Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Cyprus Showdown Tips 2020

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I’ll deal with Sami Valimaki’s effort last week further down my preview, however for now let’s get straight to the task at hand as we stay in Cyprus for another week. The course is identical to last week however the format isn’t, so let’s get this out of the way before we go any further.

Event Format. For the first 2 days this week it will be as if nothing has changed. 105 players will compete in 36 holes of regular strokeplay competition with a regular leaderboard.

After 36 holes it all changes though, with a cut being made and the top 32 players and ties making it through to the weekend. All scores are reset at this point so there’s absolutely no advantage to having been top of the leaderboard or in a tie for 32nd place.

After Saturday’s round there’ll be another cut, this time to the top 16 players and ties from Saturday’s scores only. These 16 players will then play on Sunday with their scores again reset, meaning that it is indeed a single round shootout to see who will win the title, with in effect a 16-way tie for the lead going into the final day.

The format of this week’s event has created an odd-looking outright market, with the bookmakers clearly unsure exactly how to price it up. The in-play markets will be less volatile over the first 2 days for those players who are comfortably inside the top-32, before the weekend’s fun and games as the scores are reset each day. Sunday, in contrast, will be extremely volatile from a betting perspective.

As we’ve seen in the past with hybrid tournaments such as the World Super 6 and Belgian Knockout, there are different ways to play these events from a betting perspective with both outright market and 36-hole leader markets available here, despite this week being strokeplay and not matchplay like those two events mentioned. Given the vagaries of the outright market, firms are going from anything up to 30/1 the field this week, with Thomas Detry heading the list with most bookmakers.

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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 and 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 again this week.

cyprus

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Cyprus Open, however as mentioned above, last week was the first European Tour event 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. Not quite the forecast we saw last week, however not far off. Thursday and Friday will be warm, dry and sunny with temperatures nudging 80 Fahrenheit, before the weekend brings the chance of afternoon thunderstorms with winds picking up later in the day to 10-15 mph.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Last week’s event gave us our first look at the course and whilst there were some challenging elements to the track, 20-under was reached by 2 players and red numbers were definitely the order of the day. Each of the top-5 finishers scored 11-under or better on the 16 par-5s and 49 eagles were made on the 6th, 10th and 18th holes combined, with only the longer 3rd hole offering much defence in that respect.

The bulk of the field hit between 40-60% of fairways, however greens weren’t difficult to hit from there with 80% GIR or higher commonplace amongst the higher finishers. Callum Shinkwin ultimately putted his way to success on Sunday, ranking 2nd overall for putts per GIR and 3rd for SG Putting on the week.

As we saw last week, 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 once again this week.

In events such as the World Super 6 and Belgian Knockout, I’ve settled previously on a strategy of backing a smaller pool of players in both the 36-hole and outright markets to save disappointment if a selection wins one and not the other, and I’ll adopt the same approach again here this week.

My final selections are as follows:

Jason Scrivener 1pt EW 50/1 (Outright – 5EW, 1/4) with bet365
Jason Scrivener 1pt EW 45/1 (36 Hole Leader – 6EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Where do we start this week? The outright market has a very different look and feel to a normal event with some bookmakers starting at 30/1 with little variance between the market leaders and the next two dozen or so players.

Of course, this makes a level of sense when you consider the format here. With the top 32 players (and ties) making it through to Saturday having their scores reset, we’re going to see a Saturday market with far less difference between the favourite and the outsiders. Even if someone’s 5 shots ahead after 36 holes, other than signalling to the world that he’s playing some nice golf, he’ll still start level with the rest of the field and his odds won’t be as short as they would ordinarily be. Rinse and repeat on Sunday, however with half as many players.

First and foremost then, we need to get our team through to Sunday to stand a chance of the outright prize, or to be right up with the pace after Friday to reward us in the 36-hole leader market. A poor round won’t be tolerated in this format and over the weekend the pressure to keep pedal to metal ratchets up a notch or three.

Of course, last week gives us the biggest clue possible as to who might go well here on the same track. Tee boxes will likely move around a little, however the format is the main change here this week with similar conditions expected to last week, save for the outside chance of a thunderstorm over the weekend.

There were plenty of eye-catchers last week who made an appearance at the top end of the leaderboard at one point or another, however my preference goes to Jason Scrivener who recovered from a disastrous double bogey on his first hole on Thursday to eventually finish in a tie for 6th.

The Australian, who was born in South Africa, improved throughout the week to eventually card 23 birdies – 13 of which were on the par 5s – and a closing round of 64 was only beaten by eventual winner Callum Shinkwin, courtesy of that eagle on the 72nd hole.

80.6% greens in regulation was the catalyst for the improvement in results last week  compared to his previous 3 starts where he’d missed the cut, however prior to that we saw top-10 finishes at the Portugal Masters and Wales Open to suggest that his improvement shouldn’t have been totally unexpected. 25th at the Irish Open also interests as he led the field for putting that week and given the need for a compliant putter this coming weekend, that’s an encouraging sign.

When push comes to shove this weekend, final round scoring is going to be the deciding factor and with his last 4 Sundays played reading 68/68/65/64, the 31 year-old has got to fancy his chances of grabbing his maiden European Tour title here this week if he can navigate safely through to the final showdown. RESULT: WD

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Sami Valimaki 1pt EW 35/1 (Outright – 5EW, 1/4) with bet365
Sami Valimaki 1pt EW 30/1 (36 Hole Leader – 6EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Having gone all round the houses this week trying to find a reason not driven by emotion to exclude Sami Valimaki from my team, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and supported him here despite letting us and half of the golf betting world down last week.

The justification is much the same as last week so I won’t repeat myself here, suffice it to say that he’s won on a comparable course in Oman and has shown more than enough form since lockdown eased to suggest that he’s willing and able to add to his CV and that a 6th professional success could be coming very soon.

Of course, that next win could and perhaps should have come last week. 3 ahead of the field at one point on Friday, it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that he put daylight between himself and the field with a 2-shot lead with just 7 holes to play and trading odds-on at the time.

Having played his first 12 holes in 6-under par, what followed was one of those frustrations of golf betting as the 22 year-old bogeyed 3 holes between the 13th and 16th, and by the time he stood on the 17th tee his winning chance was effectively gone given Callum Shinkwin’s birdie-eagle finish.

Annoying? Yes. Costly? Yes. Does that mean he can’t bounce back immediately this week? Absolutely not.

Having led the field for GIR at Wentworth on his previous start, it was Sami’s putter that did the bulk of the work last week, ranking 5th for both putting average and Strokes Gained Putting on the week. 25 birdies was as good as we saw from anyone in the field, notwithstanding that eventual winner Shinkwin added 2 eagles to the same tally, and if he can shake off his own personal disappointment then he could quickly make amends this week.

Valimaki’s win in Oman followed a 7th place finish on his previous start and he nearly backed up a 6th place finish at the Celtic Classic when finishing runner-up to Romain Langasque on the same track the following week. Let’s hope can go one better here this week. RESULT: 18th, 5th after 36 holes.

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Jeff Winther 1pt EW 80/1 (Outright – 5EW, 1/4) with bet365
Jeff Winther 1pt EW 70/1 (36 Hole Leader – 6EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Another player who caught the eye last week was Jeff Winther and in these post-lockdown times where Tour maidens and journeymen are winning titles on spectator-less courses, he’s another who could benefit from the strange times that we find ourselves in at present.

Putting was the statistic that really jumped off the page about the Dane last week, leading as he did for Putts per GIR on this layout at an average of just 1.59. Not that we should be massively surprised as the 32 year-old is very capable with the flat stick when playing well – indeed that was the third time he’d led the field on that count on the European Tour – and he’d show some signs of life on the greens when finishing in a tie for 36th at the Scottish Open at the start of last month.

2nd at the 2016 Joburg Open before finishing 4th at Spanish Open last October tells us that he can get in the mix at lower-level European Tour events and 3rd at the Qatar Masters before lockdown also interests given that he finished alongside Kalle Samooja and a shot behind David Drysdale that week, both of whom were prominent performers here at Aphrodite Hills last week.

14th overall last week was probably a disappointment overall, as was his finish at Renaissance Club, as his final round efforts saw him move backwards from 7th and 10th place positions respectively, however there are enough signs of Sunday scoring ability to put these to one side, most notably 66 at the British Masters following lockdown and 63 at the aforementioned Spanish Open last year.

Given the format we’re playing this week, the 36-hole market may prove to be the better option for Jeff when we conduct the post-mortem on Sunday evening. If that’s to be the case then first round leader and 3rd after 36 holes at the 2018 Belgian Knockout in another quirky format is enough to encourage me to back Winther in both markets just in case. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 07:00 GMT 3.11.20 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.