Catalunya Championship Betting Tips: Seven selections for Spain
The second event of the DP World Tour’s two-week stint in Spain brings the tour to another venue familiar to many in the field. PGA Catalunya’s Stadium Course will host this week’s Catalunya Championship and it is the former home of the DPWT Q-School Final.
Catalunya Championship Tips
- Ryan Fox 40/1 – 1/5 6 places (Williamhill) – 1.25 pts ew
- Victor Perez 40/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1.25 pts ew
- Mikko Korhonen 45/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew
- Ross Fisher 55/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew
- Tom Lewis 80/1 – 1/5 6 places (Spreadex) – 1 pt ew
- Darren Fichardt 200/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 0.5 pts ew
- Darren Fichardt 18/1 – Top 10 (Boylesports) – 0.5 pts
The resort hosted the Q-School finale from 2008-2016, with four of the six rounds being played at this week’s host, the Stadium Course and the other two rounds at the Tour Course. In addition to this it also hosted a Q-School Second Stage event in 2007.
Further to having a bundle of Q-School form to go off, we have the added bonus of this week’s venue actually hosting multiple DPWT events, though not since 2014. Then, Miguel Angel Jimenez won a brutally difficult Open de Espana, in which he had to overcome Thomas Pieters and Australia’s Richard Green in a playoff, all three tied on -4. In winning the playoff, Miguel, at just over 50 years old became the oldest winner on the DPWT.
Go back a little further and we find Thomas Levet winning the Open de Espana in 2009. A much less demanding affair where he shot -18 to beat off Fabrizio Zanotti by two shots. And in 2000 England’s Brian Davis won the same event here, shooting -14 to pick up the title with Austria’s Markus Brier three shots behind in 2nd.
PGA Catalunya’s Stadium Course is a 7353 yard par 72 and not only rates as one of the best courses in Spain, but one of the best courses in Europe.
The course is heavily undulating, causing many uneven lies in the fairways, with elevation changes from start to finish. Most of the holes, many doglegging, are framed by pine-trees and with penal, cleverly placed bunkers narrowing fairways that would appear more generous from the tee box. You don’t have to just find the fairways but finding the right side is just as important, as trees can block out many lines into the greens.
Water is well in-play on around seven holes, predominantly hugging the undulating, often two-tiered greens. Not just a test in approach play but will almost certainly cause many players to bail out away from the water, thus bringing their short-game into focus.
It’s just a fabulous golf course. There’s great variety throughout, with no two holes playing the same. Demanding but fair, enabling you to score (weather permitting) if you put it in position off-the-tee, though can eat you alive if the long game is off.
There’s a few correlating courses I like here. Le Golf National, host of the Open de France almost exclusively since 1991 stands out. The two most recent winners here, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Levet have both won there as well. It’s another stadium like course with water well in-play on numerous holes and has that fine balance between being tough, but also playing fair enough to allow you to score if you play well.
We can find another Jimenez/Levet link at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried, host of the BMW International Open from 1997 – 2011 and then in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 & 2021, another water laden, tree-lined venue. Jimenez won there in 2004, with Levet runner-up. Thomas Bjorn, Joost Luiten and David Horsey amongst other players to possess form at both venues.
There’s certainly more than an element of Wentworth about it, host of the BMW PGA Championship. Tree-lined, water in-play throughout, elevation changes, doglegging fairways and scorable par 5s. Jimenez has won and finished runner-up there, whilst Levet recorded multiple top 10s at the event.
Further to these I like two other Spanish courses, Valderrama, home of the Andalucia Masters and Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, host of the Open de Espana for the last two renewals in 2019 and 2021. Both tree-lined, doglegging tracks, Valderrama in particular has the elevation changes, water in-play and penal bunkers.
Jimenez ties the form in again with Valderrama, being a past champion there and a runner-up, whilst Joost Luiten also has a 2nd place finish there.
The elements look set to play their part yet again this week, though there seems to be a pretty level split in the forecast right now. In the opening two rounds, the conditions are dry, with wind relatively benign in the morning but kicking up for the afternoon starters.
Into the weekend and whilst the wind dies down, some rain is forecast to arrive and may soften the course up to give us some lower scorers over the weekend.
Pablo Larrazabal is back in action again this week, a week after picking up his second win in four starts, last week at INFINITUM. He’s joined by largely the same field as last week, though with a little more added quality, with the likes of Adrian Meronk and Jordan Smith joining up for this second week in Spain.
It’s another wide open event and such we have a wide open market. Co-favourites of four: Bernd Wiesberger, Pablo Larrazabal, Adrien Otaegui and Rasmus Hojgaard head the market at 25/1. Followed by the trio of Jordan Smith, Richard Bland and Adrien Meronk at 28s.
Though I’m going to bypass the lot of them and have gone heavy on players from the 40/1-80/1 part of the market, starting with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
We haven’t seen much of big-hitting Fox so far this year, though he has certainly made the most of his five starts. He kicked off the year in the Middle East with a couple of solid efforts in those strong fields, finishing 61st in Abu Dhabi, then 26th next time out in the Dubai Desert Classic.
He then went on to Ras Al Khaimah, bouncing back from a missed cut in the first of the double header there, the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, to claim an emphatic victory the following week, at the same course in the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge. Firing a score of -22 and running out a 5-shot winner over Ross Fisher.
We hadn’t seen Fox since that victory, which was well over two months ago, until he made his return last week in Spain. Where he put up an excellent 15th place finish, shooting four rounds in the 60s. Incredibly impressive considering the length of his absence.
Fox has been one of the best players on tour tee-to-green in recent years. An excellent ball-striker, showing equal quality both off-the-tee and in approach, whilst also possessing decent touch around the greens.
This has very much been the case in his handful of starts this year, where he ranks 32nd T2G, showing particular quality in approach so far this year, ranking 26th. I’ve also been taken by his putting, which is often his achilles heel. Even though he only ranks 90th for the season, he’s putted well in 3 of his last 4 starts, including last week, that stat skewed by a poor performance in his opening event of the year on the greens.
Fox does have experience of the course, having played here in the Q-School Final in 2015. He finished 32nd that week and though he shot +3 overall for his four rounds at the Stadium Course, that was largely down to a poor first effort there, when shooting +5. Improved rounds of -1,+1 and -2 hopefully showing he learned something from those first 18 holes.
He does have a bunch of form at correlating courses. 4th at Valderrama, 6th in France and top 25s at Wentworth, in Madrid and in the BMW International Open’s Eichenried Course.
The one concern with Fox is his waywardness of-the-tee at times. There are some more generous landing areas here but plenty of trouble as well if you’re making some big misses. Having said that, that 4th at Valderrama shows he can control that erratic play off-the-tee, as does his victory in the Perth Super Six in 2019, played at Lake Karriyup in Australia, another course with some more difficult, tighter driving lines.
If able to control the driver and keep the wild misses to a minimum, the rest of his game is clearly in an excellent position for Fox to put up another good showing in Spain this week.
France’s Victor Perez is another player who’s had a light schedule this year, playing just once more than Ryan Fox. He came back from a four-week break last week in Spain, producing an excellent 8th place finish, where he got better with every round and can carry that form over to PGA Catalunya this week.
Perez kicked his year off with a three-week stint in the Middle East, where he played solid enough in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi, making the cut in all but never really threatening the top of the leaderboard.
He then hopped over to the Caribbean after getting starts in the two alternate events out there on the PGA Tour, the Puerto Rico Open and Corales Puntacana. Finishing 55th in the former and missing the cut in the latter. Again a sign of that uninspiring form he’d started the year with.
Then came the start in Spain last week, where he hit the ball as well as anyone, ranking 1st in greens in regulation, and driving it both straight and long. The short-game the only thing hindering him challenging for the win.
That quality ball-striking is what we expect of the Frenchman and to be fair he’s actually been hitting his irons well all year, with his driver appearing to be causing the problems. So it has to be taken as a big positive, to see him find something with the driver last week and it should serve him well at this course that demands your long-game is up to scratch.
Perez doesn’t have the benefit of a spin around here, though I’m encouraged by a strong record at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship, where he was 2nd in 2020 and a 16th place finish at home in France in 2019 enhances that encouragement.
Perez has been a little inconsistent since earning his breakthrough victory in the Dunhill Links in 2019, though has still managed to show many times that it wasn’t a one-off, recording three runner-up finishes and two other top 5s since. If he can reproduce the ball-striking he showed last week, he’s certainly got the game back up that good performance here.
Having played at PGA Catalunya’s Stadium Course four times in the Q-School Final and in the Open de Espana in 2014, there’s few players as familiar with the course as Finland’s Mikki Korhonen. After finding form in recent starts, he can take advantage of that course experience this week.
Korhonen has been a super solid DPWT player for a few years now and that is the case again this year. He’s played seven events and hit the top 25 on three occasions. The first of those came in the first event of the year when finishing 25th in Abu Dhabi. The next two have come in his last three starts, when following an unusually poor run of three MCs in a row by finishing 10th at the Steyn City Championship in South Africa, 67th in Qatar and put up a strong 15th place finish last week, where he shot under-par every round.
Korhonen’s quality comes with his irons and the putter. Whilst the putter has fired for the most part this year, the approach play has been off and was certainly the cause of the 3 MCs stretch. He’s rectified that in recent starts, producing better approach play in South Africa and Qatar but signalled a real return to form with the irons last week in Spain, ranking 18th in the field, on a week where he was pretty solid all-round.
As mentioned, he has a large book of mostly excellent form here at PGA Catalunya’s Stadium Course. He was 15th here in 2014, in that brutally difficult Open de Espana, won by Miguel Angel Jimenez. Further to this, in those four Q-School Final appearances he finished 3rd in 2010, 9th in 2012, 22nd in 2013 and 1st in 2014. Of those 16 rounds he played at Q-School he shot 12 rounds under-par, 1 level par and just the 3 over par. Rounds of -6 in 2010 and -5 in 2014 his best 18-hole efforts.
In addition, he has some nice pieces of correlating form. 3rd at Valderrama in 2018 is the best of these, with top 20s at Wentworth and at the Open de Espana in Madrid in 2019 & 2021 strengthening his form-ties.
Korhonen is a two-time DPWT winner and showed last year with 3rd place finishes in the British Masters and Wales Open, that he’s capable of going in again. If last week’s approach performance is a signal of a return to form with his irons, the Finn looks an incredibly lively player here, at a course where he has an excellent record.
Ross Fisher has been hitting the ball just about as well as anyone this year, which has enabled him to get back into the kind of form we’d expect of a five-time DPWT winner, and he looks a danger this week in which his excellent ball-striking should be a big weapon.
Fisher’s dip in form, particularly over the last two years had coincided with him losing confidence with his ball-striking, the area of his game that had helped him to multiple high-class successes in the first half of his career. He’d missed 20 cuts in 43 starts over those last two years.
It’s no surprise to see that his improved form this year has come as he has shown a return to form with the long-game. Fisher has played eight times this year and following a missed cut in Abu Dhabi in the first event of the year, he has made all but one cut since.
The best of those finishes came when he was a 5 shot runner-up to Ryan Fox in the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge. He then followed that with a 6th place finish at Pecanwood in South Africa and has put up two further top 20s: 18th in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and a 15th place finish in Spain last week.
As mentioned, the ball-striking has been top class this year. Since the missed cut in Abu Dhabi, Fisher has gained strokes off-the-tee in every start and ranks 3rd with the driver so far this season. He’s also gained strokes in four of his last five starts in approach, meaning he ranks 37th for the season and with some solid play around-the-greens in recent starts, he is the 17th best player tee-to-green on the DPWT this year.
Fisher has played here before, finishing 15th in 2014, where he shot the best round of the day in round three, firing a five-under 67. Aside from this is a raft of correlating form.
The best of these is a 2nd place finish in the BMW International Open at Eichenreid, where he’s also finished 9th. In addition, he possesses top 10s at Wentworth, Valderrama and Le Golf National. Highlighting a player who is at his best when strong ball-striking is of big importance.
If he can continue to show the quality tee-to-green that he’s produced so far this year, just some small gains on the greens can see Fisher go close this week at PGA Catalunya.
England’s Tom Lewis has had a miserable time of it the last 18 months. Rising into the top 50 in the world thanks to an excellent 2nd place finish in the WGC – St Jude in 2020, he hadn’t recorded another top 10 since, causing him to drop to #426 in the world.
He turned that around last week, with his first start on the DPWT this year, picking up a first top 10 since the St Jude, finishing 10th. More impressive was the fact that every part of his game seemed to fire and with him possessing some good form around this course, I’m hoping he can build on that this week.
Lewis is a strong ball-striker, and it was this that engineered that strong run of form from 2018-2020 that enabled him to climb to the career high ranking. Though the results look poor on the PGA Tour last year and the fall in the rankings looks dramatic, Lewis still showed plenty of quality with the long-game, particularly in the early/middle part of the year, so we’re not looking at a player who’s been playing dreadfully, I think it’s more of a case of the PGA Tour being that high a standard that it finds you out, even if just the smallest parts of your game go missing.
There’s no doubt the form tailed off a little more towards the end of last year, with more letters than numbers in his form and the run of five missed cuts on the KFT this year was alarming, but it may just be that a return to more familiar scenery will mean he maintains the return to form he showed last week.
He’s played this venue twice. Firstly in 2014 in the Open de Espana, finishing a commendable 15th and was 11th at Q-School in 2016, firing rounds of +1, -4, -2 and +1 in his four rounds at the Stadium Course.
Lewis looked set to make good on that early promise he showed at the start of his career when reeling off three victories in 2018/2019. With him returning to form last week and looking in control of every part of his game, he’ll be feeling much more confident and can keep it rolling this week.
After a disappointing end to last year and a poor start to this, Darren Fichardt has shown signs of life in recent weeks, with the return of some excellent approach play helping him to an 8th place finish last week. Also showing quality with the short-game he can build on that here at PGA Catalunya, at a course where he’s gone well before.
Fichardt started 2022 missing four cuts on the bounce, with little in his game giving cause for optimism but he’s arrested that slide in recent weeks. He found something with the short-game when finishing 35th in the MyGolfLife Open, then followed a missed cut next time out in the Steyn City Championship, with a 49th place finish in Qatar, where we saw that return to form with his irons, as he led the field in approach.
Following a four-week break, Fichardt appears to have found form in other areas now. In his 8th place finish last week he once again struck his irons well, ranking 15th but complimented this with some quality on and around-the-greens, ranking 12th in scrambling and 7th in putting. Though the driver doesn’t stand up to most, he’s much more about accuracy in that regard, ranking 39th in driving accuracy this season, certainly a positive this week.
Fichardt played the Open de Espana here in 2014, finishing 7th, only 3 shots outside the score required to get into the playoff. Amongst his four rounds, he shot a superb 66 in round two, the best round of the day. Further to this he has an appearance at Q-School in 2011, once again playing well and shooting under par in his four rounds at the Stadium Course, a -4 in the second of his rounds the best effort.
He’s another player with form at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried in the BMW International Open, with finishes of 5th and 7th there and also possesses a 7th place finish at Wentworth.
Fichardt is one of the winning-most players in the field, which includes being a five-time DPWT winner. He can count on his good record here and if able to reproduce the quality golf he showed last week in approach and with the short-game, he’s capable of adding another impressive result at PGA Catalunya to his C.V