Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Porsche European Open Tips 2019

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The European Open returned to the schedule in 2015 after a 6-year break, having formed an important part of the European Tour up until 2009; the event’s resurrection saw a new early autumn slot alongside a new home in Germany, having previously been played in the UK and Ireland at such venues as the London Club, The K Club, Sunningdale and Walton Heath to name but a few.

Those historical results from 2009 and before are little more than interesting facts now though with the event having shifted to Germany; a change in scheduling in 2017 as well as a new track also makes the results from 2015 and 2016 less relevant too as we return to the Green Eagle complex on the outskirts of Hamburg for the third time for this year’s renewal, with its autumn spot in the calendar reinstated.

With the PGA Tour between seasons, this event has managed to attract a strong field with the likes of Paul Casey, Xander Schuaffele, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar all in attendance, however as we saw last week with hot favourite Rory McIlroy missing out, golf betting is never straightforward when it comes to the heat of battle on a Sunday afternoon.

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Course Overview. Green Eagle Golf Courses is a collection of 42 holes spread across 3 courses in the ‘Lüneburger Heide’, a picturesque part of Germany on the outskirts of Hamburg. The North Course is being used for this week’s event and the Michael Blesch design is a brute at 7,165 metres (7,836 yards) from its tips for its scorecard par of 73, however with 4 teeing areas on each of the holes there’s considerable flexibility as to how the course can be set up. This week’s layout will reportedly measure 7,544 yards and play to a par of 72, which is slightly shorter than last year with the 15th now playing a mere 594 yards.

As you’d expect with a course of that length, the fairways are reasonably generous and the greens large and undulating so as to give players a chance of compiling some kind of score. Water is in play on all but one of the holes and an element of control is required to avoid paying the penalty for wild tee shots or approaches, however the reward for a safe navigation to the green is excellent quality putting surfaces.

3 of the 5 par-5s ranked amongst the easiest holes to play 12 months ago with the 18th proving to be the easiest of the lot, however the 16th at 663 yards certainly proved to be no pushover and it played exactly to par cumulatively for the 4 days. The short par-4s on the 1st and 7th holes also gave up an awful lot of birdies which reinforces the view that this is a strong risk/reward track.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s European Open. Please note, the 2017 and 2018 renewals only were held at this venue. Current Form | Event Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes | 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 Hamburg is here. Sunshine and showers are expected throughout this year’s event which should keep the course lush and responsive. Temperatures will struggle to get much higher than the mid-60s Fahrenheit and winds will gradually dip after a breezy opening day where 15mph is likely in the afternoon.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Looking back to the 2 events held here at Green Eagle, the eventual winners produced key stats as follows:

  • 2018, Richard McEvoy (-11). 276 yards (62nd), 67.3% fairways (6th), 72.2% greens in regulation (8th), 55% Scrambling (8th), 1.67 putts per GIR (8th)
  • 2017, Jordan Smith (-13). 296 yards (3rd), 71.2% fairways (7th), 73.6% greens in regulation (15th), 63.2% Scrambling (7th), 1.74 putts per GIR (16th)

Two events played in differing conditions still led to similar winning scores over the past 2 renewals held here at Green Eagle. The course played soft in 2017 following a lot of wet weather which effectively lengthened and widened the track, however to compensate the organisers moved a number of tee boxes forward to keep it relatively fair and Jordan Smith, who ranked 3rd for Driving Distance on the week, ultimately prevailed in a play-off against Alex Levy.

Last year it was much drier which brought some of the shorter hitters into the equation with no (recorded) player finishing inside the top 5 ranking in the top-50 for Driving Distance,  including eventual winner Richard McEvoy who averaged a full 20 yards less off the tee than Smith the year before.

With the chance of rain every day for the next week and temperatures languishing in the mid-60s Fahrenheit, I’d expect players with a little more power to hold the advantage this year, however with water a constant threat that aggression needs to be accompanied by the kind of tee-to-green control that both of our winners here have demonstrated so far.

Much of the length of this track comes from the 5 par-5s; however that’s not to say that they’re all a pushover. Looking at last year, Richard McEvoy led the field for par-5 scoring at -12 and one of the runners-up, Christofer Blomstrand, was joint next best at -10; despite there being 20 looks at the par-5s, these were amongst the best scores on display on the week on the long holes. Clearly taking opportunities to score on the par-5s is fairly critical to success around this track.

Incoming Form: Before the venue switched to Green Eagle GC in 2017, the previous two winners Thongchai Jaidee and Alex Levy had both recorded top-7 finishes on their previous start.

With the scheduling for the last 2 years falling immediately after The Open, Jordan Smith hadn’t played at that Major, however prior to that he’d recorded 7 straight cuts made without finishing any better than 20th at the Irish Open, whereas Richard McEvoy had won the week before on the Challenge Tour’s Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge:

  • 2018, Richard McEvoy: MC/65/MC/MC/34/MC/15/MC/26/29/33/1
  • 2017, Jordan Smith: 29/17/8/14/MC/48/40/21/44/30/20/58
  • 2016, Alexander Levy: 2/63/14/4/28/34/WD/56/73/18/34/7
  • 2015, Thongchai Jaidee: 2/10/MC/MC/11/10/31/65/50/57/MC/5

German Form: With little course form to go on, I’ve looked at more general form in Germany for our 4 winners. Jaidee had extensive experience in the country prior to his victory and as a player who was once touted as only being able to play his best golf in Asia, he’d certainly started to produce some more positive results on European soil and this was his third victory outside of Asia. 3rd heading into Sunday at the BMW International Open earlier in the year in 2015 had also signalled some intent for the Thai star.

Despite finishing 55th the year before in this event, Alex Levy had played well previously in Germany having led going into the final day at the 2013 BMW International Open and he followed that up with a 12th place finish the year after.

2017 winner here at Green Eagle, Jordan Smith, was inside the top-20 heading into the weekend on his solitary start in Germany the month before his victory, whereas last year’s winner Richard McEvoy was clearly becoming more comfortable in the region, recording 3 top-30 finishes from his previous 4 German starts and he’d co-led here on this track 12 months prior after 18 holes:

  • 2018, Richard McEvoy: MC/MC/MC/45/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/54/41/55/WD/51/MC/24/59/28/26
  • 2017, Jordan Smith: 44
  • 2016, Alexander Levy: 3/12/55
  • 2015, Thongchai Jaidee: 48/47/MC/MC/MC/36/37/MC/MC/MC/21/MC/21/41/21/MC/8/41/5/11

Boiling it all down, this is a long, challenging course that presents scoring opportunities to aggressive players. Despite having 5 par-5s and a couple of short par-4s, this course isn’t a complete birdie-fest with -13 and -11 winning scores telling us that players will need to pick and choose when to attack this track. With softer conditions expected this year than last, the course will play wider and longer; the huge greens give players a chance to find putting surfaces from the rough though so players with an aggressive mindset are still my preference, especially as the course is likely to play to its full length this time around.

With the likes of Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar all going off at relatively short prices this week after their respective efforts at East Lake a fortnight ago, there’s plenty of value to be found further down the list this week.

My selections are as follows:

Alexander Levy 2pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Favourite backers will be nursing burnt fingers after 4/1 shot Rory McIlroy narrowly missed out at Crans last week and there’s a similar dilemma for punters here this week. The new FedEx Champion worked his way into the 5-man play-off on Sunday and played a sumptuous approach at the first extra hole, only to see 275/1 rag Sebastian Soderberg hole his putt before the Northern Irishman and that was ultimately enough to take the title. With Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed all rating as 8/1 shots or shorter this week – plus Matt Kuchar and Thomas Pieters not a million miles behind – a decision needs to be made whether to side with any of the market leaders.

Winning prices of 55/1 (Jaidee), 45/1 (Levy), 40/1 (Smith) and 125/1 (McEvoy) since the European Open reappeared on the schedule in Germany are enough to sound the warning bells; after a long, hard season the 4 PGA Tour raiders could be excused for taking their appearance money and running, and of the top-5 I’d likely err on the side of recent winner Thomas Pieters if push came to shove. However, all things considered, I’m going to take a chance on former European Open champion Alex Levy whose form is seemingly improving once again after an early-season back injury knocked him off track.

18th at the Czech Masters 3 weeks ago provided the first clues that the amiable Frenchman’s game was in better shape as he ranked 5th for Total Driving and 6th for Ball-Striking to suggest that he was swinging the club with complete freedom once again. An aggressive sort like Levy with his explosive swing needs to be 100% confident in his technique, so it was understandable that his results suffered as he got back up to speed, however he now appears to be hitting his straps. 5th the week after in Sweden, where he opened with a sparkling round of 63, was further evidence that he’s back in the groove once again and it’s only a missed cut on a fiddly Crans track – his 5th MC there in 7 starts – that’s stopped him being a far shorter price than he is. This layout, in likely soft conditions, suits far more than last week’s test and I’m more than happy to overlook that result and support him here.

A missed cut at the BMW International Open In June, when he was still getting back up to speed following his injury, is his only blemish on what’s otherwise an outstanding record in Germany which reads 3/12/55/1/2/13 – with that 2nd place finish being a play-off to defeat to Jordan Smith on this track in 2017. He agonisingly missed a short putt to take this title that week, however he’s bounced back with a further European Tour victory since and with his game improving once again, I’m sure he’ll be keen to exorcise the demons of that narrow defeat here this week. Result: MC

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Lucas Herbert 1pt EW 66/1 (5EW, ¼) with bet365

Another player who’s hinted at a return to form is the talented Australian Lucas Herbert. The Bendigo bomber looked one of the most likely players to break through at European Tour level last year with lofty finishes at the World Super 6 (3rd), Sicilian Open (3rd), Nordea Masters (5th), Portugal Masters (2nd), Dunhill Links (7th) and British Masters (3rd), however the win didn’t come and aside from a 7th place finish in Dubai in January he’s been largely off the boil. Off the boil until last week that is when improving rounds of 70/67/67/64 saw him eventually finish in 8th place on his Crans debut and this week sets up much more to his liking.

29th on his Green Eagle bow last year doesn’t leap off the page, however it’s worth considering he was arriving immediately after having made the cut on his Open Championship debut and, like many, it would have been difficult to immediately adjust his focus and mindset to the task at hand. Nevertheless, rounds of 67 (Friday) and 68 (Sunday) were both among the very best on display on those days and if we can excuse the scores of 75 that flanked those efforts then he has a chance here this week.

We’ve seen before that the 23 year-old is a streaky performer who’s capable of stringing a few good results together in quick succession when his long game’s on point, so a continuation of last week’s form is quite possible. Result: T22

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Paul Waring 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

At around the 80/1 mark I came close to pulling the trigger on the enigmatic Frenchman Victor Dubuisson whose long game looked on point last week in the Alps, however his tendency to withdraw a little too often when things aren’t going quite going to plan is off-putting, and if there was any substance to his WD in Sweden where he cited a neck injury then he’s best watched here this week in my view on his Green Eagle debut.

Another debutant whose long game has looked in decent shape of late who I’m happy take a chance on is Paul Waring. 30th at the Czech Masters featured a Total Driving rank of 2nd and Ball-Striking rank of 1st in the field and he continued that long-game form into his next and most recent start when attempting to defend his title in Sweden. A 20th place finish was his reward, which is wholly respectable when playing the role of defending champion for the first time, and by spending a couple of days playing alongside eventual winner Erik Van Rooyen, perhaps some of his success will rub off on the Englishman.

Since that breakthrough success around this time last year, the 34 year-old has continued to climb up the World Rankings and following impressive 2019 finishes including 6th in Abu Dhabi, 3rd in Dubai, 6th at Hillside and 7th at Lahinch, he’s recently hit a career-high OWGR rank of 122nd. What really excites though is that his record in Germany is excellent, despite this being his course debut, with 4 career top-12 finishes from 6 starts in this country and a personal best of 2nd when losing out in a 3-man playoff on the Challenge Tour’s Postbank Challenge on just his 3rd professional outing. Result: T28

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Guido Migliozzi 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Matt Wallace has undoubtedly proven that winning form on the Alps Tour shouldn’t be disregarded as he’s now sat comfortably inside the World’s top-50 with 4 European Tour titles to his name, as well some impressive Major finishes, and understandably the bookies take few chances with him nowadays whenever he tees it up. The same can’t be said about Guido Migliozzi though who remains overpriced and I’m happy to take the layers on here this week and support the talented Italian.

A sparkling amateur career has quickly developed into an impressive professional career with 3 Alps Tour wins in the space of 15 starts and, latterly, 2 European Tour victories already in 2019. In total that’s 5 professional successes from 56 starts and the kind of conversion rate that we saw with the aforementioned Matt Wallace as he progressed his way up the World Rankings.

Although I suspect that in the fullness of time we’ll see a less striking pattern, for now there’s a certain symmetry to the gaps between victories for the 22 year old: 7/6/7/5 are the number of events that he’s played in between those 5 victories and he sits currently on a sequence of 5 blanks which may just mean he’s about to convert once again. ‘Blanks’ is a bit unfair to the Vicenza man who’s finished 28th and 33rd on his last two starts and has produced rounds of both 66 and 65 twice during that period. I can’t offer any course form or even any sparking form in Germany in general, however a young and fearless player with the game to suit Green Eagle deserves more respect in this market. Result: T7

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Zander Lombard 1pt EW 150/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Finally I’m also taking a punt on the ever-erratic South African Zander Lombard. As ever with a player like Zander, you’re running the risk that he’ll miss the weekend if things don’t go his way, however he’s made the each-way paying places 7 times thus far in his career on the European Tour (if we’re counting top-7s as the modern benchmark) and there are enough signs of late to suggest that he might just make that 8 times in the very near future. One of those efforts came on this very track in 2017 when conditions were far softer than last year and with more rain in the forecast this week then perhaps he can repeat that feat or better.

A string of 6 consecutive missed cuts following his Indian Open withdrawal was abruptly halted when he led the Irish Open at the halfway point a couple of months ago – although he couldn’t convert his chance, a top-10 finish in decent company was nevertheless a positive outcome. More recent finishes of 11th in Prague and 16th in Gothenburg both contained some positive elements, particularly from his long game which can be the root cause of many of his missed weekends, and even just making the cut last week at Crans shows some progress on a track that’s never likely to suit the 24 year-old.

5th here in 2017 was achieved courtesy of his career-best long game performance on the European Tour, ranking 3rd for both Total Driving and Ball Striking that week. Green Eagle clearly suits his eye and while he’s playing some good golf I’m happy to take a chance at a healthy 3-figure price. Result: T36

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:40BST 2.9.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.