Race to Dubai: Madeira Open Portugal

Race to Dubai:   Madeira Islands Open – Portugal

Welcome to Portugal’s hilly archipelago, Madeira and its own Open sponsored and kept interesting by its local tipple. This is the 20th anniversary of an event that this year returns to Santo de Serra after three years at the Portop Santo resort next door. I wish it has the makings of a Race to Dubai altering field, but the chances of this stirring the Ryder Cup race are slim and none – and slim’s out of town. i.e. If Gary Orr wins, he moves up to 80 places to 62nd!

Date:                     10th – 13th May 2012

Venue:                 Santo de Serra, Madeira, Portugal

We all may wish we had an rewarding and lucrative entry to The Players but not all of us do and so sit back and look forward to stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the marvel of a very hilly Robert Trent Jones Jnr course which varies in height to the windy and testing tune of somewhere in the region of a decent Bubba Watson drive. With big name skills missing – brace yourself for a field littered with odds higher than Sean Ryder.

Yards:                   6,825 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

This week’s cameos include the shining light of the current challenge tour, former European Tour starlet and buff spiky haired husband of Sky Sports hottest presenter Di Dougherty, Nick Dougherty (66/1 with Ladbrokes) fights to make the cut in his first big tour start in 2012 having won more in 2012 in two starts on the Challenge Tour than 34 on the full tour in 2011. There’s also the aforementioned Gary Orr (33/1 with Ladbrokes) and taking a break from filming in Hollywood and with surprising odds given I have never heard of him its Matthew Baldwin (33/1 with BetDaq) – who knew?

Consider…:

With hills, it can be tricky judging the distance because of the altitude and the wind and there are often visibility problems due to those pesky hills and inclement weather causing delays during tournament play. So my half baked tips this week points towards winners that have the same attributes as God; the patience of a saint, is just (it can’t be that Saltman boy then!), supreme and equal in power and glory (so it could be Phillip Archer (41/1 with BetFair) with a win and a 3rd place and leads the Challenge Tour). However, if our players get caught this week during a lightning storm they should hold up a 1-iron – as not even God can hit a 1-iron.

Ones to watch:

With six European Tour titles to his name, and a string of high placed finishes in major tournaments, it’s Niclas Fasth (66/1 with BetFair) from Sweden who deserves a little return to form this week having not won since 2007 and is having a quiet season on Tour with only two cuts made from 9 events. That said, he continues to be a great putter and has great scrambling, in particular from bunkers, and who is as accurate now with a driver as he was in 2007! I bet you…

A strong supporter of Glasgow’s disgraceful Blue Team, grumpy Alasdair Forsyth (26/1 with BetFair) stands out as one who could have the talent to finish towards the top of the field this week. Has incredible pedigree at boy, youth and senior level and lost to Poulter in Rookie of the Year in 2000. Has two Tour wins to his name – in Malaysia in 2002 and here in 2008 so has the insider knowledge of the course, the event and the weather.

Ones to win:

Sounding like a career in the working men’s clubs of North Yorkshire beckoned, it’s the talented Tommy Fleetwood (66/1 with Bet365) who looks lively this week. With 5 top tens’ on the Challenge Tour and a 5th place in last year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, he has the ability and skills to add another event to his only win to date (in 2011 at the Kazakhstan Masters). And as we all know, chicks dig boys with skills.

Homing in on the brethren from the motherland this week, and confirmed as Wales finest since Ian Woosnam, former Madeira Open winner, Bradley Dredge (28/1 with BoyleSports) looks strong this week and will be buoyed by a final round 60 in 2003 when he shot 12 under to take the title. Has had a string of consistent midfield results in 2012 but take the top half of the field away, as this week, and he would have won two of them! One of the field favorites’ this week…

Trick Shot

Seve Benson with a top ten finish is a remarkably high offer at 24/5 with BetDaq – put a fiver on him while you can as with two top tens’ in three starts already in 2012 – surely there’s some mistake here!

Phillip Archer and Darren Fichardt in a Double Chance to win at 16/1 with SkyBet – with 5 wins between them and 1 already this year, these guys lead the way in experience and bounce-back-ability in this field.

Jenks out!

 

Race to Dubai: Open de Andalucia (CdS)

Race to Dubai:   Open du Andalucia Costa del Sol

With four months having passed since the European Tour last played on its home continent and a month since our last proper European Tour (only) event, we thought it time to pack up the Speedo’s and the sun tan lotion, put down the latest James Lee Burke novel, end the practice of napping and stop the afternoon drinking to make an effort to return home and to work. And wouldn’t you know! It’s off to the Costa del Sol we go; home of the year round sun, afternoon siesta, tapas and sangria on tap!! It’s the first of five visits to Spain in 2012 and so bienvenida Espanola!

Date:                     15th to 18th March 2012

Venue:                 Aloha Golf Club, Andalucia, Spain

Three miles inland from the millionaire’s playground of Puerto Banus lies Nuevo Andalucia. And for one week only this small eucalyptus infused corner of Spain turns into the European Tours very own millionaire’s playground. Now this is not a long course, but what it lacks in length, it certainly makes up for with trees that creep tight to the fairway sides and truly unique greens with subtle borrows requiring deft touches and Seve-esque soft hands.

Yards:                   6,881 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

While many of the worlds’ top ranking big guns remain playing or practicing in Florida, the field here in Spain is still filled with quality players past, present and future. Five major champions tee it up on Thursday for their chance to make a dent in the 1 Million Euro fund by capturing the relatively underwhelming €166,660 first prize. They include Canadian Southpaw Mike Weir (227/1), PGA Champion and one time golfer Rich Beem (284/1), the omni-present-but-rarely-noticed Michael Campbell (569/1), arthritic legend Jose Maria Olazabel (142/1) and 1999 Qatar Masters Champion – one Pa. Lawrie (42/1 – all BetFair).

Consider…:

…and while we are on the subject, let’s not forget that Lawrie (28/1 with Sporting Bet) defends in Andalucia. Rewind 12 Months and he was staring at zero wins in 9 yrs & a steady ranking of 256th in World. This week he’s 45th and courtesy of one of the best 4 months of solid European Tour play is currently in the Ryder Cup team! He’s now a very solid player – accurate from the tee, solid with his irons and fast becoming a quality putter to boot. One of the favourites’ this week.

Let’s also look at tournament host – Miguel Angel Jimenez (28/1 with Coral) – Aloha Golf Club member and all round dark horse. Given how quiet he has been on the Tour, I would not put it past him to award himself his own cheque come Sunday evening. Finally, there’s Olazabel (142/1 with BetFair) – not the longest hitter on the Big Tour but given this course is 600 yards shorter than most, Jose Maria is back in the pack and with his deft touch around the greens is a sneaky outsider tip.

Ones to watch:

An outstanding each way bet can be found in Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – recently recovered from a long term injury, the Spaniard can lay claim to a finish inside the top 30 in each of his last eight starts. Generous odds of 26/1 with BetFair make this a simple second option.

Still under 20 years of age, young gun Matteo Mannesaro is one to watch this week. Starting with odds of 25/1 (with 888Sport) that put him amongst the favourites – his season has not yet kick started into full Azurrispeed but as a flair and confidence golfer – the lack of big names in the field mean that there is likely few to take the limelight as much as him this weekend.

Ones to win:

7 top ten finishes and an overall 24th place in the Race to Dubai suggest that Joost Luiten (33/1 with Ladbrokes) is a young player with a game on the up – especially after victory in Singapore at the tail end of last season. The Netherlands number one player has enjoyed a steady start in 2012 but must fancy his chances in a quality field where there is a notable absence of the global golfing superstars.

The Belfry’s very own poster boy Robert Rock is my hotly tipped winner for this week – currently sitting in 7th position on the Race to Dubai, and with one win under his belt already, the 34 year old floppy haired Tiger slayer is enjoying some inspiring form so far this season and putting as well as he ever has. Watch the 25/1 (SkyBet) odds take a tumble with a steady first round score – then watch as he applies the pressure down the stretch.

Trick shot:

Tommy Fleetwood is 9/1 with William Hill to finish in the top ten – he had 6 across both European and Challenge Tour in 2011!

Raphael Jacquelin is 18/1 with ToteSport in a place finish on Sunday.