Paul Williams

Paul Williams' European Open Tips 2024

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An agonising week in Belgium with headline selection Thomas Pieters falling a shot short of forcing a play-off with Nacho Elvira, having all but reeled him in on Sunday. A birdie on the par-5 17th would have forced the issue – a hole he’d birdied every day up until that point – but sadly it wasn’t to be.

On to this week we go and the European Open returned to the schedule in 2015 after a 6-year break, having formed an important part of the European Tour up until 2009; the event’s resurrection saw a new early autumn slot alongside a new home in Germany, having previously been played in the UK and Ireland at such venues as the London Club, The K Club, Sunningdale and Walton Heath to name but a few.

Those historical results from 2009 and before are little more than interesting facts now though with the event having shifted to Germany; a change in scheduling in 2017 as well as a new track also makes the results from 2015 and 2016 less relevant too as we return to the Green Eagle complex on the outskirts of Hamburg for the seventh time for this year’s renewal, with the same early June spot in the schedule as the last three years.

Jordan Smith heads the betting once again this week at 20/1, seemingly unshakeable from the top of the market despite incoming form of 24/23/39/71 since the start of April. Rasmus Hojgaard returns to DP World Tour action this week at a similar price with defending champion Tom McKibbin a couple of points longer in places. Once again this looks to be a very open betting heat.

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Course Overview. Green Eagle Golf Courses is a collection of 42 holes spread across 3 courses in the ‘Lüneburger Heide’, a picturesque part of Germany on the outskirts of Hamburg.

The North Course is being used for this week’s event and the Michael Blesch design is a brute at 7,208 metres (7,882 yards) from its tips for its scorecard par of 73, however with 4 teeing areas on each of the holes there’s considerable flexibility as to how the course can be set up.

As you’d expect with a course of that length, the fairways are reasonably generous and the greens large and undulating so as to give players a chance of compiling some kind of score. Water is in play on all but one of the holes and an element of control is required to avoid paying the penalty for wild tee shots or approaches, however the reward for a safe navigation to the green is excellent quality putting surfaces.

Only 4 holes played under par 12 months ago, led by the 4th of 6 (six) par 5s on the course at the 15th which gave up 8 eagles and 146 birdies over the 4 rounds.

The par-5 11th and 18th both played marginally under par, as did the short par 4 7th; however they were undoubtedly the exceptions to the rule.

european open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s European Open. Please note, the 2017-2019 and 2021-2023 renewals only were held at this venue. Current Form | Event Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats | SG Stats.

Event Winners. 2023: Tom McKibbin, 125/1; 2022. Kalle Samooja. 200/1; 2021, Marcus Armitage, 80/1; 2019, Paul Casey 7/1; 2018: Richard McEvoy 125/1; 2017: Jordan Smith 40/1; 2016: Alex Levy 45/1; 2015: Thongchai Jaidee 55/1.

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 Hamburg is here.

Sunshine and showers are the order of the day on Thursday after rain on Tuesday and Wednesday softens the course. Further rain is expected on Friday before conditions begin to improve over the weekend, with Sunday expected to be both dry and a little warmer at around 70 Fahrenheit. Winds will be generally light with some slightly stronger gusts on Saturday expected at the time of writing.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Looking back to the 6 events held here at Green Eagle, the eventual winners produced key stats as follows:

  • 2023, Tom McKibbin (-9). 299 yards (16th), 67.3 % fairways (9th), 70.9% greens in regulation (6th), 66.7% Scrambling (6th), 1.84 putts per GIR (58th)
  • 2022, Kalle Samooja (-6). 296 yards (13th), 61.5% fairways (33rd), 72.2% greens in regulation (2nd), 60.0% Scrambling (22nd), 1.79 putts per GIR (33rd)
  • 2021, Marcus Armitage (-8, 54 holes). 276 yards (41st), 61.5% fairways (34th), 63.0% greens in regulation (38th), 70.0% Scrambling (6th), 1.68 putts per GIR (7th)
  • 2019, Paul Casey (-14). 293 yards (12th), 69.2% fairways (8th), 81.9% greens in regulation (2nd), 46.2% Scrambling (49th), 1.76 putts per GIR (24th)
  • 2018, Richard McEvoy (-11). 276 yards (62nd), 67.3% fairways (6th), 72.2% greens in regulation (8th), 55% Scrambling (8th), 1.67 putts per GIR (8th)
  • 2017, Jordan Smith (-13). 296 yards (3rd), 71.2% fairways (7th), 73.6% greens in regulation (15th), 63.2% Scrambling (7th), 1.74 putts per GIR (16th)

The course played soft in 2017 following a lot of wet weather which effectively lengthened and widened the track, however to compensate the organisers moved a number of tee boxes forward to keep it relatively fair and Jordan Smith, who ranked 3rd for Driving Distance on the week, ultimately prevailed in a play-off against Alex Levy.

In 2018 it was much drier which brought some of the shorter hitters into the equation with no (recorded) player finishing inside the top 5 ranking in the top-50 for Driving Distance, including eventual winner Richard McEvoy who averaged a full 20 yards less off the tee than Smith the year before.

Paul Casey’s win in 2019 came in mixed conditions with temperatures struggling to hit the mid-60s Fahrenheit, and although the average driving distance of the top-5 finishers increased over the years before, it still wasn’t an out-and-out slugfest. We still saw, however, the kind of tee-to-green control that both of our winners here had demonstrated to that point, with each of the top 5 finishers ranking inside the 17 most accurate drivers on the week.

The 2021 win for Marcus Armitage came in dry and firm conditions with the event reduced to a 54-hole Saturday to Monday affair due to Covid. Despite the conditions, eventual winner Marcus Armitage only averaged 276 off the tee and the Englishman prevailed with an excellent performance on and around the greens which contrasts with his normally dependable tee-to-green game.

2022’s win for Kalle Samooja came at the highest winning score we’ve seen so far at just 6-under through 72 holes. Pre-event rain made the course play extremely long, which combined with a little wind made the test tougher than ever. In the end a final round 64 – which was 3 strokes better than anyone else could muster all week – saw the Finn scythe his way through the field for a maiden DP World Tour title.

And finally last year’s breakthrough win for Tom McKibbin came in largely dry conditions, although that didn’t help scoring massively and the Northern Irishman’s 9-under total was good enough to take the title.

Much of the length of this track comes from the par-5s; however that’s not to say that they’re all a pushover. Looking at 2019, Matthias Schwab (2nd) and Niklas Lemke (9th) co-led the field for par-5 scoring at -10; despite there being 20 looks at the par-5s, these were the best scores on display on the week on the long holes. Similarly in 2022 Samooja was just -7 for the par-5s over 4 days and McKibbin -9 12 months ago, so those who rely solely on that part of their game to get in contention may not have it all their own way here, despite the high number of par-5s on the card.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, rarely do we see such symmetry with SG Tee to Green featuring heavily for almost all of the contenders over the past 3 seasons, including the three eventual winners:

  • 2023, Tom McKibbin: T: 4th; A: 8th; T2G: 6th; ATG: 43rd; P: 20th
  • 2022, Kalle Samooja: T: 11th; A: 2nd; T2G: 1st; ATG: 3rd; P: 66th
  • 2021, Marcus Armitage: T: 40th; A: 11th; T2G: 8th; ATG: 3rd; P: 7th

In addition to McKibbin, Samooja and Armitage, Julien Guerrier, Max Kieffer and Marcel Siem, who all tied for 2nd last year, ranked 5th, 1st and 2nd for SG Tee to Green respectively. Richard Armitage and Victor Perez, who tied third in 2022, ranked 4th and 2nd for SG Tee to Green; similarly Thomas Detry, Edoardo Molinari, Matthew Southgate and Darius van Driel ranked 3rd, 1st, 6th and 11th on the same count the year before.

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

Incoming Form: Before the venue switched to Green Eagle GC in 2017, the previous two winners, Thongchai Jaidee and Alex Levy, had both recorded top-7 finishes on their previous start.

With the scheduling for the next 2 years falling immediately after The Open, Jordan Smith hadn’t played at that Major, however prior to that he’d recorded 7 straight cuts made without finishing any better than 20th at the Irish Open, whereas Richard McEvoy had won the week before on the Challenge Tour’s Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.

This event was played in early September in 2019 and Paul Casey triumphed having produced the 3rd-best 72-hole total at East Lake for the PGA Tour’s finale, whereas the 2021 schedule saw the event in an early June position and Marcus Armitage won having finished 8th on his last start in Denmark the week before.

Kalle Samooja’s victory 2 years ago in the same spot on the calendar to this year came off the back of three straight missed cuts, however he had shown some form earlier in the year, eventually finishing 5th at the Qatar Masters. Tom McKibbin’s win 12 months ago came after his form had picked up a little the week before in Holland, recording a 21st place finish after 3 straight weekends off:

  • 2023, Tom McKibbin: MC/36/12/MC/25/18/71/MC/MC/MC/21
  • 2022, Kalle Samooja: 8/MC/12/MC/MC/74/60/5/38/MC/MC/MC
  • 2021, Marcus Armitage: 6/45/61/54/47/MC/10/4/45/MC/MC/8
  • 2019, Paul Casey: 9/MC/4/29/WD/21/5/57/27/13/24/3
  • 2018, Richard McEvoy: MC/65/MC/MC/34/MC/15/MC/26/29/33/1
  • 2017, Jordan Smith: 29/17/8/14/MC/48/40/21/44/30/20/58
  • 2016, Alexander Levy: 2/63/14/4/28/34/WD/56/73/18/34/7
  • 2015, Thongchai Jaidee: 2/10/MC/MC/11/10/31/65/50/57/MC/5

Course Form: In terms of course form, Paul Casey had finished 7th in 2018 before picking up the title a year later, whereas Richard McEvoy finished 28th on debut in 2017 where he led after the first round. Jordan Smith was making his competitive course debut in 2017, as were the rest of the field.

More recently Marcus Armitage had missed the cut in 2017, following a first round 73 with an 81 which was the worst round of the day; Kalle Samooja had finished 18th on his previous attempt, however last year’s winner Tom McKibbin was making his course debut:

  • 2023, Tom McKibbin: Debut
  • 2022, Kalle Samooja: MC/18
  • 2021, Marcus Armitage: MC
  • 2019, Paul Casey: 7
  • 2018, Richard McEvoy: 28
  • 2017, Jordan Smith: Debut

Boiling it all down, this is a long, challenging course that presents scoring opportunities to aggressive players, but plotters can equally contend when it’s dry. Despite having 6 par-5s and a couple of short par-4s, this course isn’t a birdie-fest with -14, -13, -11, -8 (54 holes),-6 and -9 winning scores telling us that players will need to pick and choose when to attack this track.

My Final European Open Tips Are As Follows:

Matthew Jordan 1.5pts EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Proof, if ever it was needed, that favourites on the DP World Tour often need a wide berth was once again evident last week at the Soudal Open, and a very similar looking top of the market – with the exception of Thomas Pieters – is presented to us this week.

Pieters was the only one of the 4 players at the very top of last week’s market to stand a real chance of winning in Belgium, eventually finishing in a tie for 2nd at around the 20/1 mark. Adrian Otaegui finished 34th, Jordan Smith 71st and Yannik Paul missed the cut from a similar price point and all 3 will give it another shot here this week, although they won’t be carrying my money.

Rasmus Hojgaard, Keita Nakajima and Tom McKibbin join the party this week with the latter defending his maiden title that he won here 12 months ago and that trio hold more appeal than the other three, however my preference is to start this week’s team further down the field with a resurgent Matthew Jordan.

After a positive early part to the season that saw the Englishman finish 16th in Bahrain, 4th in Kenya and 13th in India, his form seemingly vanished when the Tour headed east, missing the cut at both the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan and also the week after in China. Scratch a little beneath the surface though and last week’s 70/1 price point was probably a little bit of an overreaction given that Jordan sat 6th after the first round in Japan and missed the cut on the number the week after.

No massive surprise then that the 28 year-old opened with a 64 last week and eventually finished in a tie for 5th, despite Rinkven International playing far less to his strengths than this week potentially does.

A bogey-free 65 to close on Sunday saw Matthew miss just 1 green in regulation – a statistic that he led overall for the week at a massive 88.9% – and in Marcus Armitage and Tom McKibbin we have evidence that coming into this event whilst hitting lots of greens is no bad thing as the pair ranked 1st and 6th for GIR the week prior to their respective wins.

22nd here last year came at a time when his irons were nowhere near the level we saw last week, and given that Green Eagle winners Smith, McEvoy, Armitage, Samooja and McKibbin all got their maiden victory here, perhaps Jordan will be adding his name to that list this time around at a very backable price. Result: T13

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Guido Migliozzi 1.5pts EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

If headline selection Matthew Jordan impressed statistically last week, then so did Guido Migliozzi and he demands to be backed at a similar point in the betting market.

Now the prospect of rain both before and during the event threatens to make an already brutally long course even longer, assuming it’s played from or around its tips. Ultimately the extra few yards that Jordan possesses from off the tee (312 yards average, 23rd on Tour for the season) gets him top billing, but Guido is no slouch from off the tee is on a par give or take with previous course winners Jordan Smith, Marcus Armitage and Kalle Samooja at around a 300 yard average.

24th last week in Belgium came after narrowly missing out on a US Open spot at Monday qualifying at Walton Heath, with the Italian’s 6-under second round of 66 just a couple of shots too many in the end. 1st for SG Approach and 5th for SG Tee to Green are encouragement enough for me to get involved this week on a course that he finished 7th on back in 2019, despite missing the cut twice since.

Of course what Migliozzi does have over Jordan is winning experience at this level with 3 successes in total at the 2019 Magical Kenya Open, Belgian Knockout and the 2022 Open de France. That most recent win is interesting given the difficulty of Le Golf National when considering that this week’s test is, well, pretty testing; plus he’d previously lost out to Richard Bland at The Belfry the year before on what is another tricky assignment Result: T8

2nd at the China Open before the Tour took a break for the US PGA Championship is further evidence that the 27 year-old is close to another win and it could come as soon as this week in my view.

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Brandon Stone 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Despite finishing down the field in 57th place last week in Belgium which severely hampered his final statistics on the week, I think there’s enough to suggest that Brandon Stone is playing good enough golf to contend here in Germany this week if he can string 4 decent rounds together.

An opening round of 73 had the South African staring at a missed cut in Antwerp before he recovered with a bogey-free 65 to comfortably get through to the weekend.74 on Saturday was followed by a much more positive 66 and gives us just enough hope that he can feature here should his good rounds outweigh his bad.

It was a similar story in China on his previous outing with an opening round of 74 being followed by a pair of 64s in that 54-hole affair, and statistically he was much more the Brandon Stone we’d expect when playing well, ranking 13th for SG Approach, 11th for SG Off the Tee and 6th for SG Tee to Green.

Power from off the tee has always been one of the 31 year-old’s key assets – indeed he ranks inside the top 30 on Tour for Driving Distance at just over 310 yards average – and it’s of little surprise that he tends to perform best on drivers’ tracks, a season-best finish of 4th at Al Hamra back in January being a case in point.

With three wins at this level over the years – including a Rolex Series success at Gullane back in 2018 – Stone is undoubtedly more decorated than many of his opponents this week, and with a 5th place finish here in 2022 a strong piece of course form, perhaps he can feature here again two years later. Result: MC

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Angel Hidalgo Portillo 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally I’ll take a chance that there’s more Spanish success this week after Nacho Elvira’s win in Belgium on Sunday, and perhaps Angel Hidalgo can follow in the footsteps of 5 of our 6 winners here at Green Eagle and capture his maiden Tour title.

Twice a winner on the Alps Tour and also a winner on the Challenge tour back in 2021, that highest-profile success came on German soil at the interestingly titled Big Green Egg German Challenge on a challenging course where 12-under was good enough to take the title.

Life on the DP World Tour hasn’t always been straightforward since – indeed at 108th on the points list last season he’d have spent much of the autumn looking over his shoulder. 2024 seems much brighter though and best finishes of 9th in Ras al Khaimah and 5th at the Jonsson Workwear Open have given the 26 year-old a much stronger platform to build on as we head into the summer.

Reasonably long at 301 yards average from off the tee and pretty straight at 25th on Tour for fairways found, the Marbella man has the raw credentials from off the tee to attack this course while keeping himself relatively clear of the worst of the trouble. 17th on Tour for SG Off the Tee puts that assertion into context, and he led the field on that count last week at the Soudal Open on his way to a solid 22nd place finish.

8th for SG Tee to Green last week sits nicely with recent winners here at Green Eagle and he could push on and threaten an each-way place having recorded a 33rd place finish here last year on course debut. Result: 67th

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:33BST 27.5.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.