Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Open de Portugal Tips 2020

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Antoine Rozner threatened to make the Portugal Masters interesting for us heading into the weekend as the Frenchman sat in 3rd place despite a closing double-bogey on Friday. Sadly it wasn’t to be though as he made no progress over the weekend, with George Coetzee justifying his short price and winning his first European Tour title on the European mainland at 16-under par.

On we go then to the final leg of the Iberian Swing and as we saw with the Austrian Swing when the European Tour restarted following lockdown, this week’s event is an opportunity for both European Tour and Challenge Tour players to battle for the title and forms part of the money list on both tiers, making it an important part of the schedule for many.

With the halving of the prize fund versus last week’s event at Vilamoura though, this has understandably reduced the overall quality of the field, however a few of those involved in the action at the Dom Pedro Victoria have stayed in the country for another week and tee it up here, headlined by last week’s winner George Coetzee at around the 4/1 mark.

Royal Obidos Spa & Golf Resort, Obidos, Portugal. Designer: Seve Ballesteros; Course Type: Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,283 yards; Greens: Tyee Bentgrass.

Course Overview. Royal Obidos was the final course designed by Seve Ballesteros and one that he sadly never got to play when it was completed. Stretching to 7,283 yards from the back tees for its par of 72, the track is a resort course first and foremost, designed for the tourist trade that attracts so many keen golfers to Portugal each year.

Sat close enough to the water for golfers to get magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, this is essentially a modern course design that’s been built around the open, exposed topography in the region. Undulating fairways with a variety of elevation changes makes the course quite a slog, however landing areas are generous which sets this up as a second shot course. Water is significantly in play on a number of the holes and greens are large, undulating Tyee Bentgrass in their composition.

Assuming we play the course as intended without any last-minute alterations from the European Tour, the players will be presented with 5 par-5s and 5 par-3s to compliment the 8 par-4s in what looks like a risk-reward style setup.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well in this event, although as previously noted this week’s venue is new to the tournament: Current Form | Event 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.

Event Winners. 2019: Adrian Meronk, -15; 2018: Dimi Papadatos, -7; 2017: Matt Wallace, -21; 2010: Thomas Bjorn, -23; 2009: Michael Hoey, -7; 2008 Gregory Bourdy, -18; 2007: Pablo Martin, -7; 2005: Paul Broadhurst, -13.

For a summary of winners’ odds on the European Tour for the past 10 years click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. A bright start on Thursday will give way to the potential for thundery showers through Friday and Saturday before things settle down for Sunday’s conclusion. The breeze will be moderate to start and end the 4 days at around 10-15mph, however as the weather system approaches on Friday we could see gusts in excess of 30mph for a time. Temperatures will peak in the low 70s Fahrenheit in the afternoons.

Incoming Form: Last year’s winner Adrian Meronk had recorded 5 top-10 finishes in his previous 12 starts and arrived off of a 28th place finish a fortnight before where he’d flashed some form with a 2nd round 65 which was amongst the best rounds of the week.

Dimi Papadatos was only playing his 5th start of the season the year before, however he’d opened and closed with a pair of 67s on his previous start to suggest he wasn’t in bad nick. Similarly, Matt Wallace was also lightly raced in 2017, however 3rd at the Kenya Open also hinted at what he was capable of at that level:

  • 2019, Adrian Meronk: 7/MC/3/MC/18/50/10/8/MC/MC/10/28
  • 2018, Dimi Papadatos: 11/MC/60/30/53/15/MC/MC/MC/11/37/19
  • 2017, Matt Wallace: MC/1/MC/9/60/19/4/4/1/MC/3/25
  • 2010, Thomas Bjorn: 43/8/15/19/13/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/9
  • 2009, Michael Hoey: 6/5/WD/26/MC/11/12/2/40/22/6/MC
  • 2008, Gregory Bourdy: 63/1/34/55/MC/MC/33/MC/MC/46/27/49
  • 2007, Pablo Martin: 22/MC/63/MC
  • 2006, Paul Broadhurst: 31/16/MC/2/6/19/17/2/22/33/MC/MC
  • 2005, Paul Broadhurst: 33/26/MC/WD/7/4/11/22/60/72/49/MC

Event Form: With the nomadic nature of this event, plus its flitting between European Tour, Challenge Tour and co-sanctioned status, event history of the winners since 2005 is patchy at best:

  • 2019, Adrian Meronk: 42/14
  • 2018, Dimi Papadatos: Debut
  • 2017, Matt Wallace: Debut
  • 2010, Thomas Bjorn: MC/31
  • 2009, Michael Hoey: 43
  • 2008, Gregory Bourdy: MC/MC
  • 2007, Pablo Martin: Debut
  • 2006, Paul Broadhurst: MC/MC/59/1
  • 2005, Paul Broadhurst: MC/MC/59

With no competitive results to study from this week’s venue, we’re going to have to take a leap of faith based on the course style and specification as it stands, plus the conditions that we should expect both underfoot and weather-wise.

Wide fairways that may well get softened if the forecast thunderstorms arrive as expected on Friday should play into the hands of the more aggressive types and 5 par-5s on the card also suggests that those who can maximise distance without losing too much accuracy should be rewarded with the most birdie and eagle opportunities.

My selections are as follows:

Marcel Siem 1.5pts EW 70/1 (5ew, 1/4) with bet365

After refusing last week’s predictor no.1 selection George Coetzee due to his short price and being proved completely wrong, eating humble pie and backing him here in a weaker field to make it 3 wins in consecutive weeks did briefly cross my mind – until I saw his price that is. As clear as the gulf between the South African and his fellow competitors is this week, there’s still no guarantee in this game and I’ll happily pass and should he win again then so be it.

Of those close to the top of the market, Craig Howie was tempting given that he’s recorded two top-5 finishes in 5 starts since lockdown was eased, however again he’s no bargain at 22/1. Instead I’m going to take a punt on a former OWGR top-50 player who should be suited to the risk/reward nature of this track, and that’s Marcel Siem.

Having hit 40 in July, the 4-time European Tour winner will have reached that point in his career and life where it’s either the accelerator pedal or contentment with what he’s achieved thus far, however perhaps wins from the likes of Marc Warren and Stewart Cink either side of the Atlantic recently may act as a reminder that players can still remain competitive despite the prevalence of many young and talented golfers out there.

Fact is, aside from Coetzee and Jamie Donaldson at the head of affairs, and maybe a handful of others if we’re being generous, few here this week can boast the kind of CV that the German can including a World Cup win, Race To Dubai Final Series victory and success at the Open de France when it rated as one of the more prestigious tournaments on the circuit.

Looking at the raw facts that we have from this week, exposed tracks with a hint of coastal golf works for Marcel, as do those with bentgrass-based greens. 8th in this event in the distant past and 4th at Vilamoura ticks the Portugal form box and he’s also finished runner-up at the Ballesteros re-design at Crans-sur-Sierre. Assuming that the card isn’t changed for the event then 18th for par-3 scoring for the season-to-date and 1st for par-5 scoring would also appear to fit nicely given what we know at this stage of proceedings.

3 cuts made from 4 starts since the European Tour restarted is positive and the solitary missed weekend came after his first contending performance for some considerable time, as he entered the final day at the Wales Open the week before in 6th place before fading. Some positive signs for sure and in this drop in class I’m happy to take on the field with an each-way punt on the German. RESULT: T53

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Julien Brun 1.5pts EW 66/1 (5ew, 1/4) with bet365

One of the more eye-catching lines in this week’s current form stats page is from Frenchman Julien Brun. Extending his recent run of results back to the start of 2020 we can see just how competitive he’s been, recording finishes of 12/1/16/11/6/1/3/8/2/5/8 as he’s pushed into the world’s top 500 and a career-high position in the last few weeks.

Now current form is only as good as the level at which it’s being played and it’s fair to say that most of the these numbers have come on the Pro Golf Tour which is clearly a rung or two lower than the depths that we’re plumbing this week, however it does show that his game is in a good space regardless. In addition, the 6th place finish wedged in the middle of that sequence was at the Euram Bank Open and in a similar quality of field to this, pitched as it is at the same co-sanctioned European/Challenge Tour level.

The 28 year-old’s uptick in form swiftly followed a change of coaching staff last year as he’s looked to rekindle the promise that he showed when winning his very first start at Challenge Tour level on home soil at the Allianz Golf Open back in 2012 as an amateur, holding off the likes of Eddie Pepperell, Mike Lorenzo Vera and Peter Uihlein into the bargain.

A further win on the Alps Tour in 2017 also stands out on his CV, and 4 career wins from exactly 100 professional starts does suggest there’s something about the Texas Christian University graduate. 3rd at Guardian Bon Sucesso Golf, a track that’s a mile or so away from this week’s venue, on the Alps Tour in 2018 also adds a little encouragement and in this weak field I’m happy to take a chance on him. RESULT: T11

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Liam Johnston 1.5pts EW 60/1 (5EW, 1/4) with William Hill

Another player with a strong winning record at a lower level is Liam Johnston and he’s also worthy of an investment after recording his best round in professional tournament play last week at Vilamoura.

2018 was the breakthrough year career-wise for the Scot as he followed up an early-season victory on the Pro Golf Tour with a win at the Match Play 9 Challenge Tour event on the Challenge Tour, before winning his first strokeplay Challenge Tour title in Kazakhstan this week 2 years ago.

The 27 year-old’s rookie European Tour season last year, earned courtesy of those aforementioned efforts, wasn’t exactly plain sailing with 15 missed cuts from 26 starts, however finishes of 8th at the Magical Kenya Open and 5th at the Czech Masters both offer some encouragement for this week and in both instances he held his ground after a solid opening 2 days. Overall though a lost card was inevitable given his lack of consistency which makes opportunities such as this given his partial status category all the more important.

15th at the Wales Open where he sat in 2nd place heading into the weekend was encouraging and he backed that up with a 14th place finish last week in Portugal following his sparkling opening round of 61. 2nd for Total Driving when making the cut at The Belfry in the event wedged between those two efforts adds further encouragement and with a level playing field course-wise this week, I can see him improving further on those recent efforts. RESULT: MC

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Andrew Wilson 1pt EW 90/1 (5ew, 1/4) with bet365

Finally, in a field largely devoid of regular European Tour players, many of this week’s attendees will be relatively unknown to all but the most studious of punters. One such player who’s got a better chance than his odds suggest in my view is Andrew Wilson and I’ll back him here accordingly.

The Englishman has only registered 18 OWGR-rated starts since turning professional 2 years ago, however in that time he’s recorded a win and runner-up finish on the EuroPro Tour as well as his best Challenge Tour finish of 3rd last time out at the Northern Ireland Open. 32nd at the Open Championship last year is a result and experience that few in this field can compete with either, powered by a 2nd round 67 that matched the efforts of eventual winner Shane Lowry, runner-up Tommy Fleetwood and current world number 1 Dustin Johnson. If his career were to end right now, that would be something to tell the grandkids if nothing else.

Aside from the visible results on his professional record, it’s worth nothing that the 26 year-old shot a round of 59 at the Bamburgh Castle pro-am a fortnight ago, then proceeded to lip-out on the final hole for another 59 the following day at Carus Green GC in another small pro-am. Yes, these rounds need to be taken into context, however what it does demonstrate is that Wilson is playing some very tidy golf right now and he clearly took that form into his aforementioned effort in Northern Ireland where a 3rd round 64 gave him a chance of taking the title. A closing 67 wasn’t quite good enough, but he’s clearly buoyed by his form judging by social media and could be a relative surprise package here this week. RESULT: T3

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 11:50BST 15.9.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.