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Mallorca Open 2021 Tips: Six bets for Balearic Island event

Victor Dubuisson features.
Victor Dubuisson features.

The European Tour’s Spanish swing concludes this week, as we head to the Balearics for the Mallorca Open at Golf Santa Ponsa I. A course graced by the presence of some of Europe’s best ever players - Seve Ballesteros and Miguel Angel Jimenez amongst the winners here. Though it’s been 23 years since we last saw it host an event. 

A 7155 yard par 72, designed by Folca Nardi, with the assistance of Jose Gancedo, who designed the Golf Costa Adeje course that was used for the Canary Islands swing earlier in the year. The Tenerife Open and Canary Islands Championship played there, back-to-back.

After 23 years have passed, it’s tough to know how this course will stand up to modern pros. Back in the day it proved a decent test and in that last event in 1998, the Turespana Masters, Miguel Angel Jimenez won with a score of -9. Seve winning twice here, with scores of -16 in 1988 and -11 in 1992. Certainly appearing to be no pushover.

Mallorca Open Tips

Having said that, a long time has passed and the main theme that came up when researching this week’s venue was “generous, wide fairways”. Plus, more than one mention of players being able to thrash driver. With that in mind I expect this now relatively short course by modern standards, to not be quite the test it once was, and I see it being somewhat of a low scoring affair.

There isn’t a lack of danger here though. Water is in-play throughout the course and in anticipation of the tour’s return, the rough is said to have been allowed to grow, appearing to be quite thick in parts.

Being on the coast of a small Mediterranean Island, it’s no surprise to see wind in the forecast and it’s expected to be at least breezy throughout the four days. With the potential for something more severe, which could keep the scores down.

The field is weak, having lost the star power of the likes of Jon Rahm and last week’s winner at Valderrama, Matthew Fitzpatrick, from the list of starters. World #97, Laurie Canter is the highest ranked player in the field and the only player from inside the top 100 heading to Mallorca. 

Golf tips
Wilco Nienaber each-way (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-10-19 12:00 Odds subject to change.

We have a really competitive market here, headed by Thomas Pieters at 18/1. Of those right at the front, Sam Horsfield appealed the most. He’s the type of big-hitting birdie machine who should relish this setup, but he’s been a hard player to trust this year. My eye drawn instead, to young South African bomber, Wilco Nienaber, who has started to find some form in recent weeks.

The 21-year-old burst onto the scene last year, putting up numerous quality performances on the European Tour, three of them top 10s. The best a 2nd place finish in the Joburg Open at the end of the year. 

He started 2021 in solid fashion but hit a brick wall in the middle of the year, missing 7 cuts in 11 starts and was really struggling in most areas of his game. He’s halted that run recently, making his last four cuts, finishing 6th in the Open de Espana on his second last start. Then once again showing he’s more than just a big hitter, when following a 6th at Valderrama last year, by finishing a solid 49th there last week. 

Describing him as a big hitter probably doesn’t do it justice, he hits it an absolute mile. 1st on the European Tour in driving distance, he averages over 324 yards off the tee, over 5 yards more than his nearest rival. Even more impressive last week, was that he hit the ball straight around that tight, tough setup, as well as further than anyone. A deadly combination, particularly around a course in which I feel big hitting is going to be key to success.

Not only is he excellent off-the-tee but his upturn in form in his last four starts has been helped hugely by the quality of his putting. Ranking 5th on the greens in his last start and 2nd in the start previous, in that 6th place finish in the Open de Espana.

His price has shortened a little since I first marked him down but feel he’s still backable at this price, considering the field strength. He’s one of the very best talents plying his trade in Europe at the moment and had to be taken seriously when his form improved.

Big hitting and quality putting should see him make a bucketload of birdies this week and if he can keep the mistakes to a minimum he looks as ideal a fit as anyone.

Renato Paratore each-way (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-10-19 12:05 Odds subject to change.

I’ve decided to stick with a similar theme throughout most of my selections here. Favouring strong, long drivers, who can make birdies for fun, by taking advantage of this wide open golf course. Renato Paratore very much fits the bill.

He’s another player who’s recently found form after a tough few weeks. Since finishing 7th in Switzerland in the European Masters, he followed with four missed cuts but has bounced back in the past two weeks in Spain. First finishing 9th in the Open de Espana and then 25th last week at Valderrama, doing well to not let his final round unravel too much due to how wayward he was off-the-tee. 

Similarly to Nienaber, his last two results have been helped hugely by top class putting performances, ranking 2nd on the greens last week at Valderrama and 6th in the Open de Espana. Though did actually play well across the board there.

He’s very much a power over accuracy player, ranking 41st on tour in driving distance. 174th in driving accuracy less of a concern here and he did drive the ball relatively straight over the first two rounds last week.

He has the right combo of power off-the-tee and the ability to make a hatful of birdies, aided by being a classy putter, that sees him rank 4th on tour. He’s shown an ability to win before, as a two-time winner on the European Tour, most recently in last year’s British Masters and can go close to picking up a third title this week.

Victor Dubuisson each-way (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-10-19 12:10 Odds subject to change.

The enigmatic, yet ultra-talented Victor Dubuisson is up next. As likely to withdraw after the first round as he is to be in contention on Sunday, but there’s no denying he sets up well for the test that awaits the players this week.

His results this year have been typical of the man. 17 events played and has only played the weekend 8 times, having missed 5 cuts and withdrawn 4 times. Though of those 8 times he did play the weekend, he’s notched up 6 top 25s, showing the ability he still retains when he’s on it, physically and mentally.

He missed the cut in quite poor fashion last week. Even so, he drove the ball exceptionally well over the first two rounds. Remaining one of the very best drivers on tour, ranking 11th, and hits it far, ranking 15th for driving distance. 

Unfortunately, he did little else right last week but just a week earlier, when finishing 12th in the Open de Espana, he was strong across the board. Once again driving it well, ranking 9th and produced some quality iron play, ranking 17th in approach. Thus, making it easier to forgive his off week at Valderrama.

As a top quality and long driver, he very much ticks the main box. Two more ticked in the fact he’s 12th on tour in birdie average and 14th in par 5 scoring, two important criteria this week in what I expect to be a low scoring contest.

Six years have passed since the second of his victories in Turkey and there’d be few more popular winners this week.

Golf odds
Lucas Bjerregaard each-way (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-10-19 12:10 Odds subject to change.

Big-hitting birdie fiend, who will benefit from the generous fairways. Feels like I’m stuck on repeat, but I struggle to see past this type of golfer in terms of trying to solve this week’s equation.

He’s also a player who went well in the Open de Espana two weeks ago, when he finished 12th. Not a coincidence that all selections so far played well there, as it was a tournament which produced a leaderboard packed full of strong drivers.

It’s been a much more encouraging year for Bjerregaard, whose form had fallen off a cliff after he achieved what looked like a breakthrough 4th place finish in the WGC-Matchplay in 2019. As well as top 25s in three of the four majors that year. 

He had a shocker of a year last year, missing 15 of 18 cuts and though he started 2021 in similar fashion, as the year has gone on, he’s started to make a lot more cuts. Missing just 3 of his last 10 and twice finished inside the top 12. 

He’s another who followed a good performance in the Open de Espana with a missed cut last week in Andalucia and I’m as unconcerned with him as I am about the rest, due to the extreme difference between the two tests. Instead, preferring to look at how he played in Madrid, where he did everything well and particularly excelled off-the-tee.

He has the scoring capabilities needed this week, ranking 21st in par 5 scoring and 28th in birdie average. His ability to win low scoring affairs enhanced further with his victory at the Portugal Masters in 2017, won with a score of -20, an event which could potentially offer clues as to who goes well this week in Mallorca.

Jack Senior each-way (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-10-19 12:15 Odds subject to change.

If Portugal does indeed offer clues as to who will go well this week, then my next selection, Jack Senior should be a good fit. Having finished 14th there on debut last year. 

That was part of a solid first year on the European Tour for the Englishman, where he notched up 6 top 25s and has carried on in a similar fashion in 2021, continuing to put himself in the mix.

A 35th place finish in Qatar right at the start of the year doesn’t tell the whole story, as he entered that final round well in contention before succumbing to the tough conditions with a final round 79, to drop him down the leaderboard.

Also finishing 10th in a star-studded Scottish Open and picking up a top 20 in the European Open, before achieving his best finish of the year, two weeks ago in the Open de Espana, when finishing 6th.

He’s excels off-the-tee, ranking 50th and drives it long enough, ranking 62nd in driving distance. Additionally, he’s a solid putter, ranking 60th and has shown improvements with his approach play in recent starts, putting up better performances in that 6th in Madrid and when finishing 32nd in the Dutch Open.

He enjoys playing golf in this part of the world. Adding his recent performance in Spain to 4th and 5th place finishes on the Iberian Peninsula during his time on the Challenge Tour. As a player whose biggest asset is how well he drives it, he can get himself in the mix again, around this favourable setup.

Zander Lombard each-way (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-10-19 12:15 Odds subject to change.

This week’s final selection takes a little bit of getting but Zander Lombard seems a good fit for this week’s test, and though it would be kind to describe his recent results as merely unimpressive, I believe there’s been some encouragement there.

Lombard actually hit a solid run of form in the middle part of the year but has followed that with 6 missed cuts in his last 7 starts. Having said that I found plenty to like about his missed cut at Valderrama last week, a course which is in no way suitable to him, as a pretty inaccurate driver of the ball. 

He only missed the cut by two, after opening with a rock solid 72. Finding some minor improvement with his approach play. This following the only cut he made of those last 7 events, when finishing 51st in the Open de Espana.

This alone is not enough to back a player so lacking in recent form, but I found further promise when looking at his results from that solid run he had in the middle part of the year. Amongst them were three made cuts in the Canary Island, including his best finish of the year to date, when finishing 20th in the Canary Islands Championship, the course designed by Jose Gancedo, previously mentioned as having had a hand in the design of this week’s venue. 

He’s a big hitter and at his best is a quality iron player, shown by his statistics from the previous two years. With a 2nd place finish in the Rocco Forte Open in 2017, his best European Tour finish to date, showing a player more at home on these big, open courses, I hope Lombard can take the positives from last week and transfer them here, to this more suitable venue.

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