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ISPS Handa Wales Open Tips

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This week, we keep it in the U.K on the European Tour, making the trip from Scotland to Wales, as players test there game on one of Britain’s most coveted resorts, Celtic Manor. The event was first contested in 2000, and has been played ever since. One change has occurred in this time, that being that between 2005-2007, the Wales Open was hosted at the Roman Road Course, whilst the Wentwood Hills (currently known as 2010 course) was being redesigned to host the 2010 Ryder Cup.

We enter this week, off the back of a dramatic week at Gleneagles, Scotland, where England’s Tommy Fleetwood managed to pick up his first European Tour win, at the Johnnie Walker Championship. Fleetwood managed to record a play off victory over both home favourite Stephen Gallagher and 4-time European Tour winner Ricardo Gonzalez. Fleetwood has flirted with success on a few occasions in his short career, and looks a real prospect for the future, with this win giving him the confidence to move forward.

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Once again, the 2014 Ryder Cup will be at the forefront of the European hopefuls this week, as last week they got to show what they can do on the chosen venue, however as of tomorrow the Ryder Cup points start, and players will be looking to get off to a fast start in there quest to make Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup team. Only one player from Europe’s 2012 winning side tees it up here this week, that player being Francesco Molinari, and he’ll be keen to impress and give himself a boost in the right direction ahead of next year. There are however, plenty of hopefuls, who will feel they have a great shot of making the team, including three at the head of the betting. Both Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten have made it public knowledge that the 2014 Ryder Cup is a personal target for them, whilst 2010 member Ross Fisher will want to throw his name in the once again, starting this week at the very course that saw him make his first and so far only appearance in the event. There are of course others, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Thorbjorn Olesen and Chris Wood will all consider themselves real contenders for next year’s team and it looks to be as difficult decision as ever, with all three players picking up wins in the last 12 months, so performances in Home Nations events may well be the difference between making the cut and not in Gleneagles next summer.

Enough of what could happen, let’s take a look at what is definitely happening this week, and that is the 2013 edition of the Wales Open, where we have seen thirteen winners in as many years, so it’s definitely one of the more difficult to pick. A Welsh player has yet to win their home event, however two Englishman, one from both Ireland, and Northern Ireland have won here at Celtic Manor, so the British players could draw confidence from that. When looking at past winners of this event, there are players at complete different ends of the scale in terms of quality. For example, major winner and 7-time European Tour winner Graeme McDowell won here in 2010, whereas just one year previously World No. 622 and 1-time European Tour winner Jeppe Huldahl one, so it is definitely a tournament that is open to anyone. You could argue however, that as a rule, top quality players win this event, as other previous winners of the Wales Open are multiple European Tour winners, such as Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, so you certainly wouldn’t side against the accomplished pro’s.

It’s hard to find a a player, with any one style that will win this week, as to me no real statistic stands out, with maybe Greens in Regulation being fairly important, but that’s a given as you need to be hitting greens to win golf tournaments. Ross Fisher finished T6 last year and ranked 54th in Greens in Regulation, whereas Paul Mcginley, also T6 ranked 3rd, so it’s not the be all and end all but it’s certainly the biggest factor I could find. Graeme McDowell finished 1st in Greens in Regulation in 2010, Alexander Noren 2nd in 2011, and Thongchai Jaidee 7th in 2012, so the last three winners have all been inside the top-10 in Greens in Regulation, so that may be worth bearing in mind. Onto the course now, and we look at what challenges the players will face this week at Celtic Manor’s 2010 course.

The Course: Twenty Ten Course, Celtic Manor Resort, Par 71 -7,378 yards. A golf course that has been put together by two seperate 9 holes, 9 that were created purely for the Ryder and 9 from the existing course they built on Wentworth Hills. The course is almost completely flat, stretches a long way and water hazards come into play on 10/18 holes.  The course is mostly exposed so any form of wind will effect the play, and if it gets up substantially, players who play well in those conditions will obviously be favoured. As mentioned above, Greens in Regulation is my main statistic to focus on this week, and if you’re top of that statistic you shouldn’t be too far away come Sunday, barring a meltdown with the putter.

The field this week still has a few big names in it, who all sit atop the market, however this week is definitely one of those weeks where you could see a winner come from down the pack. Not only could it be an up and coming player who wins, like Fleetwood last week, but it could also be an established pro who’s trying to regain form. With all this mind I’ve narrowed it down to four picks, here’s my selections for the 2013 Wales Open.

 

Gonzalo Fdez-Castano 25/1 (Coral & Ladbrokes) 2pts e/w: Castano is definitely a winner in my eyes, and I can’t see any reason why he won’t contend this week. Castano has 6 wins since 2005, his last coming in September of last year, and he’ll be keen to add another win, in search of some valuable Ryder Cup points, early on in the proceedings. He comes into this event out of sorts, as he is struggling to find the form he was showing early on, in both Europe and America, which mainly saw him amass 3 top 10s in 12 events on the PGA Tour, including a 3rd place finish at Bay Hill. His two good showings, firstly the Masters where he came T20 and then the U.S Open where he finished T10, certainly show positive signs in Castano’s game and he will be digging deep to find that sort of form here again. He has not played in Europe, other than the Open Championship since the Alstom De France back in early July, and since the PGA Championship he has taken a break. He never plays Gleneagles, which he unfortunately had to point out to one angry Twitter user he accused him of abandoning the European Tour, and said he hopes he’s not considered for the Ryder Cup. This is the exact tweet from the disgruntled user “here’s hoping all the players that have abandoned the standard tournaments on the @European_Tour never get picked for the Ryder Cup” to which Castano calmly replied “You should tweet the Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, not me!”. I won’t go on with the quotations, however Castano in the end decided he had to explain himself, and pointed out he didn’t ever play Gleneagles as it clashes with his son’s birthday. This of course isn’t why I am picking him this week. I’m not basing it on the fact he has something to prove, he doesn’t, I’m basing it on his record around Celtic Manor! In his last three attempts he has finished, T2, T12 and 9th, playing the event every other year between 2008-2012. This shows his competence with the course, and he should return to Wales this week, refreshed and confident in his abilities to play this course. If he can get hot with the putter he will be a big, big threat to leaderboard this week. It’s also worth bearing in mind that on route to his T2 place last year, he shot a +3 2nd round, bouncing back with a 69,67 over the weekend.

Simon Dyson 33/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Simon Dyson is in great form at present, and he’ll be keen to continue that on a course that he’s enjoyed relative success on, in the past. Without setting Wales alight, Dyson has managed to post three, steady and respectable finishes at Celtic Manor. Dyson didn’t play in this event last year, but in 2011 he finished T20, a year after finishing T18, which again came after a good showing a year previous in 09′ when he came T6. So he in his three last attempts Dyson has placed inside the top-20, and although he hasn’t won in almost two years, he knows exactly how to get the job done, winning nine times in total, six coming on the European Tour. His last four finishes on Tour have proved something in his game as clicked, starting with his 5th place finish at the Alstom De France, where he tends to struggle. He’s followed that up with at T12 in Scotland, a 9th in the Russian Open and T28 at Gleneagles last week. On his day Dyson can be a great player, in a field he’ll feel comfortable in, at a course where he knows he can play well, I’ll be looking for his form to continue. He’s happy where his game at is currently and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved Sunday. This isn’t a big price by any means, but his current form counts for a lot, and he may have got hot at the right time, for the business end of the season. I have a lot of confidence in him on British soil and hopefully he can repay that here. He lies 16th in Greens in Regulation so far in 2013, and considering his rough start, that ‘s a good spot for him to be in.

Brooks Koepka 50/1 (Coral) 1.5pts e/w: In my opinion Brooks Koepka will win on the European Tour by the end of 2013. There you have, my bold statement for the year. He is without a doubt a top-class player, having showed it in his limited starts on the European Tour so far this year, as well as completely dominating the Challenge Tour for best part of the season. If you follow me on Twitter, or read my Scottish Open tips, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the young American, and nothing has changed since then. He finished T12 in what was his first full start as a fully fledged European Tour player at the Scottish Open, and since then has gone on to change his career for the better, even if his results don’t stand out. For starters Koepka played in his very first major championship, when he played at the Open back in July, where he unfortunately missed the cut. Not one to dwell on his disappointment, Koepka took advantage of his invite to the final major of the year the PGA Championship, making it through to the weekend. He learned two valuable lessons for me that week. Firstly he really hand to grind it out in order to make the cut Friday, and after securing his fate set up a final round pairing with none other than World N0.1 Tiger Woods. Although he struggled, finishing on 77 for this round, for an +11 total for the week, Koepka was clearly pleased to get the chance to play with Woods, when quoted saying  “He is the reason I’m playing” . “It was a bunch of fun to play with him. Nice guy, hell ofa player.”  This to me highlights the maturity and mental strength of the young American and he bounced back with three superb rounds of golf at the Johnnie Walker Championship last week. After being -10 going into the weekend, Koepka looked primed for another big finish, when unfortunately he threw in a round 3 score of 75 (+3) which completely derailed his challenge. Yet again though, Koepka proved he’s got the winning attitude when he bounced back, with a 69 (-3) on Sunday to get himself back into double digits under par for the week. Although his T28 doesn’t look outstanding on paper, you really have to break down the week to appreciate his efforts. He’s already won on British land, winning in Scotland at the Hydro Challenge, his last victory on the Challenge Tour before sealing his European Tour, so he’ll be keen to keep up his good work this side of the pond. Three great weeks in Scotland prove he can play in conditions very different to that of America, and hopefully he can prove yet again what a great player he is by winning this years Wales Open.

Ricardo Gonzalez 80/1 (Betfred) 1pt e/w: Looking at his odds, 80/1 about a player who lost out in a play-off last week, looks big on that basis alone, but when you factor in a couple of other things that work in his favour and you’ve got a really solid outsider here in Wales. In his last two events, both in Scotland, Gonzalez has finished T17 and T2, two more than solid weeks for the veteran Argentine and he should  be confident of repeating that here at Celtic Manor. My first reason for this thought was his T4 finish here in 2011, but put that alongside his Greens in Regulation ranking for 2013 (5th) and I personally started to feel more and more confident about him this week. Although he has no other form to really build upon here at Celtic Manor, with his next best result being T47 in 2008, amongst some missed cuts, confidence in your current form/game is big for golfers, and he will take many positives from Gleneagles last week. If he can relate back to what he did here in 2011, he will stand every chance of featuring on Sunday, and for our sake I hope he does. 80/1 was simply too big for a player in his current form.

Total points staked on the European Tour this week: 13

Total Points Staked (inc PGA Tour) this week: TBC

Profit/Loss for 2013: + 58.65

It was another case of “nearly” last week as Wiesberger finished T4 whilst right up there and Brett Rumford finished one place out of the top-5. We were however saved by Gary Boyd finishing in the Top 20, and that was very valuable to us considering the finish to our PGA selections. I’m sure a winner is just round the corner, and hopefully that corner will be the Wales Open this week. Thank you as ever for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed. Follow me on Twitter @TomJacobs8 for any queries you may have.