We’re faced with a fairly new course this week with the return of the European Tour as we also see the return of the Open de Espana, one of the oldest events in golf. The course is essentially at the Spanish golf headquarters much like The Belfry in the U.K. and therefore it is quite aptly named Centro Nacional de Golf. It was the brainchild of the late, great Seve and was only opened in 2006, quickly hosting 3 events but then nothing of note since 2009. I’m not sure why that was the case, maybe lack of money as the whole thinking behind the course was to have a good quality public course in Madrid, that possibly becoming less financially viable after the recession. Anyway, there is a little course form although quite dated, it held the Challenge de Espana in 2006, this event in 2007 and the Madrid Masters in 2009. They were won by Adrien Mork, Charl Schwartzel and Ross McGowan respectively.
A look down those leaderboards reveals a lot of links types of players and a look at photos and videos of the course tell us why. It is a wide open, completely exposed course with plenty of undulations on the fairway and the rough looks almost non-existent. Reports of a particularly dry spell in the area suggest that the course will play firm and fast and I think it could be a case of bombs away off the tee and then trying to hold the slippery greens with as lofted a club as possible. It definitely looks like a second shot golf course and both McGowan and Schwartzel hit plenty of greens in regulation at 88.9% (2nd) and 84.7% (2nd) respectively. That’s a pretty high clip and tells us the greens are either very big, easy to hit from anywhere or a combination of both. Regardless of which I think aggressive iron play will be required to get a jump on the field with everyone hitting greens. I’ve looked at some wide open Scottish links courses where lots of greens are hit as my angle in here and have found 4 decent looking bets. Jon Rahm is the short price jolly here at 4/1 and while that seems to be a very fair price, I’d like to see him convert at those sort of prices at least once before we part with money on him to do so. Travelling back from Augusta gives just about enough question marks about Rahm even at a course where he studied for two years. On a week where it looks like a case of either having one big win bet on the Spaniard or looking at some each way options, I’m siding with the latter.
George Coetzee will be too short for some here but this is a very weak field when you remove Jon Rahm and I think the course will suit him perfectly. After doing us a favour last month why not go in again at double the price. Coetzee’s biggest downfall is usually his erratic driving that can rack up some big numbers but with the space available here that shouldn’t be a problem. We know how brilliant a putter he is even if strangely the new European Tour stats don’t back that up. But what they have done is told me that George sits 12th in strokes gained: approaches which is a far loftier position than I expected. With his brilliant touch on the greens he can usually get to grips with new greens quicker than most (ranked 1st in putting at 2015 U.S. PGA at Whistling Straits) and if he is striking it well I’d expect him to carry his form over from March.
Ryan Fox has been a little quiet of late but he did me a few favours last summer and we are reaching that time of the year again. Fox is another who likes to let rip with the driver and then let his approach play do the talking. He finished 4th at the wide Dundonald Links last summer and was also 4th in the Irish Open on another relatively wide links course. That same run of form included a 6th at Le Golf National which is a course where you have to hit greens. He missed his last cut in his home Open but prior to that he averaged 82% for GIR on his previous 2 starts. That sort of approach play makes him of interest here and I think he could take to the course at a nice price.
I wanted to get a player who has played here before onside too and while he doesn’t fall into the bomber type I think Mike Lorenzo-Vera should very much enjoy this test on and around the fast greens. He came 10th in the 2009 Madrid Masters playing very solidly to rank 9th in the all-round ranking. He also ranked 3rd in putting and experience of these greens, however dated, certainly won’t be a bad thing. Moreover though MLV is just a player that plays well in Spain, he has made 8 of his last cuts returning 4 Top 15s. His last trip was to Valderrama where he finished 6th on the brilliantly tough layout. He arrives in good form too finishing 10th on his last outing in Qatar where the greens are also quick and exposed.
One last value play and that is in the shape of Ollie Fisher. He finished 2nd on his last full tournament in Qatar but is marked with a WD on his next start in India. I can’t find much injury news so he maybe just came down with food poisoning and barring injury I think he is a huge price with that form. Ollie is another who will enjoy the lack of rough and trouble off the tee which will allow this formerly brilliant iron player to show off his strengths. He hit 77% of the greens in Qatar on the way to finishing behind only Eddie Pepperell and similar control of his golf ball should result in another decent showing.
George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 25/1
Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1
Mike Lorenzo-Vera – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1
Ollie Fisher – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1
Weekly pts advised = 6pts