Things are a little different on the European Tour this week as the Covid-19 restrictions in Germany have brought about a reschedule and restructure which would normally be very unusual but let’s be honest nothing is normal anymore is it!? The Porsche European Open still goes ahead but it is a 54 hole event beginning on Saturday instead.
That means that Paul Casey finally gets the chance to defend the title he won two years ago with the pandemic putting paid to his chances of doing so last year. He goes up against a better field than you would have expected given the last minute changes.
2019 – Paul Casey
2018 – Richard McEvoy
2017 – Jordan Smith
2016 – Alex Levy
2015 – Thongchai Jaidee
2009 – Christian Cevaer
2008 – Ross Fisher
We finally get to go back to the Green Eagle Golf Resort in Hamburg which will stage this tournament for the fourth time. This is a bit of a beast of a course. It can stretch to 7.800 yards and beyond but the official yardage for the week is going to be around the 7,650 range. It is a par 72 but not a traditional one as there are five par 5s, including two over 600 yards, and five par 3s so the general consensus is that we want to be on the longer hitters here. Water is in play on all but one of the holes.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t a premium for hitting the fairways though. The large undulating greens are easy to find here but the longer hitters will be firing shorters irons into them which means that they can go for the flags a little more which could be the difference. Stick to the longer hitters but ones who can hole a few putts because there are only 54 holes to make a score rather than the traditional 72.
When you look at the field for the week two names leap off the page at you in the defending champion Paul Casey and the Mexican superstar Abraham Ancer. We also have last week’s winner Bernd Wiesberger teeing it up along with the home stars like Martin Kaymer, Max Kieffer and Sebastian Heisele, who will all be hoping to be inspired by the home crowds which finally get to line the fairways in Europe for the first time in some 15 months or so.
There are other players in the field who standout a little as well. They include Tour veterans such as Joost Luiten, Ross Fisher and Thorbjorn Olesen while the next brigade of stars are also here in the form of Matthias Schwab, Adrian Meronk, Calum Hill and Thomas Detry. Former winners Alexander Levy, Jordan Smith and Jamie Donaldson are also in the field and looking for a big three days to make the journey to Germany worthwhile.
Paul Casey is a 6/1 favourite to make a successful defence of his title. He has already won on the European Tour this year, landing the title in the Dubai Desert Classic but I guess the big issue with him this week, aside with him being the defending champion which regular readers will know I hate, is do you really want to be taking 6/1 in a 54 hole event when if someone has a bonkers round he could blow the field apart? I’m not so sure so he isn’t for me here.
Abraham Ancer is the 8/1 second favourite to land the title this week. The fact he has done an interview on the European Tour website and claimed he’d like to drive it further than he does around here is an immediate white flag line for me. He also hasn’t truly convinced himself as a traveller on this Tour yet and again do you want to pile your hard earned into a short hotpot who didn’t see the course until 48 hours before it? Fair play if you do but as much as I like Ancer and as good as he is he isn’t for me at this price.
Bernd Wiesberger is next in the market. He can be backed at 16/1 to win for a second week in a row. The Austrian isn’t someone who wins and then goes away for a while. He tends to win multiple times a season when he is playing well so there is plenty of reason to support him here but I rarely get involved in anyone who has won the week before just because of the mental exhaustion which comes with it. In saying that, Wiesberger was about as easy a winner as you’ll get last week so if I was going to break my rule, which I’m not, this week might have been the time to do it.
His Austrian counterpart Matthias Schwab set the pace along with Wiesberger at the halfway mark at the Made in Denmark last week but found the going a little too tough and that remains a regular story for him. Perhaps the fact this is just a 54 hole event will help him and it is the week that he converts his undoubted talent into a win but once again I just can’t bring myself to back him at these sorts of prices until he proves he can win. It is 28/1 bar.
In truth I don’t like the prices of any of the market leaders and I don’t think it is the week to be going big on anything as there is the potential for a freaky result. That means my main bets are further down the betting than usual beginning with the man who was the closest challenger to Wiesberger last week for the most part in Alexander Bjork. The Swede showed good signs last week ranking fifth in fairways hit on a course where they are hard to find and in the top 20 in GIR. That converted into decent strokes gained from tee to green and on approach numbers and while length is key this week I still think this course needs to be played from the fairways. Importantly in his last four starts Bjork has finished 4-1-46-9 for strokes gained putting so we know he can get the ball to the hole as well. That is key in a 54 hole event. He was just outside the top 20 here a couple of years ago but I suspect he’s in better form now. I’ll take him as my first main bet.
Picking when Ryan Fox will go well isn’t the easiest task known to man but it is generally when he can ride his driver and he can certainly do that this week. In his penultimate start on the European Tour, on a course not too dissimilar to this in terms of it suiting the bombers, in the Saudi International he was sixth in a much stronger field than this, opening up with a pair of 65s. Last week was the first time he has played since then so although he missed the cut, he did so on the number at one under so he wasn’t terrible. That will have got rid of the rust and the man who belts it miles which will suit him on the par 5s, and who was 20 for strokes gained tee to green last season and third on approach in 2020 could be a big price at 50/1 in a week built for being aggressive.
I’ll chance my arm at three outsiders this week because that lottery result is a possibility given the way the week is set up. That makes me like Julien Guerrier He probably hit the ball as well as he has ever done from tee to green last week, gaining more than 11 shots on the field in the long game, but surprisingly holed absolutely nothing. Putting is usually one of his strengths so I’ve got to think that was just a bad week at the office and if it was, and he can hit the ball anywhere near as well this week then he has to have a chance here. Guerrier sits third on the par 5 scoring on tour this year and with five of those that is a key statistic this week. He feels a big price to me.
Max Kieffer was in brilliant form a few weeks back when he came second in Austria and then in the first of the Canary Swing events and although he has missed three cuts since then he hasn’t been terrible by any means. I wonder if a return to home surroundings with home fans cheering for him will bring out the best of this pure ball striker once again. If it does then those efforts I highlighted make him a leading runner here. In those two events he posted monster numbers in the strokes gained from tee to green and on approach statistics and that could be a big thing this week because not many will have been able to get a practice round in so ball striking his key. He knows this place and can outrun his price.
Finally I’ll take a stab in the dark on Maverick Antcliff, another who has missed his last two cuts but who could be worth a go based on three starts ago when he was second to Garrick Higgo in the Canary Islands Championship. Nobody was beating the South African that week so the Australian basically won the proper tournament that was going on. In that Canary Swing, Antcliff played all three events and posted strokes gained tee to green numbers of 8-8-2 and approach numbers of 3-2-4. He is clearly a man who can hit the ball very well and if he can take to the course from the get go he could go well. Of the 12 rounds he played on the Spanish islands, seven were 66 or better so he can score when he’s in the mood. He might be another who is a decent price.
Back A.Bjork to win Porsche European Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back R.Fox to win Porsche European Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back M.Kieffer to win Porsche European Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back M.Antcliff to win Porsche European Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with BetVictor (1/5 1-6)
Back them here:
Back J.Guerrier to win Porsche European Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)