Open de Espana Odds & Betting Preview: Six tips including a 150/1 each-way play
Danny Willett once again showed his impressive knack of winning golf tournaments at the Dunhill Links on Sunday. Without a top 25 since May, he started well and stayed at or around the top all week. Eventually securing the title in rather unflustered fashion at St Andrews on Sunday afternoon.
An unimpressive week for the selections, with Grant Forrest the best of the bunch in 27th, though no need to dwell on what can be a tricky event to get right and attention now turns to Madrid for the Open de Espana. Where world #1, Jon Rahm, comes back to the scene of his 5 shot rout in 2019.
Club de Campo in Madrid returned as host for the 2019 edition, the first time it had hosted the Open de Espana since 1996 (Though it did host the Madrid Masters in 2008) and is back again this year.
This traditional, tree-lined Javier Arana design measures in at 7112 yards and plays as a par 71. Not as intimidating or closed in as Valderrama but is certainly on the tight side and due to a lot of fairways being placed at an angle in relation to the tee box, poses many questions off-the-tee. The generally small greens get trickier and more undulating as you work your way around the course, with the majority protected by some deep bunkering.
Open de Espana Tips
- Nicolai Hojgaard 50/1 – 1/5 7 places (Paddypower) – 1 pt ew
- Min Woo Lee 50/1 – 1/5 7 places (Paddypower) – 1 pt ew
- Santiago Tarrio 66/1 – 1/5 7 places (Paddypower) – 1 pt ew
- Adrian Otaegui 80/1 – 1/5 7 places (Paddypower) – 1 pt ew
- Francesco Laporta 125/1 – 1/5 6 places (Betfred) – 0.75 pts ew
- Romain Langasque 150/1 – 1/5 7 places (Paddypower) – 0.75 pts ew
I believe the winning score of -22 from Rahm in 2019 is a little deceiving and cons you into thinking this is an easy course. It’s tricky throughout and asks questions of every part of your game. The fact Rahm won with such a low score was more to do with a truly elite golfer playing elite golf, rather than a golf course playing easy. This is shown by the players in behind.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello finishing 2nd and 5 shots being Rahm on -17, with eventual 3rd Samuel Del Val a further 2 shots back on -15. Scores of -13 & -12 getting you a spot in the top 10. Certainly a stern enough test for golfers who aren’t a Spanish behemoth.
It’s probably pointless to look at how Rahm won the event, as he excelled in all areas but it’s not surprising to see, by and large, people who drove the ball well fared better. With it also looking necessary to possess a good short game around these tricky, small greens.
The course itself will have to offer the defence to the course, as the weather certainly won’t trouble the players. With dry and calm conditions predicted throughout the four days.
The best player in the world, Rahm, is the clear headline act. He’s joined by Ryder Cup teammate from Whistling Straights, Bernd Wiesberger and 2019’s runner-up, Cabrera-Bello, who will be hoping a return to his native Spain can spark his poor year into life.
I contemplated going very light on this event with Rahm a clear short-priced favourite and it’s highly likely he wins this event. He, after all, won at a canter two years ago around this course. Since then he’s become both world #1 and a major champion, combined with the fact Sergio Garcia’s absence makes this a weaker field than two years ago, you’d be hard pressed to say you don’t expect him to win again. This is without even mentioning the sheer brilliance of his record when he returns to play in regular European Tour events.
Having said that, this is golf, anything can happen, shown by him missing the cut in his last strokeplay event in the States and my natural instinct with such a short price favourite is to try to get them beat. I must mention at this point that there’s a couple of ‘without Rahm’ markets knocking around, which seem to have some decent value but due to not all bookies offering this, I’ve concentrated solely on the outright win market.
For this mammoth task I’ve got a team of six, starting with two talented youngsters who are recent winners and may just fancy their chances at taking on Rahm more than most players in the field, such is the confidence of the game’s youngest players at the minute. First up is Nicolai Hojgaard.
Hojgaard finally followed in brother, Rasmus’ footsteps when picking up his first European Tour title three starts ago in the Italian Open. Sometimes such a success is followed by a bit of a down period but there’s been no such thing for Nicolai. As he’s followed that victory with another couple of excellent top 20s, at the BMW PGA Championship and last week on the links in Scotland.
He’s a player who excels off-the-tee, ranking 38th and has a more than acceptable short game, ranking 51st around-the-greens. Even though Rahm played well in every aspect here two years ago, the two standouts were his driving and short game, which should stand Hojgaard in good stead. 6th in birdie average adding further encouragement as to his ability to score around here.
As one of the brightest European talents around he should be relishing the chance to pit his game against the world #1 and maintaining his excellent form for a couple of months now, rates as one of the most likely players to upset Rahm this week.
Very few players in this field, if any, can attest to already beating Rahm this year. However that is not the case for Min Woo Lee. After he came through on the Sunday of the Scottish Open, passing Jon Rahm, amongst other big names, eventually picking up that prestigious title via a playoff.
As a former #5 amateur he turned pro with a big reputation and with two European titles to his name he’s starting to realise that potential. He has a game very much revolving around quality driving and excellence around the greens, ranking 26th off-the-tee and 3rd around-the-greens on the European Tour this year. Similarly to Hojgaard that combo of stats looks well matched not just to the way Rahm won this event two years ago, but to many others who sat near the top of the leaderboard.
He’s been a little in and out since that win in Scotland but did manage a couple of top 25s; 12th in the Italian Open won by Hojgaard, though a 21st in the European Masters would offer more encouragement as to his chances here, a similarly tight and awkward tree-lined course.
He looks a good fit for the event and at least if he is faced with a battle with Rahm come Sunday, he’ll be able to tell himself he’s already beaten the big man once this year and he can do it again.
The leaderboard in 2019 was littered with Spaniards, so it would be remiss of me not to have a couple on board. First of those, the now 3rd ranked Spanish player in the world, Santiago Tarrio.
Tarrio’s results have been absolutely spectacular on the Challenge Tour this year. 15 events, 2 victories, 6 other top 5s and 3 further top 20s. This has seen him rise from 383rd in the world rankings at the start of the year, to now sit inside the world’s top 100 in 90th.
This run of form has earned him starts on the European Tour as the season has gone on, which he took full advantage of in his first couple of events. First finishing 15th in the Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland and then an excellent 3rd in the Hero Open in Scotland. A little less impressive in his most recent starts in the Dutch Open and last week at the Dunhill Links but he still remains a player of great interest, particularly now at a more appealing price.
With little in the way of stats from the Challenge Tour, we’re forced to look at the limited data from his handful of performances on the European Tour to work out what type of player he is, and the answer is one with few weaknesses.
He was exceptional tee-to-green in Northern Ireland, ranking 3rd, though had a poor week with the putter. He rectified the putting woes next time out in Scotland, ranking 10th in the field, also maintaining the superb tee-to-green play, ranking 9th.
His performances in the Dutch Open and Dunhill Links weren’t quite as impressive, though he did hit the ball perfectly well in the Netherlands, let down by his short game and anybody is forgiven a difficult week in some tricky links conditions in Scotland.
Hopefully he’ll take on the mantle of being the 2nd ranked Spaniard in the field, in the absence of Sergio and take it upon himself to lead the challenge against Rahm.
The other of my Spanish duo is actually next on the list of best current Spaniards, Adrian Otaegui. He’s enjoying a solid, consistent year on tour. One which has seen him miss just 7 cuts in 23, with a best finish of 2nd in the Scandinavian Mixed event back in June, where he was somewhat of an unlucky runner-up.
He’s a quality player tee-to-green, ranking 19th on tour and being solid in all three of the measured areas. Though his Achilles heel continues to be the putter, ranking 145th on tour.
Though Rahm hit the ball further than anyone when he won in 2019, he also drove the ball incredibly accurately, with the leaderboard a good mix of longer hitters and more accurate drivers, meaning Otaegui should be able to hold his own, despite giving up distance off the tee.
He finished 61st here in 2019, though actually started the event well, shooting 67 & 69 over the first 2 rounds to sit 9th at the halfway point, before a poor weekend dropped him down the leaderboard. The fact he produced quality enough golf to sit 9th at halfway suggests the course suits him better than his final result suggests, especially when you consider the terrible form he arrived at that event in, having missed his previous 7 cuts.
Now in a much better place with his game, I expect Otaegui to improve significantly on that 61st and should he arrive at the weekend in a similarly good position, would be more confident that he’ll be able to maintain that level of performance for the full four rounds.
Italy’s Francesco Laporta has been playing some good golf of late and judging by some of his past performances, is a player who relishes it in strong fields or when the big players come to town.
That belief comes from a number of performances over recent years. Starting with a 7th place finish in the Italian Open in 2019, a Rolex Series event at the time that boasted a really strong field, consisting of the likes of Justin Rose & Tyrrell Hatton. He then performed excellently in the Abu Dhabi Championship in 2020, starting the final round in 2nd and a genuine chance of winning, in a field boasting big American players, Brooks Koepka & Patrick Cantlay, amongst others. Succumbing to the pressure in the final round to eventually finish 17th.
Fast forward to this year and he finished 4th in an Irish Open that included non-other than Rory Mcilroy and most recently achieved his best ever performance in a European Tour event with a 6th place finish at a typically star-studded BMW PGA Championship.
That 6th place finish was following a 4th in the Italian Open, his home Open, once again showing a player who can bring his best game to the big occasion.
Those recent finishes are part of a strong run of recent form for Laporta. One that is aided by him taking his usually solid tee-to-green game to another level, particularly his approach play, but also finally finding something with the putter, usually the weakest area of his game.
He has a good record in Spain, winning the 2019 Challenge Tour Grand Final in Mallorca, also going well in the Challenge de Madrid in 2016, finish 4th, though not at this course.
With every aspect of his game currently firing he looks a player to keep on side at the minute and he’s shown himself capable of turning up on big weeks.
I’m going to finish with a familiar name from my selections in recent weeks. Romain Langasque continues to show positive signs and he’s the strong driving type that can go well around this course.
He missed the cut last week in the Dunhill Links, though he opened with a 65 to sit 5th after round one and part way through round two he’d gotten himself into the lead. He dropped back thereafter, though only missed the unusual 3rd round cut by one shot and to be frank that is one event in which I can forgive a missed cut.
Despite the missed cut, every area of his game looked in decent shape. He drove it well, a continued strength of his game and also scrambled nicely. With solid, if unspectacular performances in approach and putting.
He has numerous pieces of form at similar tree-lined courses. A few stand out, such as a 5th place finish in the Kenya Open this year and 6th at the European Masters in 2016. Even looking at his results on the Challenge Tour, we have a victory in the 2018 Open de Provence, played at the Seve Ballesteros designed Golf International de Pont Royal, a short course played through tree-lined corridors.
Langasque has looked like having a big week for a month or so now and is just falling a little short, but I think his performances have been better than the bare form suggests. With quality driving his biggest asset he should be suited to this week’s test and is a player who just possesses that bit of class needed to try to put it up to Rahm.