Paul Williams

Paul Williams' ISPS Championship In Spain Tips 2022

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The DP World Tour springs back to life this week after a break either side of The Masters, as we head to Spain for the first of a pair of new events in the region with the Catalunya Championship following on next week, before we head back to the Belfry for the British Masters.

A full field of 156 tee it up for this week’s ISPS Handa Championship in Spain, headlined by joint favourites Bernd Wiesberger and Rasmus Hojgaard at around the 18/1 mark. Adri Arnaus, Pablo Larrazabal, Nicolai Hojgaard and Ryan Fox follow in the betting in what’s a fairly decent quality field for a regular $2m DP World Tour event if truth be told.

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Course Overview. Infinitum Lakes, alongside Infinitum Hills, makes up the resort formerly known as Lumine and both courses are familiar in some shape or form to many of those in this week’s field, having hosted Q-School Stage 2, Q-School Final Stage, the 2014 Challenge de Catalunya and the Lumine Lakes and Hills Opens on the Nordic circuit over the past few years.

Some of these events contained a combination of both courses so this week’s history stats need to be considered accordingly,  however in lieu of any more tangible data it does give us something to work with at least.

The Lakes course will take centre stage this week, hosting all 4 rounds, and this Greg Norman design looks a picture. Built around the Sequia Major wetlands and sitting just off the Balearic coastline, this exposed 6,963 yard, Par 70 features typically extensive Norman-style bunkering and water in play on 14 of the 18 holes.

Previously played as a par 71, the long 2nd hole has been converted into a 518-yard Par 4 for this week’s event, which leaves just 2 remaining long holes on the 16th and 18th, so players will need to find other ways to compile a score this week than just overpowering the Par 5s.

isps championship tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s ISPS Championship in Spain, however as this is the inaugural event, course form comes from either Q-School, the Challenge Tour or the Nordic Golf League: Current Form | First Round Leader Stats | Course Stats | Combined Stats.

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.

Wind and rain on Wednesday should have all but pushed through the area by the time we start on Thursday, however that should leave a soft course for the players to attack as the event starts. The wind may well remain blustery on Thursday at times before dropping away, save for the chance of a little more wet and breezy weather late on Saturday. Temperatures will peak around the mid-60s Fahrenheit in the afternoons.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

While there are no skill stats to study from the various events held here over the past few years, we can still glean a little from those results to give us a clue as to how this week may unfold.

Most of the events that we have records for contain a mix of rounds from the Lakes and Hills course which sit next to each other here by the coast, however the scoring has rarely got out of hand – and that’s with the Lakes having played as a par 71 in the past. Soft conditions to start the event may well negate the move to change the Par-5 2nd to a long Par-4, however I’d still expect a winning score in the mid-teens rather than deep into the 20s-under par.

Exposed and flat with water in play on the majority of holes, those who are overly flagrant off the tee or with their approaches will be punished, yet with relatively wide fairways and a card that measures under 7,000 yards, driver isn’t likely to be the key club this week. Instead safe navigation to the fairway from off the tee to set up scoring chances with short irons will likely be the order of the day.

Despite there only being two Par-5s on the card now, there are four sub-400 yard Par-4s for the players to attack and this sets up well for some interesting risk/reward decisions.

Ultimately I’m looking for players who are more adept at managing their way around shorter layouts that require a little more thought and strategy. Solid approach play stats and a positive Greg Norman record are also plus points in my view.

My selections are as follows:

Rasmus Hojgaard 2.5pts EW 18/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Getting the obvious out of the way nice and early, I can see no logical reason to oppose Rasmus Hojgaard here this week in Spain.

The other two at the very top of the market have solid credentials this week: Bernd Wiesberger is an 8-time winner on the DP World Tour, 2 of which were at Rolex Series level and a rung or two above this week’s test; Adri Arnaus may not be able to boast the same silverware of course, however 4 top-5 finishes in his last 5 starts confirms that he’s still knocking very loudly on the door for that first win.

For me though, Hojgaard holds all the cards here this week. What Bernd Wiesberger lacks in current form, Rasmus makes up for with finishes of 6th and 18th on the PGA Tour on his last two starts at the Corales Championship and Texas Open respectively. What Adri Arnaus lacks in victories, Rasmus makes up for having recorded 3 wins on Tour before his 21st birthday, which was last month.

6th here at the Lumine Lakes Open on the Nordic Golf League in 2019 and 5th later that year at the Q-School Final, closing with a pair of 66s on the Lakes Course, suggests he enjoys the course and given what we’ve seen from his 3 career wins so far, adding another title here wouldn’t be remotely out of place.

The Dane’s breakthrough win came by the coast at the Mauritius Open and he backed that up with wins at The Belfry, which features water on half of the holes, and most recently at the sub-7,000 yard layout at Crans-sur-Sierre. With his twin Nicolai holding bragging rights in terms of Driving Distance, Rasmus is more suited to tracks that require a little more strategy and this week sets up nicely for the 21 year-old. RESULT: T69

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Hurly Long 1pt EW 100/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I backed Hurly Long as recently as the Steyn City Championship last month to no avail, however I’m happy to stick with him this week after he’s had time for a little rest and recuperation after an impressive start to 2022.

Finishes of 18th and 3rd at the Ras al Khaimah double-header, followed up with a runner-up finish in Kenya, suggests that the door will open sooner rather than later for the talented German. 21st the week I backed him was solid if unspectacular as the putter dropped off a little from the highs of the previous weeks, however hitting over 80% of fairways was a positive on the wider dimensions there and if he can avoid anything too destructive from off the tee this week then he should enjoy the Lakes course.

29th here at Q-School in 2019 is handy experience for the 26 year-old, and with rounds of 65 and 67 on the Lakes in rounds 1 and 4, he was one of the top performers before the cut was made when it came to this track in particular. Performing in the vicinity of the sea shouldn’t surprise though – after all, he shot 61 as an amateur at Pebble Beach – and I suspect we’ll continue to see contending performances on wider, exposed layouts as his career progresses.

With 12 of the 18 holes classed as Par-4s this week, the fact that Long sits 12th for the season so far in terms of Par-4 Scoring is positive and I can see him having a big week. RESULT: MC

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Sami Valimaki 1pt EW 150/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

Another player I’ve backed recently and am happy to support once again is Sami Valimaki.

40th at the Qatar Masters following his 16th place finish at the Steyn City Championship wasn’t what I quite had in mind as he trod water all week, however his approach play took another step forward – 19th in the field was his best ranking in that respect for well over a year – and he seemed content enough on Social Media that progress was continuing to be made.

A 15-under total here at Q-School in 2019 was good for a tie for 8th that week, the highlight of which was a 4th round 65 here with 7 birdies and a single bogey, and given his record on Greg Norman designs, another bold showing here this week wouldn’t surprise me at all. 5th at the Norman-designed Earth Course at the end of 2020 was his last top-10 finish on Tour, however his solitary victory to date was on another Norman track at Al Mouj in Oman, when he broke our heart by beating Brandon Stone in a play-off. RESULT: MC

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Lukas Nemecz 1pt EW 125/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

With Bernd Wiesberger taking the plaudits in recent times when it comes to Austrian golf, it’s easy to forget his compatriot Lukas Nemecz who deserves more than an honourable mention here this week.

3 wins on the Alps Tour between 2017 and 2020 was followed by 3 runner-up finishes on the Challenge Tour last year, and the 31 year-old earned his stab at the upper tier this year by virtue of his eventual ranking on the Race to Mallorca.

From the relatively few starts he’s made on the DP World Tour thus far, there’s been plenty to like. 26th for Driving Accuracy for the season is positive if he’s going to keep himself out of the water this week, and 28th for SG Approach is also encouraging if he’s going to take advantage of some of those fairways he finds. 3rd at the Ras al Khaimah Championship is his best result at the upper tier to date, however he impressed again on his last start when sitting in 6th place heading into the weekend in Qatar before fading to 27th.

Success last week back home at the Audi Circuit with rounds of 66, 63, 69 and 65 won’t appear on his OWGR record, but suffice it to say that he’s kept himself active since the last DP World Tour event. With a 5th place finish here at Stage 2 Q-School in 2015 to provide positive vibes, perhaps he can push on again here this week. RESULT: T15

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Alejandro Canizares 0.5pt EW 250/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Finally I’ll have a speculative punt on Spaniard Alejandro Canizares who might just surprise on home soil at a huge price.

Given prior Q-School finishes here at Infinitum of 1st in 2018 and 3rd in 2019, the only explanation for such a big price is recent form – and a cursory glance at his 2022 outings confirms suspicions. Finishes of 57th and 60th in South Africa last month rate as the 39 year-old’s best efforts this term, yet there’s just enough in those 2 outings to give us a little hope that he’s playing better than his results suggest. 66 to start at the MyGolfLife Open followed by a 3rd round 67 is acceptable enough, and he went a step further the following week in Steyn City when he produced a 2nd round 65. Both were on long, altitude courses and I suspect that this shorter affair should suit better.

Despite his relatively poor start to the 2021/22 campaign, Madrid-born Canizares still ranks inside the top third of Tour players for SG Approach, and given his positive record on home soil – which includes 3 runner-up finishes over the years – he could outperform expectations here this week. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:50BST 18.4.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.