The European Tour returns this week and on the week where the great Severiano Ballesteros would have turned 61 it is fitting that it does so with the Open de Espana, a tournament that is back on the circuit having been left off it in 2017.
That means that Andrew Johnston will defend his title this week and he will do so against a decent enough field headed by a couple of Spanish modern greats. As ever with this tournament we have switched tracks from the last time it was hosted so Johnston will defend on a different course.
2016 – Andrew Johnston
2015 – James Morrison
2014 – Miguel Angel Jimenez
2013 – Raphael Jacquelin
2012 – Francesco Molinari
2011 – Thomas Aiken
2010 – Alvaro Quiros
2009 – Thomas Levet
2008 – Peter Lawrie
2007 – Charl Schwartzel
The Centro Nacional de Golf is the venue for the tournament this week. It last hosted this event in 2007 when Charl Schwartzel won and it also held the Madrid Masters in 2009. It is the National Golf Centre of Spain so a number of Spanish players developed their skills here.
In numerical form the course is a par 72 which measures 7,096 yards so it is not especially long. There are four par 5s on the course with three of them less than 530 yards so we should expect the scoring to be low on an undulated and exposed course where hitting greens and holing putts appears to be the order of the day rather than belting it miles. The wind is likely to get involved along the way to give the course some sort of defence.
Given that the tournament comes less than a week after the conclusion of the opening major of the year, the field here is decent enough. It is headed by the Spanish duo of Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello while the defending champion Andrew Johnston is also in the field.
Recent tournament winners such as Matt Wallace, Eddie Pepperell and George Coetzee are in the field while other local players include Jorge Campillo, Adrian Otaegui, Alvaro Quiros and Nacho Elvira. Pablo Larrazabal and Andy Sullivan also tee it up this week.
Jon Rahm is an emphatic favourite this week. He is 19/5 to win the tournament on a course where he spent two years combining learning golf and studying. He is a clear standout in this field in terms of quality and world ranking so it is understandable that he is such a strong favourite but he does come here off the back of The Masters where he was deep in contention throughout the weekend and backing that up could be difficult. That’s my only concern.
Rafa Cabrera Bello is the second favourite to win the tournament at 14/1. He also comes here from The Masters although his chances of winning the competition never really got off the ground so he shouldn’t be as mentally fatigued but it is still a long flight and a massive comedown from the big crowds and Augusta National so I’m not overly convinced by him either.
Paul Dunne comes next at 22/1 and if the player who turned up to the British Masters arrives here then he is going to have every chance of going well. He recorded back-to-back top 10s on the PGA Tour prior to The Masters so he looks to be swinging the club well so he isn’t without a chance albeit his price looks fair, if a little on the skinny side.
George Coetzee won the Tshwane Open last time out and a repeat of that performance would be enough to get him into contention here. Pablo Larrazabal would love to win his home Open and he has the iron game and short game to deliver the goods here. Both can be backed at 25/1 with defending champion Andrew Johnston next at 28/1. It is 33/1 bar.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week. Eddie Pepperell won in Qatar earlier in the season and made the wise decision to take an extended break of the back of that rather than go globetrotting chasing the cash and the tee off times. He should be nicely suited to this course. He does not have to belt driver everywhere and we saw in Qatar that his iron play, his scrambling and his putting were of the highest quality. As long as rust hasn’t set in he should be a leading contender this week.
Stephen Gallacher is putting some good form together and this track should really suit him. He has form over exposed tracks and is competent in the wind. He already has top 10s in Oman and India this season and was bang there at halfway in Qatar too. It might have been 11 years ago now but Gallacher has a top 10 around here and with his greens hit and putting numbers going in the right direction I fancy a big run from the Scot here.
I always like to take a local man in these national opens and Adrian Otaegui fits the profile I’m looking for in this tournament. He has been in the top 30 in driving accuracy in each of his last 10 tournaments and in four of the last six he has been in the top 20 in greens hit. If he can get the putter hot then he should get himself into contention.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera had a good week in Qatar where his putting was of the highest quality and his driving was of a good nature too. ML-V was inside the top 10 here the last time this course staged a tournament and he was in a much better position than that prior to a final round of 73. He’s a better golfer now and with nine top 20 finishes last season he is adding a consistency to his game. He could be overpriced at 80/1.
My last bet comes in the form of Soren Kjeldsen who has an excellent record when he tees it up in Spain. Kjeldsen’s results have not mirrored the quality of his game yet this season but now that he is back in mainland Europe I expect that to change. Kjeldsen has stacks of form on courses that relate to the profile of this one and if he can get some putts to the hole the Dane should be able to add to his ongoing list of top 20s in Spain with a very big run.
Back E.Pepperell to win Open de Espana (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Unibet (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back S.Gallacher to win Open de Espana (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Otaegui to win Open de Espana (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back M.Lorenzo-Vera to win Open de Espana (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-6)
Back S.Kjeldsen to win Open de Espana (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 111.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-6)
Back them here: