After the highs of the final major of the year last week, the regular European Tour returns this week and it does so at one of its best venues as the Celtic Manor Resort stages the Cazoo Open which is being supported by Gareth Bale.
This is the new name for the Wales Open which was staged for the first time in six years last season. Romain Langasque was the champion back in August 2020 but he doesn’t return to defend his title so we are guaranteed a different winner.
2020 – Romain Langasque
2014 – Joost Luiten
2013 – Gregory Bourdy
2012 – Thongchai Jaidee
2011 – Alex Noren
2010 – Graeme McDowell
2009 – Jeppe Huldahl
2008 – Scott Strange
2007 – Richard Sterne
2006 – Robert Karlsson
We are at the Celtic Manor Resort this week, the course which is famous for staging the European Ryder Cup win back in 2010. Given the status of this track this tournament really should have a much bigger billing than it has got and that is something for the European Tour to look at moving forward. The course has been lengthened slightly this year and is now a par 71 which stretches out to 7,393 yards although we are in the middle of a heatwave in this part of the world so the course will be firm and fast and now really play to that yardage.
The course is a parkland one and on the back nine in particular it has a lot of undulations as it was built to accommodate fans for the Ryder Cup. The fairways are generally pretty wide here but the test is into the greens which are sloped for certain positions. There are also large runoffs here so the short game is going to be relied upon at some point as well. This course tends to suit those who attack the flags from the fairway though.
Rarely is there a decent field the week following a major and with the Olympics in Japan next week there was never going to be one here. You would have to describe this as competitive more than stellar but we do have Matt Wallace heading up the field. He at least brings some quality to proceedings. There is a good chance for someone who has been threatening the breakthrough on the European Tour to achieve that this week.
There are just four other players in the top 100 in the world rankings here this week. One of those is Daniel van Tonder who had a good week at The Open last week. John Catlin and Chan Kim are inside the top 100 while Aaron Rai is ranked on that number. Sam Horsfield won the Celtic Classic around here last year so he will be confident of winning while other leading names include Adrian Otaegui, Laurie Canter, Calum Hill, Wade Ormsby and Marc Warren.
Matt Wallace is clearly the class act in the field and he is 9/1 to win the tournament which I guess when you consider the cast list against him is probably an ounce of value. I’m not convinced that he is in tournament winning form and there might be a bit of a comedown from The Open where he played all four rounds albeit without contending. Wallace has spent most of his time in the US this season but he did open up the campaign with a T7 in Abu Dhabi. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does win this but there isn’t a lot luring me in at 9s.
Sam Horsfield is next in the betting at 14/1 and as a course winner he certainly has to be respected but he has been up and down a little for my liking in the last few weeks. He withdrew in Ireland and then missed the cut in Scotland and was never really a factor last week. Horsfield did win here last year but he arrived here off the back of winning a few weeks prior to that. He then finished T44 here the following week so consistency is something he is struggling with right now. You can never write off a course winner but he isn’t for me.
Justin Harding and Aaron Rai come next in the betting at 16/1. Harding was prominent throughout The Open last week and that might be more of a negative than you might think. He has generally been in decent form this year though and that gives him a chance here. Rai has probably been in better form and as a winner in Scotland last year we know he can play British courses, if we needed a reminder. His price is pretty tight at 16/1 though.
Laurie Canter comes next at 20/1 and given that he was fifth here last year that might be an attractive price to be getting stick into especially when you consider he has been knocking on the door for the last year or so. If there is a concern then he hasn’t been a factor in the last couple of tournaments on the European Tour. The week off might have done him the world of good. He’ll get it out there off the tee and shouldn’t be ruled out.
I’ll take a couple of main bets with the first one being the player who led after three rounds in both the tournaments here last year in Connor Syme. He clearly has a liking for Celtic Manor and I’m guessing that is because the fairways are pretty wide and allow him to go pin hunting with his irons which is certainly the strength of his game. He didn’t get either tournament won last year but the experience should have done him the world of good and he has four top 20s on the Tour in the last few months so there is nothing wrong with his form at present. On a course he clearly enjoys he should be a factor again.
Wade Ormsby isn’t the longest player in the field but the firm conditions to begin with will make up for that and I expect him to deliver the goods here. He comes into this tournament off the back of a good effort in Scotland in a field a country mile better than this one where he was eighth in strokes gained on approach and fourth around the greens. His putter didn’t work there but don’t forget those were links greens and they can be different to read. The Australian should be no stranger to a firm and fast track which is certainly what he’ll get here for the first couple of days and in this field looks to be a massive price at 50/1.
I’ll chance my arm at three outsiders this week with the first one being Dale Whitnell who I’ve backed a few times this year. Whitnell continues to impress me and was fourth in the Irish Open a few weeks ago where he was in the top 10 in putting that week and top 20 around the greens scrambling. He was also just outside the top 10 in that very tough event in Germany last month so he has good form on tough courses. His putting has improved throughout the year and he is generally solid into the greens. In what is a weak field he looks a big price to me.
The other two are complete punts on certain bits of form that caught my eye. Matthieu Pavon was T12 in Scotland last time out where he was ranked 10 in strokes gained on approach and when you consider the strength of that field that is huge. Generally he is a decent putter and he has plenty of UK form on his side which is clearly a positive this week. There are plenty of comparisons between Celtic Manor and Le Golf National in Paris which Pavon will know well. We had a French winner of this last year and might get another here.
Finally I’ll take a punt on Nino Bertasio. If you look at his last eight results and see a run of MC-38-22-51-25-MC-MC-44 and run for the hills but prior to that he went 19-12-10 in Qatar and the two weeks in Kenya. Those latter two weeks the field wasn’t particularly strong much like it isn’t here so the fact he ran well in those catches my eye. In those events he ranked 39-13-3 for strokes gained on approach and in three of his last six tournaments he has ranked inside the top 25 in strokes gained with the putter in stronger fields than this. At three figures I’ll pay to see if it can all come together for four days.
Back C.Syme to win Cazoo Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back W.Ormsby to win Cazoo Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back D.Whitnell to win Cazoo Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back N.Bertasio to win Cazoo Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back them here:
Back M.Pavon to win Cazoo Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back him here: