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Open de Espana preview


The Open de Espana marks the start of a four-week span in which we see some great events, all in mainland Europe, before the U.S Open next month. The events on the European Tour often stray outside of Europe, in Asia, the Middle East and South Africa, so it’s nice to return to mainland Europe for an extended period of time.

With the events returning to Europe, we will see some stronger fields over the next few weeks, and the field for the Open de Espana this week is no exception. Being in Spain, it is no surprise to see home favourites Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sergio Garcia return to PGA Catalunya this week, along with plenty of fellow Spaniards.

PGA Catalunya a course that played host to 2009 Open de Espana, as well as the being the host course for the European Tour Q-School since 2008. This 7,333 yard, Par 72, will test players accuracy off the tee, with elevated tees coming into play on seven holes. Also important is finding the right part of this undulating course, so course form may be key this week.

For the older players in the field, you can reference their form at 1999 Sarazen World Open, and the 2000 Open de Espana. Others will have either only seen the course once, in the 2009 Open de Espana, or for some, multiple visits to the European Tour Q-School since 2008 will have helped them familiarise themselves with the Stadium Course here.

As aforementioned, accuracy off the tee will be important here, and any course form will no doubt help players’ chances here this week.

With the strength of the field, there are some more interesting prices about, and some may be inflated for that reason. Sergio Garcia is the clear favourite, in his national open, but at 5/1 he can be left well alone. Next up in the betting comes Francesco Molinari, who like Garcia has been playing very well of late, but again at 14/1 I am happy to let him go too.

The next two in the betting are European Tour veterans, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn, both of whom you can make a very good case for and they both come in at 25/1. It’s 33/1 and bigger the rest, and as aformentioned, due to the strength of field there are definitely some interesting prices about players this week.

Here are my picks for 2014 Open de Espana.

Thomas Bjorn 25/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Thomas Bjorn has enjoyed a lot of success over the last year or so, with two wins in 2013, the European Masters in September, and the Nedbank Challenge in December.

So far in 2014, he has posted three top-10s, two in his first two events in January, and most recently at the Masters, where he finished a career-best tied 8th. He looks in good form, despite his missed cut at the Players Championship last week, and he should be confident of a good week, back on European soil.

He hasn’t played in the Open de Espana since 2010, when he missed the cut, but that was at a different course, and his finish the year before is more of interest.

Bjorn played in the Open de Espana in 2009, when it was last hosted at PGA Catalunya and he excelled, finishing 3rd and four shots behind winner Thomas Levet.

The Dane has won this event before, albeit at a different course, when he won in 1998, but he also won the Sarazen World Open at this course, a year later in 1999, so although there was ten years between that win, and the 2009 Open de Espana, his form-figures read 1-3, at PGA Catalunya.

There should only be positive vibes surrounding Bjorn this week, and he is certainly in great shape to get the job done here. He is currently sitting atop the Race to Dubai rankings, and is also 3rd in European Ryder Cup rankings, so he could be in for one of the biggest years in his career to date.

With his best ever finish at Augusta in his recent memory, plus two wins and steady form under his belt since the tail-end of last year, Bjorn looks a great bet in this field. If he didn’t miss the cut last week, he may well of been shorter this week, but I by no means put off by last week’s play.

He is among the very best players to play regularly on the European Tour, and he should show that here this week, proving a solid 25/1 shout.

Chris Wood 60/1 (Bet365 & SpreadEx) 1pt e/w: Chris Wood has plenty of ability, and on his day deserves to mentioned amongst the very best on the European Tour, and if it wasn’t for his somewhat regular injury problems, he may be recognised as just that a lot more often.

Due to his injury problems, Wood has still only managed one European Tour victory, at the very prestigious, Qatar Masters in 2013.  He also won an event prior to his win in Qatar, this time on the OneAsia Tour, when he won the 2012 Thailand Open.

He has come close on numerous occasions, even in a major championship, so the talent is undoubtedly there, and a fit Chris Wood is a very dangerous Chris Wood in European Tour fields. He came 3rd in the Open Championship in 2009, just a year after finishing T5 and being the low-amateur at the same event. Needing just a par on the last hole to get himself in a play-off with American pair, Stewart Cink and Tom Watson, he unfortunately went on to get a bogey, after his 9 iron from 210 yards went through the green, and unfortunately he had to sit and watch Stewart Cink claim the trophy at Turnberry.

Following that week, it was widely expected that Wood was going to kick on and become a multiple Tour winner, but it wasn’t to be and five years later he is still looking for his second victory. I do believe the Open de Espana provides him with a great opportunity to do just that this week, and hopefully he can build on his last performance.

He finished T5 last time out at the The Championship, at Laguna National, and with that form behind him, plus previous at this course I am happy to take a chance on the Englishman continuing that form this week.

In 2008, after turning pro, Wood earned his European Tour card at Q-School, here at PGA Catalunya when he finished 5th and a year later finished 24th in the Open de Espana here.

He finds plenty of greens, and can play well off the tee when in form, so should he keep up the form from two weeks ago, he could look a good price at 60/1.

Nicolas Colsaerts 66/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: Colsaerts has been plying his trade on the PGA Tour for the most part this season, largely unsuccessfully, so he should welcome a return to Europe, especially in a part of the world he tends to play well in, on a regular basis.

Colsaerts, or the “The Belgian Bomber”, has played some very steady golf in Spain over the last three years, and whilst he has not played at PGA Catalunya in a competitive capacity, I see no reason why he cannot keep up that form this week.

In his last three starts in the Open de Espana, Colsaerts has finished T7-T22-T6, so with two top-10 finishes and a further top-25, he has somewhat proved he is comfortable playing in Spain, and hopefully he can extend that run of form here this week.

As aforementioned, Colsaerts has been playing on the PGA Tour for the best part of the season, and as a result has made just two starts on the European Tour in 2014, and the results were very different.

Upon his return to the European Tour, he proved his quality, finishing 2nd only to the brilliance of former World No.1 Lee Westwood, at the Maybank Malaysian Open and it looked as though Colsaerts would kick on from there. It wasn’t to be however, as just a week later, the Belgian missed the cut at the Volvo China Open, an event he has previously won.

As, on the face of it he looks out of form, with several missed cuts in America his price has gone out to 66/1 which I consider good value for him on this Tour, and he should put those missed cuts behind him, and prove just how good of a player he can be, especially on this Tour.

It based this on two main things, his form in Spain, and his inflated price and hopefully the 66/1 looks an overcorrection to his form in America. He has still only won two events on the European Tour, but over the last two years he has looked like a really good player in these fields and his quality could shine through here.

Carlos Del Moral 125/1 (BetVictor & SpreadEx) 0.5pt e/w: Carlos Del Moral, a player I have already picked this year looks and obvious pick, and as a result is a popular bet this week.

Despite failing to ever make his mark on the European Tour, Del Moral has proved on more the one occasion how determined he is to ply his trade full-time on this Tour, and if he can play well this week and get the win he’s been looking for, he will be able to do just that for an extended period of time.

He needs either a host of good finishes, to keep his card through Race to Dubai earnings, or if he can get a win, he can earn a 2-year exemption straight away. If he is ever going to win on the main stage, this year’s Open de Espana may be his best chance of doing so, as it returns to PGA Catalunya, a course Del Moral has a real affinity with.

The Spaniard has successfully graduated from the European Tour Q-School four times, since 2008 and every single time he has done so, by playing well at this course.

Last year proved it most as he got the win here, after finishing runner-up in 2008 and 2010. As well as performing extremely well on a regular basis, when trying to qualify for the European Tour at this course, he also finished in a tie for 17th here in 2009, at the Open de Espana and he will be looking to go better this time around.

His course form simply cannot be ignored, and although he’s still proving inconsistent, there have been some good showings from him this year.

Del Moral finished 4th at the Tshwane Open, his best showing of the season, as well as 13th at the Qatar Masters and 20th at the NH Collection Open two starts ago, so he’s showing some decent signs this season and he should be confident, returning to a course he’s played so well, so often.

At 125/1 it’s worth taking a chance that he plays his best golf here, as he does when under pressure trying to earn playing rights. This should be his favourite stop all year, and hopefully that is the case.

Total Points staked on the European Tour this week: 8

Profit/Loss for 2014: + 96.91

The Open de Espana marks the run of four solid betting events on the European Tour, heading into the U.S Open and hopefully we can start off on a bright note in Girona this week. I have picked what I consider three very solid European Tour players this week, plus one wildcard that I hope can upset the odds, due to his outstanding course form.

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