Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Mallorca Golf Open Tips

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Matt Fitzpatrick held firm at Valderrama on Sunday while his nearest challengers faltered, meaning that the Englishman ran out a 3-shot winner to capture his 7th European Tour title at around 12/1. None of the trio of contenders that I backed could push on over the weekend, with Andrew Johnston the closest of the bunch finishing 2 shots outside of the each-way places.

We complete our 3-week Spanish Swing with a trip to Mallorca (Majorca) in the Mediterranean, a popular destination for British holidaymakers for many a year with its sun, sea, sand and sangria. Golf Santa Ponsa is our venue which sits on the south-western end of the Island and just inland from views over the sea towards the party island of Ibiza.

Perhaps a few of the early field haven’t made it as far as the golf course itself, or perhaps the trials and tribulations of 4 tough days at Valderrama have taken their toll, however the omission of players such as Callum Shinkwin, Fabrizio Zanotti, Joakim Lagergren, Scott Jamieson and Santiago Tarrio, who would have been amongst the highest ranked of the attendees, has made an already weak affair that little bit weaker still.

Thomas Pieters and Beef Johnston are virtual joint-favourites at the time of writing at around 18/1, with Laurie Canter, John Catlin, Sam Horsfield and Adri Arnaus following just behind at between 20/1 to 22/1 in what is a 120-man field.

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Course Overview. As we’ve become accustomed to, course information from the European Tour is sparse if we’re bring polite. Opened in 1977, the layout is listed as 6,543 yards (7,156 yards) for its par of 72, although as ever we wait with baited breath to see if there are any unannounced alterations to the length or par before play starts on Thursday.

Slightly inland although close enough to the sea to tentatively classify it as coastal, the course features generous enough fairways flanked with olive, palm and almond trees although nothing like as claustrophobically so as last week at Valderrama. Classical in style, the dog-legs and water hazards will encourage an element of strategy with the main test of the course likely to be on and around the greens.

The course has hosted 6 European Tour events in the past, the most recent of which was the Turespana Masters won by Miguel Angel Jimenez with a 9-under total – final leaderboard is here.

The Mechanic’s 279 total wasn’t out of line with the 4 previous winning totals of between 277 (-11) and 282 (-6), with Seve’s win in 1988 at -16 the only outlier, although he did win by 6 clear strokes. Perhaps this gives us the biggest clue that this course is, or at least was back in the day, a fairly stiff challenge despite being relatively short and a par 72.

Tournament Stats. With no history this century from this European Tour events held on this course, it’s current form stats only this week: 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 Mallorca is here.

Largely dry and sunny conditions are expected with temperatures reaching the mid-70s Fahrenheit in the afternoons. A weak front pushing through overnight on Thursday into Friday may introduce a little more in the way of breeze and light rain, however for the most part winds should be fairly light.

With so little to work from this week, we’re going to have to take a flyer on many aspects of how this week will unfold.

Just inland and with enough of a classical style to make players think about strategy rather than just pure bomb-and-gouge, it will be fascinating to see how the course holds up versus the modern-day golfer having presented a firm test when it was used in the past. A fairly placid forecast may also help scoring, however with Pula Golf Resort on the other side of the island having also been used on the European Tour in the past and also having presented a fair challenge, I suspect this won’t be a complete pushover.

Anecdotal feedback from the course is that the greens aren’t in the greatest of condition so it will interesting to see how they stand up this week, and in that respect perhaps the better putters may end up a little frustrated. We shall see.

My selections are as follows:

John Catlin 2pts EW 25/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

Although the results from European Tour events held here are from the dim and distant past, winning scores of between 6- and 9- under par with the exception of Seve’s 6-shot romp in 1988, would suggest that the track isn’t a pushover. Now I’m not suggesting the kind of brutality that we saw last week at Valderrama, however it was interesting to see that when conditions eased up just a tad last week, John Catlin really got moving.

69/67 over the weekend tied the best aggregate score of the final 2 rounds and catapulted the American up to a tie for 11th having made the cut on the number, and he can take that positive momentum into this week’s task as he looks to win his 4th European Tour title in a little over a year.

6th for SG Off the Tee, 9th for SG Tee to Green and 11th for SG Approach are the kind of stats that we’ve become accustomed to with the metronomic 30 year-old, however it’s the less tangible improvement with the putter that we saw over the weekend that I’m more interested in. Strokes Gained negative for putting on his previous 5 starts, after another slow start with the flat stick last week he finally found some putting form, ranking 21st then 10th for putting average over the weekend and pulling himself very close to parity from a SG Putting perspective.

Alongside his win at Valderrama last year and 5th at the Tenerife Open in May, last week’s effort adds to an increasingly impressive record on Spanish soil and further success isn’t out of the question here for a proven winner in what is a weak field.5 of his 7 career wins on the European or Asian Tours have come between 10- and 16-under and given the placid forecast on a layout that otherwise does ask a few questions, this type of task would appear to be right in his comfort zone. RESULT: T20

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Ryan Fox 1.5pts EW 33/1 (5EW, 1/4) with 888Sport

One of the more eye-catching performances at Valderrama last week on a course that’s almost the polar opposite of his comfort zone was the 4th place finish of Ryan Fox and that interests me on a course that should offer a little more width from off the tee, whilst still presenting a challenge.

The Kiwi’s breakthrough win came at the World Super 6 in 2019 on a Perth track that’s a few miles inland and susceptible to the local trade winds, and he came closest to following that up at the Vic Open last year at 13th Beach which is, as the name would suggest, a coastal track. Whilst not right on the coast this week, we’re close enough to get a glimpse of the sea and Fox tends to play his best golf when a stone’s throw from the ocean.

Drawing course form lines between the events held here at Santa Ponsa more than 2 decades ago and the present day may be stretching things a little, however the last time the European Tour visited these parts, Miguel Angel Jimenez finished ahead of Miguel Angel Martin and both men are winners at Le Golf National. Fox finished 6th there on debut and led after round 1 the last time we visited in 2019. Tenuous I agree, but there may just be something in the style of golf required and Fox, for me, should respond to this week’s test.

A couple of low-key local wins when he returned back home in April have to be taken with a pinch of salt given the opposition, however more significant and tangible form this year is evidenced from his 6th place finish at the high-class Saudi International, where he opened with a pair of 65s to lead heading into the weekend before dropping back a little.

Since then, top 15s at the European Open, BMW International Open, Cazoo Classic and Dutch Open have all hinted at some good underlying form and last week’s effort underlined that having missed the cut on his only other visit to Valderrama. Positively trending Strokes Gained stats in terms of Off the Tee, Approach and Tee to Green for his first two weeks could well result in a peak this week as he signs off the Spanish swing in style. RESULT: MC

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Matthias Schmid 1.5pts EW 40/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

A course that’s for all intents and purposes new to the field presents opportunities for the less experienced and emerging talents, and few are more promising than Matthias Schmid.

Twice a winner of the European Amateur title, Matti, as he’s opted to be known moving forwards, was leading amateur at this year’s Open Championship and the young German looks to have a sparkling career ahead of him, and with such talents an early professional victory is never out of the question.

In between some understandable missed cuts as the 23 year-old has found has feet on the European Tour from limited invitations and starts earned from his performances, we’ve also seen real signs of promise including 14th at the BMW International Open where he sat in 6th heading into Sunday, 19th at the ISPS World Invitational where he was 5th at halfway, 9th at the Dunhill Links and 2nd behind an inspired Kristoffer Broberg at the Dutch Open despite a weekend 65/66.

It’s always tough to really pin down a player’s strengths from so few performances, indeed Schmid doesn’t appear on the European Tour’s stats pages as yet, however from the little that we can glean there’s no discernible weakness. Regularly into the 310 yards bracket from off the tee, from 4 European Tour events where he’s played all 4 round he’s ranked 5th, 9th, 2nd and 13th in terms of Driving Accuracy, 5th, 24th, 6th and 42nd for GIR and in terms of Strokes Gained, he’d impressed in all long-game aspects whilst generally staying the right side of positive with the putter. All in all very impressive and whilst there’s little else to go on it terms of course fit and certainly course experience, I’m happy to take a chance on this potential superstar. RESULT: T11

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Niall Kearney 1pt EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

With all the late changes to the field, one eye-catching addition was that of Niall Kearney via a sponsor’s invitation and he deserves some support at the price on offer.

A break of 4 weeks may have kept him slightly below the radar in terms of the bookmakers this week, however we don’t have to go back very far to find signs of some strong form and with the batteries recharged perhaps he can hit the ground running this week.

4th on Spanish soil earlier this year on the Canary Islands swing when he closed with a sparkling round of 61 in the final event of the three, the 33 year-old led the BMW International Open at the halfway point before drifting to 12th. More recently, 8th at the Hero Open, 8th to halfway at the Cazoo Classic and 8th into Sunday on his last start in Holland all suggest that he’s increasingly comfortable contending at European Tour level and that a win isn’t far away at all.

Season-long stats including 35th for SG Off the Tee and 33rd for SG Tee to Green suggest that his long game should keep him out of trouble and 2nd for Scrambling and 1st for Bogey Avoidance would also seem a good fit for a course that hints at posing more of a challenge than some other tracks, given the events that were held here in the 80s and 90s. RESULT: MC

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Marcus Kinhult 0.5pt EW 200/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Finally I’m going to take a chance on the briefest flash of form last week from Marcus Kinhult to spark something more substantial here this week in a lower grade affair.

A 49th place finish at Valderrama doesn’t exactly jump off the page, and nor should it, however his Saturday 68 was amongst the best rounds of the day and overall he showed significant improvement with his long game, ranking inside the top 20 for both SG Approach and SG Tee to Green after having missed his previous 4 cuts on the spin.

It goes to show how rough a year that the Swede has had as that effort ranks as his second-best finish on the European Tour of 2021, yet we know he’s far, far better than that. Victory at the 2019 British Masters at Hillside is testament to that fact, and although he hasn’t added to his tally since, a play-off loss to Tommy Fleetwood at the Nedbank Golf Challenge later that same year suggests that he’s not likely to be a one-hit wonder.

6th at the Scottish Open and 10th at the BMW PGA Championship in October last year was the 25 year-old’s best sustained run of form of 2020 and perhaps a year further on he’ll find something positive to take out of last week’s performance and push on once again this week on a course that he may well enjoy. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:00BST 18.10.21 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.