With all eyes on the Shell Houston Open and everyone getting prepared for a Tiger-less week at the Masters, a few guys are hitting a ball around on the southern coast of Spain. The field, let’s be honest, is not the best. Wiesberger, recent winner Canizares, Chris Wood and Marcel Siem are arguably the pick of the bunch.
The NH Collection Open is new to the European Tour and the La Reserva de Sotogrande Club de Golf has only ever held a few amateur events. It will be co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour, highlighting its lack of significance. The prize fund will be €600,000, slightly different to the $6,400,000 over in Texas… But all the negatives aside, we still need to see who is going to do well this week!
This course hosts the annual European Nations Cup. Looking back to 2011, Andy Sullivan was the best player present in the field this week finishing 5th in stroke-play and shooting an impressive 67 on day 3. Adrian Otaegui, Alexander Levy, Tom Lewis Daan Huizing and Lucas Bjerregard also gave a good account of themselves. Moving onto 2012 and it was only really Edouard Espana, Daan Huizing and Adrien Saddier who did well. Adrien Saddier then went onto win the stroke-play event in 2013, so he knows this track very well. Shane Lowry also won this event with Ireland back in 2008.
Sotogrande has also held the Spanish Amateur Championships with the most notable winner being Marcel Siem back in 1999.
What is the course like? It is playing 7,234 yards but many are saying it will play more like 7,400 off the back tees. The fairways are very wide and generous which means any big hitters can loosen their arm. Being on the coast, the wind is certainly going to get up and any players that are capable in the tougher conditions will ultimately prevail. The greens are relatively large which will put stress on positioning in the fairway allowing for a close approach to the pin. Otherwise there could be a few 3-putts out there! The tournament will have a second tier feel to it which means it could offer someone who hasn’t yet got themselves a European Tour title to do so.
Alejandro Canizares looks very dangerous with the favourite tag. He is known to have a few practice rounds on this course and with it being held in his native Spain, he is sure to be buzzing. Especially considering his recent emphatic win. But at 12/1 with some people we just feel that price is too short! Get him in your Fantasy sides though.
Interesting fact – Fans are being allowed to watch the play for free this week!! Why did we not get a flight over…
Marcel Siem (35/1 Stan James)
It was about this time last year where the German gave us a fabulous display of golf at the Trophee Hassan, beating the likes of Ilonen, Larrazabal and Horsey who were in fine form. It was that performance that really showed us that Siem had more to his game other than a ‘bomb’ off the tee. He adapted to the windy conditions superbly and his iron play was nothing short of sublime. That performance shot him up the rankings, marginally missing out on a slot at the Masters.
Since then he has tried and failed to get onto the PGA Tour which means he finds himself once more plying his trade on the European Tour. The Sotogrande track sets up perfectly for Marcel who is averaging 293 yards off the tee in 2014. Factor in his ability on links tracks and the fact he lies 5th putts per GIR and 11th putts per round, he is a mean prospect for this week.
As we mentioned in the preview, he also won around this track in 1999! This course knowledge could give him that much needed edge. And he is also yet to miss a cut in 2014. The time is now.
Andy Sullivan (40/1 Betfair)
Just like Siem, Sullivan possesses invaluable course experience around this track. His 5th in 2011 and subsequent overall victory for England will fill him with confidence. And if that wasn’t enough he comes into this week off the back of a career-best finish of 2nd at the Trophee Hassan. His performance there also shows how he can play in windy conditions. He also came T5 at the Joburg Open this year.
He is statistically one of the best drivers on the tour averaging 294yards off the tee and ranking 23rd in driving accuracy. His recent form, course knowledge and length off the tee is enough for us to be very confident. He’s one of our favourite players too.
Lucas Bjerregaard (33/1 Various)
We prefer Sullivan and Siem at similar prices to the Dane, but Lucas is someone we just cannot discount. And he is only 22 – a lad with a bright future. Most impressive is this guys length off the tee, averaging a whopping 309 yards in 2014. Only the likes of John Daly and Rory McIlroy are ahead of him. But it is unfair to just categorise him as a bomber with him not finishing outside the top 25 on his last 5 starts, two of which where top 10s. Some of those finishes were on tight tracks where accuracy off the tee was needed.
He also ranks 55th in GIR which is not bad for his first ever year on the Tour. As we mentioned in the preview, the Dane played very consistently around this track back in 2011. Invaluable for this week. But quite honestly he has blossomed in 2014 and is a very special talent.
Adrien Saddier (80/1 Various)
We just feel the Frenchman is great value at these odds in this field considering his intimate knowledge of the course. Two years in a row he played solid golf around this track, most recently winning in 2013. Partner this with a 3rd at last years Spanish Amateur Championships and we have a man who enjoys life in Spain.
He only has two top 25s to his name this season but at only 21 he is a great talent. One of those was last time out at the windy Trophee Hassan. He is also ranking 19th in GIR and averages 290 yards off the tee. If he rekindles the sort of form he had when he won here in 2013, he could certainly make a name for himself this week.