not to back Alex Levy who absolutely thrives on these setups when playing his best golf.

Of course, the reason that we’re getting a 3-figure price about the amiable Frenchman is that he’s not been playing his best golf of late as no top 10s for over a year at European Tour level illustrates, however there have been signs of late that perhaps the tide is turning and, if that’s the case, then perhaps we can cash in while he’s still at very backable odds.

To be fair to Alex, 2019 was a struggle as he tried to work through a back issue that prevented him from swinging at full speed and for a player who thrives off of aggressive swings, that’s far from ideal. A couple of cuts made following lockdown at the Hero Masters (6th to halfway) and at Valderrama which is about an as anti-Levy track as you’ll find, he then had an enforced break having contracted Covid-19.

A steady return to action and with his 30th birthday now behind him in August, we’ve started to see some signs of life. 48th at Wentworth doesn’t sounds much, however he was handy at the halfway point before shooting 77 on Saturday, and 16th on his last start at Fairmont St Andrews was his best finish for over 12 months as he started to look a little more like his former self.

I’d have been hard-pushed not to back him last week in Italy had he played, however with a week’s rest under his belt the wait may be worth it for us given he should like the attacking style of course here this week. 5 wins on the European Tour have generally come on more exposed, flat tracks with bentgrass-based putting surfaces and when he bounces back to fully contending form it will most likely be on a layout such as this week’s test. RESULT: MC

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Kristoffer Reitan 1pt EW 125/1 (5EW, 1/4) with Ladbrokes

Finally I’m going to take a chance on talented Norwegian youngster Kristoffer Reitan who may just take to this track like a duck to water.

At the age of 22, Kristoffer is seeking his first win as a professional having excelled on the amateur circuit, however his lack of silverware thus far has been more down to his rapid acceleration through the ranks rather than any lack of quality from what I can see.

At the end of 2018, he was the only amateur player to earn a full European Tour card through Q School and although his rookie season didn’t quite go to plan – ultimately finishing 141st – there were a few glimpses of light.

5th at the 2018 Super 6 tournament held just inland in Perth, Reitan led after the 1st round and was 2nd after 54 holes before the format switched to Match Play. Top 20 finishes followed at the Trophee Hassan II, Czech Masters and Open de France and although they weren’t enough for him to retain his card, they did nevertheless offer some hope for the future.

A start at the Scottish Championship a fortnight ago saw him sit 11th heading into the weekend following a second round 64 and he improved on that last week in Italy with his best career finish from an OWGR perspective, ending up in a tie for 5th place courtesy of a closing round of 65 which tied the best score of the day.

Long off the tee at 21st on Tour for Driving Distance for 2019 and top-6 on that count on his last 2 starts, Reitan is also a decent putter from what we’ve seen and falls into a similar bracket that we see from a lot of the aggressive younger players on the circuit. Strokes Gained positive in every category last week, given that he’s at no disadvantage this week in terms of course history, I’m happy to give him a chance at the price on offer. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:40GMT 26.10.20 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.