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Cazoo Classic Tips: Best bets for this week's event on the European Tour

Cazoo Classic Tips: 30/1-shot John Catlin features
Cazoo Classic Tips: 30/1-shot John Catlin features

With the penultimate event of the UK swing behind us, which saw Scotland’s Grant Forrest picking up his first European Tour title in his homeland in impressive style. It’s time for the final event before we head off to mainland Europe, as we have the Cazoo Classic on London Golf Club’s Heritage Course in Kent.

Cazoo steps in to lend its name to another European Tour event in these current times, in an event that is actually a revival of the English Open under a different guise, which hasn’t been played since 2002. This week’s course hasn’t hosted a European Tour event since 2009, when it had the second of its two year stint as the host of the European Open.

A par 72 measuring 7327 yards, London Golf Club’s Heritage Course is a classic Jack Nicklaus design. The fairways are generous, though defended by thick rough, with deep bunkers and run off areas surrounding the large green complexes and plenty of water in play throughout. 

Though the par 4s, as a bunch aren’t threatening by pure numbers, with the longest being the 16th and measuring 484 yards, there is enough variety in the shaping of the holes to keep players on their toes and provide a challenge.

Golf tips

A stern test the last time we saw the course in 2009, when Christian Cevaer won with a score of -7, though it was taken apart a year earlier, with Ross Fisher winning at -20. It’s hard to know exactly where this week’s renewal will fall but I think it likely a score in the mid to high teens gets the job done. Providing the conditions don’t get too difficult.

There has been plenty of rain in the build up to the event, which usually means soft conditions and generally lower scoring. Having said that, there is currently a strong breeze forecast, with the potential for it to get stronger and on a course that is reasonably exposed in places, could make things tricky.

We have a solid European Tour field teeing it up but little in the way of star names. France’s Victor Perez is the highest ranked player in the field at 47th in the world with Bernd Wiesberger next at 66th. Ross Fisher also returns to the scene of his 2008 European Open victory.

Cazoo Classic Tips

Golf odds
John Catlin each-way (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 13:50 Odds subject to change.

I was really tempted by Bernd Wiesberger this week. The big Austrian is the class act of the field and always a danger in this level of European Tour event, but with the 18/1 & 16/1 all disappearing, I’ve left him out. Andy Sullivan is next in the betting but he’s just not hitting the ball to his usual high standards, so he’s left alone too. Instead, I’m starting with a man who has more European Tour titles than those two combined in the last 12 months, America’s John Catlin.

It would be easy to think John Catlin burst onto the scene from nowhere last year, when picking up the Andalucia Masters and Irish Open, announcing himself in a big way. However, he’s been a player who has found winning easy since turning professional in 2013, after a good amateur career that saw him reach the top 50 in the amateur rankings.

With another win this year in the Austrian Open, that now makes it three European Tour wins for Catlin in less than a year and combined with five other wins from his time in Asia, he’s now amassed eight victories worldwide in just 171 starts.

You can see why Catlin has produced such quality performances in the last 12 months when you look at his stats. He’s the best player on the European Tour tee-to-green, ranking 14th in approach, 16th around the greens and 33rd off the tee, where he’s also picked up some extra distance this year, meaning he’s very accurate and also long enough.

He’s had a bit of a poor run of form after winning in Austria but has been showing signs of coming back into form in recent weeks. First finishing a solid 32nd in the Cazoo Open in Wales and following that with a 7th place finish in the ISPS World Invitational last time out in Northern Ireland.

The test should suit, particularly if the strongest of the wind arrives and conditions get tough. With that, he possesses the biggest asset in sport, an often underrated ability to win and looks to be trending towards bagging what would be an incredible fourth victory in less than 12 months.

Ryan Fox each-way (6 Places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 14:55 Odds subject to change.

Another fantastic player tee-to-green, I was surprised by the big hitting New Zealander’s price this week. Though his most recent form does look a little underwhelming, I think he’s been playing better than the results suggest and looks set for a good week on a course that plays to his strengths.

After a run of three straight top 15s back in June, his last four starts don’t look as impressive, with finishes of 44-67-42-34 but amongst them there’s an Open performance which offered a lot more, where he was in the top 10 entering the weekend before dropping to 67th by Sunday evening. A 42nd place finish in the Olympics, where he shot a superb 64 in the final round. Then last week’s 34th in the Hero Open, doing extremely well to finish there considering he had a rare poor week with his irons. Though he did everything else well, particularly driving, ranking 4th off the tee for the week. Showing that his game is in good condition. 

Ranking 11th on tour tee-to-green, he’s got the game to go well here and has a good record in the wind, so he won’t mind if the strong wind arrives during the week. He’s got too good a game to have just one relatively minor European Tour title to his name and think he’s playing well enough to add to that this week.

Dale Whitnell each-way (7 Places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 14:55 Odds subject to change.

For this week’s longshot selection, I’m going back in on a player I backed last week, with Englishman Dale Whitnell. He finished a disappointing 68th last week but I’m willing to forgive that as he was drawn on the wrong side of a serious draw bias and his strong tee-to-green game can see him go well here this week.

A player who’s been in great form all year, picking up six top 25s and it’s the best of all of those, a 4th place finish in the Irish Open that is the most interesting piece of form as to his chances here this week. 

Mount Juliet was the stage that week, a Jack Nicklaus design that is very much in-keeping with much of his portfolio. Like this week’s test, it’s generous off the tee, with heavy bunkering around the huge green complexes and water in play throughout. He hit the ball solidly that week but it was the weakest part of his game, the putter which contributed the most to his success. 

A neat and tidy player, who ranks 27th in driving accuracy, 23rd for approach and 48th around the greens. If he can produce a similar putting display to the Irish Open and hit his irons to his usually high standard, he can go well on a course which should prove to be to his liking.

Sean Crocker each-way (6 Places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 15:00 Odds subject to change.

A couple of quality European Tour names in here who would look a big price on past achievements but are looking a little off at the moment, with classy Dane, Thorbjorn Olesen struggling for form and Eddie Pepperell making too many costly errors during his rounds. Instead, I’m going for a couple of younger guys who’ve had contrasting careers so far, one with a few wins at this level already and looking to get back to those heights. The other still searching for that breakthrough victory and it’s him who I’ll start with, Sean Crocker.

This quality ball-striker has had a solid year so far but it’s the last 4/5 weeks in which his form has stepped up a notch. An 11th place finish in the European Open five starts ago, he followed a disappointing missed cut in Sweden with a 29th place finish in the BMW International, before achieving the best finish of his year in the Irish Open on his next start, finishing 9th. As previously mentioned, a positive due to it being a typical Jack Nicklaus design, similar to this week’s test. He ranked 1st in approach play that week and putted solidly. 

He’s forgiven a missed cut in the Scottish Open last time out, in what was a stellar field and he should relish the return to much calmer waters this week. 

As one of the very best ball-strikers on the European Tour, ranking 11th for approach and 13th off the tee, he looks well suited to this week’s test and even though the putter is his biggest weakness, he’s had some more positive performances in that respect of late. Which should help this big talent to secure that elusive first professional title.

Shubhankar Sharma each-way (6 Places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 15:00 Odds subject to change.

With the world at his feet in 2018, after winning two European Tour titles within months of each other and being a genuine contender in the WGC - Mexico Championship, where he led going into the final round. Unfortunately, he shot a 74 and slipped to 9th on the Sunday but the overall performance underlined his ability and potential.

Despite the odd run of form, he’s struggled since but has shown positive signs recently, with some particularly good ball-striking performances in his last few starts. The latest of these came with his 16th place finish last week in the Hero Open. Where he ranked 12th in approach and 19th off the tee. He’s always been a good iron player and that performance last week in Scotland wasn’t a one off, a few starts earlier in a 32nd place finish in the Cazoo Open he ranked 5th in approach.

With iron play typically a prerequisite for scoring well around Nicklaus courses, he’s set up well for a good week, with that positive driving performance last week offering further encouragement. He’s a proven winner at this level and I think he’ll relish the chance to win again if he gets himself in contention.

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