Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Open de Espana Tips 2022

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As frustrating as it was to see Ryan Fox get over the line last week at the Dunhill Links having backed him in similarly compatible events in the recent past, it was nevertheless heartening to see him dedicate the title to his friend and former Dunhill playing partner, the late Shane Warne. Tyrrell Hatton’s solid Sunday gave us a little bit of each-way money back in the end though, after a tricky final 3 days on the links for all of the players.

We head to Spain this week for the start of a 3-week stint in the country, which will take us to Valderrama and Mallorca after we get the ball rolling in the capital, Madrid. 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 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. After some significant updates since 2008, this event was hosted here in 2019 with Jon Rahm running out a 5-stroke winner, and again last year when Rafa Cabrera-Bello once again delighted the home crowd.

Both Rahm and Cabrera-Bello return this year to support their home Open, with Jon rating as the 5/2 favourite at the time of writing. There’s a little bit of 8/1 available about Tommy Fleetwood as second favourite before the market thins out, with the likes of Adri Arnaus, Eddie Pepperell and Minwoo Lee the next in the betting following Richard Mansell’s early withdrawal.

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 used for the Madrid Masters in 2008, the layout was extended by 162 yards ahead of the 2019 Spanish Open 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 before the renovation, and -22 for John Rahm’s victory here 2 years ago and -19 last year, birdies and eagles are still 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 extended par-4 1st hole proved tricky last time we visited these parts as you’d expect from a 505-yard par-4, trumped only by the 210-yard par-3 11th which played toughest of the lot, however for the most part the holes are fairly straightforward in good golfing conditions.

open de espana tips

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 only hosted this event in 2019 and 2021 from the data listed: 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. 2021: Rafa Cabrera-Bello, 55/1; 2019: Jon Rahm, 10/3; 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.

Clear, almost windless conditions and temperatures reaching the high-70s Fahrenheit should encourage another low-scoring event here this week.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Looking at the final stats from the winners in 2019 & 2021 gives us an idea of the skill-set required for this week’s test:

  • 2021: Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-19). 296 yards (52nd), 58.9% fairways (20th), 70.8% greens in regulation (25th), 85.7% scrambling (2nd), 1.67 putts per GIR (22nd).
  • 2019: Jon Rahm. (-22). 316 yards (1st), 78.6% fairways (3rd), 73.6% greens in regulation (12th), 78.9% scrambling (3rd), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).

Prior to that, although this course hadn’t hosted the Spanish Open since 1996, we do have some tangible stats from the Madrid Masters and Open de Madrid held here:

  • 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 the 2008 event.

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 listed 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 3 most recent renewals in particular.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, SG Tee to Green was the most consistent stat from the two renewals held here, with eventual winners Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera-Bello ranking 1st and 3rd respectively:

  • 2021: Rafa Cabrera-Bello. T: 24th; A 6th; T2G: 3rd; ATG: 23rd; P: 24th
  • 2019: Jon Rahm. T: 1st; A: 12th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 11th; P: 9th

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

Incoming Form: Looking at the Spanish Open since 2010 at its various different venues, the incoming form of all eventual winners is solid for the most part.

Each player had recorded a top-20 finish or better in their previous 7 starts, however only Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jon Rahm (2018) came into the week with any immediate sparkling form having both finished 4th on their previous start at Augusta. Rahm’s successful defence in 2019 came off the back of a missed cut, although prior to that his form was strong:

  • 2021: Rafa Cabrera-Bello:MC/50/MC/MC/23/MC/58/MC/MC/20/67/MC
  • 2019: Jon Rahm: MC/MC/3/2/1/11/7/3/5/13/2/MC
  • 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 in 2018, 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 to say the least:

  • 2021: Rafa Cabrera-Bello: MC/MC/72/6/37/11/27/44/74/MC/16/MC/2
  • 2019: Jon Rahm: 1
  • 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

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:

Adri Arnaus 3pts EW 18/1 (8EW, 1/5*) with bet365

Jon Rahm could win at a canter here in his homeland and condemn the week to chasing an each-way payout, of that there’s no doubt. A 5-stroke victory here at Club de Campo on debut in 2019 is all the evidence you need for the former OWGR number 1 and a recent burst of form with the putter plugs the gap that was missing in his game earlier in the year, meaning that a low-grade Mexican Open is the Spaniard’s only victory of the year thus far.

The bookies are taking absolutely no chances though and 5/2 isn’t a price I want to get involved with for Rahm, despite his obvious chance. 17th here when defending last year offers a glimmer of hope that he can be beaten, and perhaps there’ll be enough distractions on his first visit home this year to open the door to someone else.

Tommy Fleetwood doesn’t appeal at what is also a prohibitive price on course debut, however at 3rd in the betting with most firms Adri Arnaus offers a little more juice as he looks to settle a score from last year after losing in a play-off to compatriot Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who undoubtedly rode his luck on his way to victory.

That effort from Arnaus rubber-stamped his liking for this Club de Campo layout, having led to halfway on debut the previous time the Tour visited in 2019, eventually finishing 4th. It was the putter which gave the 27 year-old his chance here last year, ranking 1st for SG Putting, and there was evidence of a warm flat stick last week at the Dunhill Links as he ranked 3rd on the same score from the limited rounds recorded at St Andrews.

22nd overall at the Home of Golf was a welcome return to some semblance of form for the Barcelona man, having missed his previous three cuts. That was a personal best at the Dunhill Links for Arnaus in conditions and on courses that don’t play to his strengths; this parkland layout, on the other hand, is right up his alley, and another strong performance where he can push the market leaders is quite possible.

Adri’s last visit to his homeland resulted in his long-anticipated breakthrough win at DP World Tour level when he finally overcame Oliver Bekker in a marathon play-off at the Catalunya Championship in May, and his wider Spanish form is also impressive. A play-off defeat on the Alps Tour back in 2017 sets the scene and 7 further top-10 finishes at all levels on Spanish soil prior to that most recent victorious effort demonstrates a strong level of comfort on home soil, included in which were finishes of 2nd (2019 Andalucia Masters) and 4th (2021 Canary Islands Championship) alongside his aforementioned efforts here. RESULT: MC

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Thriston Lawrence 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5*) with bet365

Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood aside, the field soon thins out in terms of world ranking, and at 92nd in the OWGR and with two wins in this wraparound season already to his name, Thriston Lawrence deserves a little more respect in the market in my view.

Whilst his Joburg Open win last November was undoubtedly fortuitous following the curtailment of that event due to Covid-related fears, there was nothing lucky about the way he won the Omega European Masters at the end of August, opening with rounds of 62/64 before eventually seeing off a player of Matt Wallace’s quality in the play-off.

Both courses carry some parallels to this week’s task in terms of agronomy and style, despite their differing levels of altitude, and from what we’ve seen so far from the South African, tree-lined, parkland set-ups are undoubtedly a strength, which makes me comfortable in ignoring last week’s missed cut at St Andrews.

2nd at the Kenya Open on another parkland track of comparable length to this week’s task is more positive correlation, as is 3rd at the Irish Open which was hosted this year at Galgorm Castle which again shares enough characteristics to make the result of interest.

Perhaps the price this week is a reflection of the fact that the 25 year-old is making his debut at the Spanish Open and on this course, however given what we saw of him at Crans on an altogether more sophisticated test to master on a player’s first look, I have little concern that some players have a year or two’s more experience here at Club de Campo.

20th at Le Golf National, where he sat in 7th place heading into the weekend on a far less compatible track – again on debut – suggests that his game hasn’t materially dropped away following his most recent win, and with the scope to advance significantly in the world rankings enhanced as the LIV players slide down the OWGR at present, players like Lawrence must see these next few weeks as a huge opportunity to get into the OWGR top 50 by the end of the year. RESULT: MC

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Kristian Krogh Johannessen  – WD PRE-EVENT

Qualifying for the Olympics alongside compatriot Viktor Hovland was undoubtedly a highlight of Kristian Krogh Johannessen’s career, however there’s enough evidence to suggest that he can trump that sooner rather than later with a breakthough win at DP World Tour level.

Starts on the top tier have been limited in 2022 due to his restrictive status, so the 27 year-old has been playing largely on the Challenge Tour where results have been strong. A win at the Italian Challenge in July has been flanked by 9 finishes of 26th or better, including 4 top-10 results which have catapulted Johannessen into the top 10 of the Road to Mallorca rankings.

3rd at the Made in Himmerland last month was the Norwegian’s best career effort at DP World Tour level, and he started well at Wentworth the following week, sitting inside the top-20 after the first and second rounds before fading on the third and final day.

Positive signs then as Kristian looks to build on his 5 career victories at lower levels and a return to Club de Campo could spark more success having taken to this course nicely on his first attempt in 2019, leading after day 1 with a sparkling round of 63 before understandably fading away given that he was in nowhere near the same form as he has been of late.

Wider form in Spain is positive too, punctuated by a win at the 2018 Lumine Hills Open on the Nordic Golf League and 7 further top-10 finishes in the country at all levels, demonstrating a level of comfort in this part of the world. WD PRE-EVENT

Joachim B Hansen 1pt EW 75/1 (8EW, 1/5*) with bet365

Another Scandinavian who interests me here this week at a solid mid-price is JB Hansen.

A missed cut last week at the Dunhill Links was no surprise for the Dane who has an awful record in that event with a solitary cut made from 6 appearances now, and if anything last week’s effort was actually far better than most years. More challenging conditions on the links won’t have suited Hansen either, so the promise of something far more amenable this week can only help his cause.

2 wins at DP World Tour level at 19- and 23-under par tells us that the 32 year-old is far more comfortable on scoreable, resort-style tests and the fact that both of those wins – at the 2020 Joburg Open and 2021 Dubai Championship – came in the autumn is also positive from a biorhythm perspective.

2022 form hasn’t been great from JB whose best finish of the year came back in March when he finished 5th at the Steyn City Championship, however there have undoubtedly been signs of life lately with a tie for 14th at the Omega Masters, where he closed with a round of 64, and at Le Golf National where he went one better and tied for 13th and gained strokes on every SG measurement.

A stint in Spain over the next few weeks may help produce the kind of season-ending form that Hansen needs if he harbours any lingering thoughts of making the season-ending DP World Tour Championship from a lowly 147th at present. A win and 5 top-10 finishes on Spanish soil is a solid enough foundation at lower levels over the years, and JB’s also finished 4th and 24th here at Club de Campo from his two attempts at this track. RESULT: T27

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✅ Early odds available each week on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour
✅ ‘Each Way Extra’ promotion where you can choose between 3, 8, 10 or 12 places each way

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Andrew Wilson 0.5pt EW 200/1 (6EW, 1/5) with William Hill

The trials and tribulations of Andrew Wilson’s career caught the headlines last year when he produced something of a miracle to gain his DP World Tour card for 2022 at the Challenge Tour’s Grand Final in November.

Sitting in the final card-earning spot heading into the 2nd tier’s finale, an opening round of 75 put him at the foot of the leaderboard and staring at another season at the lower level. More solid middle rounds put him vaguely back in the picture, however it was 4 birdies in his final 5 holes on Sunday – with three consecutive putts from outside of 25 feet made on the final three holes – that eventually earned him a shot at the top level this year.

After all that elation, this season hasn’t really gone to plan. His best result came on Spanish soil back in April, finishing 7th at the ISPS Handa Championship courtesy of a strong week on and around the greens. 13 missed cuts before last week’s Dunhill Links hasn’t helped his cause, however there’s been an improvement of late as he seeks to sneak into the top 120 or thereabouts of the season-long rankings to give himself a fighting chance of retaining his card. 16th at the Italian Open came after a slow start which threatened another weekend off, whereas 26th at the Open de France saw the 28 year-old inside the top 10 before falling away on the Sunday.

An opening 5-under round at Kingsbarns before the weather closed in was further signs of positivity and he can build on his recent improvement in form this week on a straightforward course which doesn’t present so much of a disadvantage in terms of lack of prior experience.

Spain has generally been a positive location for the Englishman over his relatively short professional career, with 7 top-20 finishes at all levels from his last 10 starts. 6th at the PGA Catalunya Championship on the Nordic circuit and 3rd at the Emporda Challenge last year are the highlights aside from his aforementioned effort at DP World Tour level, and he should see this stretch of Iberian golf over the next few weeks as a good opportunity to secure his playing privileges for next year. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:05BST 3.10.22 but naturally subject to fluctuation.