The European Tour begins three weeks in Spain on Thursday when the ‘Canary Islands Swing’ begins with the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open, a new tournament made hopefully just for this year as the Tour navigates its way through Covid, and one which will be hosted by Rafa Cabrera Bello.
There is no previous winner of this tournament given that this is the inaugural running of it but with the sun almost guaranteed in this part of the world at this time of the year, a pretty good field have headed out for the event.
We know that the host course this week is the Meloneros Golf Resort in Gran Caneria. We don’t really know a whole lot about the place though other than it is a par 70 and is a very short one given that it only measures 6,715 yards. The interesting thing about this course is that even though it is a par 70 there are still three par 5s which means there are also five par 3s to accommodate for that so you get the impression that iron play is going to be massively important.
We are playing resort golf fairly near to the coast this week which means we should expect a bit of a breeze throughout the event. Resort courses tend to look towards the tourist markets to make their money so in that regard we should be looking at a relatively simple layout from tee to green with the challenges coming around the greens and on them. We saw quite a few events on resort/holiday courses last year and they were generally all low scoring. I’m expecting no different here.
The headliner in the field this week is the tournament host Rafa Cabrera Bello and he has attracted a decent cast list to join him. They include tournament winners over the last 12 months in the form of Antoine Rozner, Andy Sullivan and Sam Horsfield as well as a real form horse in Kurt Kitayama. The most recent tournament winner is also in the field in last week’s Austrian Open champion John Catlin so the top end of the field looks very strong.
There are plenty of notables in the field who are European Tour stalwarts who will be looking for a victory to kick their season into life ahead of the bigger events on the schedule to come over the next four or five months. They include Joost Luiten, Jamie Donaldson, Ross Fisher, Victor Dubuisson, Eddie Pepperell and Thorbjorn Olesen. Home stars such as Adri Arnaus, Adrian Otaegui and Jorge Campillo will be looking for success in familiar surroundings.
It is Qatar Masters champion Antoine Rozner who is the leader in the betting market this week. The Frenchman, who also won a similar event to this in Dubai in December, can be taken at 16/1 to win the tournament this week. Rozner is one of the leading lights in any European event these days and maybe the only doubt here comes in the ability of others to go a bit lower in terms of scoring than he does and marrying that risk up with a short price. He isn’t for me based on the price but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win again.
Sam Horsfield won twice on the UK Swing last season in events that you would describe as similar to this one. There is a school of thought that this might turn into a putting contest so it might be significant that in the last two events on the European Tour he has finished ranked in the top two in putting average. He has the length to cover any trouble so if he can dial enough irons in you’ve got to think he is going to be there or thereabouts at a respectable 18/1.
Andy Sullivan won a tournament on the UK Swing, the lowest scoring one as it turns out, and bungled a chance to win the Dubai event that Rozner ended up stealing off him so the 22/1 on him to come out on top here could appeal to many. If there is a concern it would be his form so far in 2021 but recently he has been flicking between Europe and the US and that isn’t an easy thing to do if you aren’t used to it or not established in doing it. He is someone known for enjoying resort golf.
Two players go into the tournament as 25/1 shots this week. They are the host Rafa Cabrera Bello and the form man Kurt Kitayama. I’m not particularly interested in the Spaniard because there is just too many demands on the time of that player even in Covid times. If you think back to last year, Lee Westwood hosted the British Masters and never got going and he has barely missed a shot in anger since then. Kitayama is in decent form at the minute and would be of much more interest.
I can’t go beyond Sam Horsfield this week. He showed in the UK Swing last year that these resort style tournaments are right up his street. I think the two things I want this week are length off the tee and strong putting and Horsfield can certainly get it out there and he’s one of the better putters on the tour, or at least he has been over the last year or so. Horsfield comes into this week in good form too. As well as those two wins last season, his last three outings have seen finishes of 8-3-15 and as I intimated above he has been inside the top two in putting average in the last two of those events. The first of those he gained more than 10 shots on the greens which is incredible. If he reads these greens like the ones in Kenya he could lead this field something of a merry dance.
The other player who I always think is cut out for resort golf is Dean Burmester. He smacks it miles and although his putting can be inconsistent, when it is good it is very good. The other thing I like about the South African around here is that he sits third in par 3 scoring. When you consider there are five par 3s around this place that statistic alone could see him do some damage. Burmester has a win to his name on the European Tour and a whole bunch of top 10 finishes. If this is the week his putter lights up he can go very well here.
I’ll go with three outsiders this week with the first of them being on a Matthew Jordan who went pretty well during the UK Swing last year which is enough to sway me in here. He was third in Wales, had two other top 20s and also finishes in the top 15 in Portugal and in both the Cyprus events so there is something about these exposed tracks that gets his juices flowing. Jordan sits in the top 30 in the driving distance in this field in the last year and he is sixth in the putting averages – again the two stats I like the most this week. His form might not be anything to write home about in 2021 but if the open air inspires him this week there’s no reason why he hasn’t got a big week in him.
Louis de Jager is someone who has been on my list for a few events since the pandemic kicked in and he is another who stats very well this week. Among those teeing it up this week he sits eighth in driving distance and inside the top 20 in putting average, and scrambling for good measure. An added bonus is that he is inside the top 30 in par 3 scoring on the tour this year. His putting has actually been better than the top 10 in recent weeks. He led the field in strokes gained putting in Qatar, in a better field than this, and ninth in the first week in Qatar. He was also ninth in that statistic in the Cyprus Showdown at the end of last year so if his iron play is above average this week he shouldn’t be far away.
I always like a stab in the dark in these events as well and this week that is going to be Garrick Porteous. He is another who stats nicely here. He is inside the top 25 in distance off the tee and in the top 15 in putting average. He has shown flashes over the last few weeks of offering something. He was T16 in Kenya on a course probably a little tight for him and then finished T15 in Austria last week after starting with a 75 so there are signs that he is trending in the right direction. In both of those events he was in the top 20 for strokes gained putting and his long game was in decent order. With a little more freedom off the tee this week and less trouble around the greens he might just outperform his price.
PLACED – Back S.Horsfield to win Gran Canaria Lopesan Open (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 19.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back D.Burmester to win Gran Canaria Lopesan Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back M.Jordan to win Gran Canaria Lopesan Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back G.Porteous to win Gran Canaria Lopesan Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back them here:
Back L.de Jager to win Gran Canaria Lopesan Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here: