Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Open de Espana Tips 2019

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A profitable week for us at the Dunhill Links with 125/1 shot Joakim Lagergren gaining a full each-way payout courtesy of his 3rd place finish, plus we also got a further share of the each-way spoils as a result of Tom Lewis’s flying finish that catapulted him up to a share of 5th place. Richie Ramsay missed making it a trio of 3-figure each way returns by a single stroke, despite carding a bogey-free 68 around the Home of Golf on Sunday.

Before we head to Italy for another Rolex Series event in a week’s time, we have a low-key Spanish Open to contend with as the event moves to an autumn spot this year. Club de Campo is the venue this week, a club that hosted the Spanish Open 5 times in the 1990s with Rodger Davis, Eduardo Romero, Colin Montgomerie, Seve Ballesteros and Padraig Harrington all running out winners.

More recently the Madrid track has hosted the Turespana Masters in 2000, Open de Madrid 2001-05 and the Madrid Masters in 2008, with Padraig Harrington (again), Retief Goosen, Steen Tinning, Ricardo Gonzalez, Richard Sterne, Raphael Jacquelin and Charl Schwartzel taking home the trophies.

World No.5 Jon Rahm is the red-hot favourite to win this week as he looks to defend the title that he won on home soil last year. 10/3 is the best price you’ll get about the 24 year-old to win here this week at the time of writing despite missing the cut last week in Scotland, however with the likes of Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello for company at the top of the betting, he’ll have to be at his birdie-making best if he’s going to walk away with another European Tour title and continue his generally excellent run of results when he dips into events this side of the Atlantic.

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Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Spain. Designer: Javier Arana, 1956, with Manuel Pinero updates; Course Type: Tree-lined, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,112 yards; Fairways: Bermuda/Rye/Bent; Rough: Bermuda/Rye/Bent; Greens: Bentgrass/Poa.

Course Overview. The Club de Campo course is a 7,112 yard, par 71 designed by Javier Arana with subsequent modifications by Manuel Pinero. Since it was last used for the Madrid Masters in 2008, the layout has been extended by 162 yards with new tee boxes on around half of the holes to offer it a little protection against the modern golfer, however with winning scores of -19, -23 and -18 the last 3 times it was used and similar low scoring prior to that, birdies and eagles should be the order of the day.

An undulating, tree-lined course with relatively generous fairways, the main protection for the course is on and around the small bent/poa greens which are multi-tiered and reasonably tricky. Par-5s at the 4th, 7th and 14th measure 526, 564 and 536 yards respectively and all present eagle opportunities for those players who can find the fairway from off the tee. The newly extended par-4 1st hole is likely to cause some challenge now that is measures 505 yards, however for the most part the holes are fairly straightforward in good golfing conditions.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Open de Espana that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. As noted above, this course hasn’t hosted this event since 1996 : Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2018: Jon Rahm, 4/1; 2016: Andrew Johnston, 100/1; 2015: James Morrison, 225/1; 2014: Miguel Angel Jimenez, 22/1; 2013: Raphael Jacquelin, 55/1; 2012: Francesco Molinari, 16/1; 2011: Thomas Aiken, 45/1; 2010: Alvaro Quiros, 18/1.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Madrid is here. Temperatures will dip from the weekend’s highs of the mid-80s Fahrenheit by around 5 degrees for the tournament days, however that shouldn’t detract from the event which will be played in near-perfect conditions. Sunshine and light winds of between 5-10mph should lend themselves to another low-scoring event,

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Although this course hasn’t hosted the Spanish Open since 1996, we do have some tangible stats from the Madrid Masters and Open de Madrid held here a decade or so ago:

  • 2008, Charl Schwartzel (-19). 296 yards (21st), 66.1% fairways (10th), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 71.4% scrambling (6th), 1.76 putts per GIR (20th).
  • 2005, Raphael Jacquelin (-23). 293 yards (10th), 80.4% fairways (23rd), 70.8% greens in regulation (34th), 81.0% scrambling (10th), 1.59 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2004, Richard Sterne (-18). 306 yards (2nd), 58.9% fairways (61st), 73.6% greens in regulation (22nd), 73.7% scrambling (14th), 1.66 putts per GIR (5th).

A little power to help attack the par-5s looks the order of the day, especially with most holes having been extended slightly since it was last used in 2008. Making eagles and birdies is the key component this week whilst keeping cards as clean as possible, however it’s on and around the greens where this event is likely to be won. Each of the winners above ranked inside the top-14 for scrambling and that trend continues for most of the players who finished in the each-way positions for the 2 most recent renewals in particular.

Incoming Form: Looking at the Spanish Open since 2010 at its various different venues, the incoming form of all eventual winners is solid if unspectacular. Each player had recorded a top-10 finish or better in their previous 10 starts, however only Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jon Rahm came into the week with any immediate sparkling form having both finished 4th on their previous start at Augusta:

  • 2018: Jon Rahm: 15/MC/36/1/2/1/29/11/26/20/52/4
  • 2016: Andrew Johnston: MC/25/44/10/44/MC/22/71/4/45/MC/15
  • 2015: James Morrison: 4/15/6/46/MC/MC/MC/45/MC/70/MC/18
  • 2014: Miguel Angel Jimenez: 72/70/8/20/1/15/10/MC/MC/33/13/4
  • 2013: Raphael Jacquelin: 46/5/6/41/22/16/39/42/30/34/33/MC
  • 2012: Francesco Molinari: 10/23/33/11/16/8/69/16/17/13/17/19
  • 2011: Thomas Aiken: 13/5/14/14/3/MC/13/6/7/13/36/35
  • 2010: Alvaro Quiros: 16/MC/8/42/11/2/6/33/14/6/45/MC

Event Form. The nomadic nature of the Spanish Open renders most of the event form as background information only rather than anything tangible, especially seeing as the tracks vary quite considerably in style from year to year. Prior to Jon Rahm winning last year, all other winners since 2010 had played at least one Spanish Open in the past, however their results in the event had been pretty varied:

  • 2018: Jon Rahm: Debut
  • 2016: Andrew Johnston: MC
  • 2015: James Morrison: 2/36/32/21/38
  • 2014: Miguel Angel Jimenez: 45/16/26/2/MC/3/39/52/4/31/17/46/MC/MC
  • 2013: Raphael Jacquelin: MC/MC/MC/MC/8/8/MC/3/MC/65
  • 2012: Francesco Molinari: MC/16/11/27
  • 2011: Thomas Aiken: 47/MC
  • 2010: Alvaro Quiros: MC/39/MC/37/17

Although there are some results to analyse from past events here, the European Tour hasn’t visited this track in nearly a decade and we’re relying mostly on specification this week in truth. A scoreable, tree-lined test played in perfect golfing conditions should produce low-scoring and those players who can make eagles and birdies whilst keeping their card clean with a smart short game should be favoured.

My selections are as follows:

Andres Romero 1pt EW 125/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

The market principals make it an interesting dilemma as to how to play this week. Defending champion Jon Rahm at around the 3/1 mark is the clear favourite and despite missing the cut at the Dunhill Links is still the most likely winner of this event. 4 wins from 13 regular European Tour starts is an incredible return so far in his career and perhaps on that evidence he’s justified at that price, however to win this week he’ll need to have a hot putter and the only real negative I can give is that his flat stick looked pretty cold last week.

Sergio Garcia won the KLM Open on his last start and has secured 7 of his 16 European Tour victories on Spanish soil over the years, including this event back in 2002. Performing in front of a home crowd clearly holds no fear whatsoever for the former Masters champion and, like Rahm, his chance is obvious if he putts well. Either could win this event and choosing between the two at skinny prices holds no appeal to me whatsoever, so I’ll attack this week’s task by backing 4 players each-way at longer prices given that we may just be playing for place money if one of the two big boys wins here this week.

The player who I fancy will go well of those just below the top 2 is Andrea Pavan who once again showed some strong signs of impending success last week in Scotland, however the bookmakers have marked his card with quotes as short as 14/1 making little appeal. Instead I’ll be bold and back the enigmatic Andres Romero to take a liking to this low-scoring track on course debut.

The Argentinean should feel right at home in Spain and 6 cuts made from his last 7 starts on Spanish soil is particularly consistent for a player who could be politely described as hit-and-miss. One of those efforts came back in 2007 in this event when he finished 6th courtesy of a closing round of 66, an effort which backed up promise he’d shown on the Challenge Tour in the same country when finishing 3rd for what was at the time his best result as a professional.

The 38 year-old broke through on the Challenge Tour a few weeks after that effort in Madrid and has since won twice on the European Tour, once on the PGA Tour and should really have taken the Claret Jug home with him in 2007 before finishing double bogey/bogey to miss the play-off with Garcia and Harrington by a stroke at Carnoustie. In recent times he’s been a tough one to call – winning the BMW International Open in 2017 after a string of 4 missed cuts – and after missing the weekend at Wentworth and last week at St Andrews you’d be excused for skipping the rest of my words and heading to the next selection, however I think there’s enough about his play immediately prior to that to get us excited.

A play-off defeat to Sebastian Soderberg at the start of September contained a best-of-the-week 61 on the Friday to remind us that he’s still capable of scoring heavily when his game comes to together, and a solid enough 21st on his next start in Holland on his next start also contained some positive signs.

Argentinean ties to this course and event are positive with Ricardo Gonzalez taking the title here at Club de Campo in 2003 (Gonzalez also won at Crans a couple of years before, if that aforementioned play-off defeat holds any relevance) and the player he emulated as a boy, Eduardo Romero, won this title here on this track back in 1991. Perhaps Andres will find enough motivation from those previous winners here to rekindle the form he showed a few weeks ago in the Swiss Alps and have a good go at winning another title at a long price. Result: T45

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Callum Shinkwin 2pts EW – WD Pre-Event

Winning isn’t easy at any level of professional golf and we saw once again last week the pressures that are placed on players when presented with a golden opportunity, this time with Matt Southgate’s game slowly unravelling when the finishing post came into sight. With each near miss, a valuable lesson is learnt and, like Southgate, Callum Shinkwin has had to learn the hard way having spurned an incredible opportunity to gain his breakthrough victory at the 2017 Scottish Open. Standing in the middle of the fairway on the final hole, a reachable par-5, the Hertfordshire lad contrived to make bogey to allow Rafa Cabera-Bello into a play-off which the Spaniard subsequently won.

Hard lines then for the 26 year-old and save for an 8th place finish at the Italian Open last year, 2018 was virtually a write-off as he got to grips with his Scottish Open woes. This year has been far more positive though and top-10 finishes at the Vic Open, Indian Open and BMW International Open provided some solid foundations before his form took a further step forward with 5th at the KLM Open and 10th last week at the Dunhill Links over his past 2 starts. Identical GIR performances of 81.9 over those two starts have been the catalyst for his results in September and a return to Spain where he recorded another runner-up finish on what was just his 3rd professional start on the Challenge Tour back in 2014 could reap rewards.

That effort in Holland was another painful one for Callum to take though as he co-led into Sunday with eventual winner Sergio Garcia before a final round 74 put paid to his chances, however he’s clearly playing very nicely and eventually the door will open for a player of his talent, as we’ve seen with the likes of Erik Van Rooyen and Jorge Campillo this year. 2nd to halfway in this event last year adds further encouragement, as does 41 birdies and 2 eagles over his last 8 rounds as he heads to an event where breaking par is likely to be the key currency.

Rikard Karlberg 1pt EW 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The stresses and strains of professional golf from a physical perspective are clear to see with many golfers over the years struggling with recurring injuries to their backs, necks, wrists and knees. The mental side of golf has become more openly discussed in recent times too as the drive to heighten mental health awareness has grown and it was fascinating to read the story of Rikard Karlberg’s struggles that effectively kept him out of the game for 18 months.

The former Italian Open champion has slowly returned to the game in 2019 though and it’s clear to see that his positive approach to the game and life in general is starting to reap rewards once again. After a cautious return to the professional circuit in April, he finally started to reap the rewards of his labour, finishing top-6 in consecutive Challenge Tour events before recording a top-5 finish at the DD Real Czech Masters courtesy of entry due to his medical extension. 6th at the KLM Open on his penultimate start offers further encouragement that he’s back on track and capable of making the frame here this week, having finished top-11 3 times on Spanish soil in his career to date.

His 2015 Italian Open on the scoreable, tree-lined layout in Milan probably holds the biggest clue that this venue should suit, given its comparable length and similar bent/poa greens, and further tree-lined form is evident from his runner-up finish to Chris Wood at Wentworth the year afterwards. Despite finishing down the field last weekend at St Andrews as a result of a poor final round, his tee-to-green game still looked in great shape and a bounce back to contending form isn’t out of the question here at an attractive price. Result: T33

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Wade Ormsby 1pt EW 80/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

As we need to go back over a decade before stumbling onto any course form around these parts, finding those with any tangible results around Club de Campo isn’t easy. Many of the younger players in this field will have been schoolboys dreaming of becoming a future golfing superstar when Wade Ormsby recorded 6th and 12th place finishes here in Madrid in consecutive years back in 2004/5, both times recovering after sluggish starts to record a strong position on the leaderboard on Sunday, carding rounds of 65, 66 (three times) and 67 from his 8 attempts during that time to suggest that this layout suits his game nicely.

More recent Spanish form of 9th in this event in 2015 and 5th at Valderrama in 2017 reinforce the fact that he’s comfortable in this part of the world and despite being lengthened a little since he last played here, his liking for shorter layouts on the circuit is plain to see, punctuated by his solitary European Tour success on the short, tree-lined track at Fanling in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. 8th at Crans at the start of September is further evidence that he can navigate these tree-lined but scoreable layouts and impressive results this season including 2nd at the Vic Open and 5th at the Scandinavian Invitation suggest that his game’s not been far away at all from adding to his trophy cabinet.

Missed cuts at Wentworth and last week at St Andrews have left the Australian at 71st on the Race to Dubai rankings – if he’s going to be playing for the big money at the end of the season then he needs to rekindle that form from a few weeks ago as soon as possible. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:00BST 30.9.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.