ISPS Handa Wales Open 2014

Prize Fund – €1,800,000handa-wales

Winner’s Share – €300,000 

Course – Celtic Manor Resort (7,352 yard par 71)

We all know what we’re thinking about, it’s a links course but somewhere else in the United Kingdom. Before we go there, the European Tour heads west into Wales, to the Celtic Manor Resort. Home of the 2010 Ryder Cup, the scene of Team Europe’s last success on home soil.

So far, Westwood, Bjorn, Gallacher and home favorite Donaldson are all confirmed to play. It could provide them with great impetus, playing on a links track the week before Gleneagles. With the PGA Tour coming to a climax over the weekend, it means the whole golfing world will have their eyes on this event.

It’s a course that has seen Poulter, McDowell, Jaidee and Karlsson all win on. Frenchman Gregory Bourdy took home the trophy last year and it was a superb display of putting that allowed him to do so, ranking 3rd in putts per round. Celtic Manor is renowned for being a stern test with the winner rarely getting below -10 (-8, -6 and -9 have been the 3 most recent winning scores).

It’s the furthest into the calendar we’ve ever seen the Wales Open and captain McGinley has expressed his delight at seeing Celtic Manor being played the week before the almighty battle against USA.

Incredible Ryder Cup scenes here in 2010 - courtesy of skysports

Incredible Ryder Cup scenes here in 2010 – courtesy of skysports

It will provide the usual links test and with plenty of water hazards across the 18, there is importance on accuracy. In general, GIR are the order of the day. Jaidee ranked 7th (2012), Noren 2nd (2011) and McDowell 1st (2010) in GIR statistics. Paul Casey emphasised that on links courses, ranking 1st GIR on his way to victory in Holland last week. And none of the winners here are notoriously big hitters either.

We can’t hide our excitement for the Ryder Cup, which we are attending, so look out for our Ryder Cup posts over the next couple of weeks.

TwitterDon’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!

Danny Willett (28/1 various)

Has everything in his locker for links courses

Has everything in his locker for links courses

We had a long chat about our picks this week as we are massive fans of links golf and we were left highly disappointed with our returns at the KLM. We often do a lot of research into the platers who have the game to suit seaside golf, mainly due to the Open, so it is unimaginable for us to lose 2 weeks in a row.

Our discussions took place on Monday morning, before odds were released and both of us felt strongly about Danny Willett. Yes, now that we’ve seen he is at 28s makes us wary, but the case for the Englishman is too strong to ignore.

First and foremost he is a cracking Links player. He has the ability to move the ball, powerful off the tee and generally a very good iron player and scrambler. We were interested in him at the Open the past 2 years, missing the cut in 2014 and a very respectable T15 finish in 2013.

On the links type tracks this year he has had finishes of T9, T37, T5, T3 and T11 which simply proves his game has all the hallmarks for these types of courses.

He hasn’t actually played a great deal of golf recently, but when he has, he’s been very consistent tee to green. For 3 out of the 4 days at the Omega European Masters, where he finished T5, he was inside the top 20 for driving accuracy, distance and GIR. That really is some going. His putting can of course be found wanting at times, but when you’re playing like that everywhere else, work with the short stick will come.

No denying he’s missed the last 4 cuts on this course, but in 2009 he recorded a cracking T4, which should certainly give him plenty of confidence, given the way he has been striking the ball.

No win on Tour since 2011 and you cannot deny he’s been knocking on the door. Time to shove it open Danny.

Thongchai Jaidee (40/1 various)

Jaidee sees a ghost with his son.

Jaidee sees a ghost with his son.

What a wonderful performer and professional Thongchai Jaidee is. You cannot help but fall in love with the way he approaches the game – he always comes prepared with a methodical and tactical plan for each course he plays.

He will be 45 in November, so he is very much in his twilight years , but when you think he only turned pro at 30, he hasn’t been on the circuit anywhere near as long as most of the same age.

He hasn’t played since the USPGA, taking a break from all things golf, but barring those massive events, when he has teed up, he has performed superbly. Away rom WGC’s and Majors, his recent performances have been a T2 at the French, T5 at the BMW and a win at the Nordea.

And to boot, he is a prime candidate for any links golf. In his last 15 outings on the seaside tracks, he has 2 wins, 1 top 5 and 5 top 25s. As well as that consistency, he has obviously gone onto money return territory. Whilst 1 of those victories was actually at this tournament back in 2012, so his liking for Celtic Manor is there for all to see.

Considering his class, the fact he is at 40s is remarkable, so when we saw the odds we were delighted, having originally thought him and Willett would be each other’s odds…

Great chance for him to add to his 6 European titles and put him prime position for the overall Race To Dubai.

Robert Karlsson (40/1 BetFred)

Unbelievable guns.

Unbelievable guns.

One of our favourite Scandinavians on Tour. Robert Karlsson is another model professional with a fantastic track record in world golf and an outstanding tee to green game, perfect for Links golf.

Everyone seemed to be getting excited about the Karlsson renaissance this year, all those problems with the ‘yips’ finally seeming to be under control. A run of 4 top 12s in 6 outings (including The Open) seemed to back this up, but in the 3 tournaments since, he hasn’t been at that calibre.

Although, 4 rounds in the 60s for a T28 last week will give him a slight push in confidence again, as he comes onto a track where his record is outstanding.

He won here in 2006 by a comfortable 3 strokes, breaking the 36 and 54-hole total score records in the process. He also finished 2nd in 2008 and T9 in 02’. He simply loves Celtic Manor, but for some reason hasn’t come back for 5 years. It will be his first trip to Wales since that 2nd place and if he cant play anywhere near to what he has shown at times this season, he will be a cracking bet.

Edoardo Molinari (40/1 various)

Loves links

Loves links

No doubt, Edoardo Molinari has been in the shadow of his brother over the past few years, having dipped in and out of some pretty average form. However, we have seen, at times, his tee to green abilities shine through in random moments throughout the last 12 months or so.

His iron game is clearly a perfect match for Links courses and that is proven by his form on seaside tracks. This year he has finished T7 at The Open, 2nd at the Irish and T25 at the Tropheé Hassan II. In other words his 2 best finishes have been on Links tracks. His only 2 wins on Tour were both on traditional Scottish Links – Loch Lomond and Gleneagles – both in 2010.

Interestingly his accuracy wasn’t the greatest last week and tee to green he is far better than what he showed, but what helped him gain that T11 position, was an outstanding short game. He was unerringly consistent with the putter and we have to consider the fact that Grégory Bourdy won last year pretty much because of his putter, so it could be a factor again.

He has finished T4 here before, back in 2010, so if he can once again find that form on these Links tracks, he will have every chance.

Outsiders

Oliver Fisher (90/1 StanJames)

Considering the stellar season Oliver Fisher has had, 90s seems like great value. 6 top 10s is a great comeback from a very disappointing 2013 and may finally be the evidence of his potential he showed as a youngster – he’s still the youngest Briton to win a Tour card.

He played wonderfully in Denmark a few weeks back, finishing in a tie for 4th and you have to feel it would have been much better barring a poor opening round of 75.

Then last week a T9 finish will give him every bit of confidence going onto a course where he recorded a respectable T6 in 2009. He should be in a rich vein of self-belief, considering his putting and GIR stats were particularly high last week.

An interesting outsider.

Emiliano Grillo (100/1 various)

The young Argentinean has plenty of promise

The young Argentinean has plenty of promise

Another interesting outsider is the mercurial Argentine talent, Emiliano Grillo. When he is playing well, the flair and poise he possesses and imaginative golfing brain all point towards an outstanding future in the game.

You have to remember he is only 22, so what he is achieving is still remarkable, all be it inconsistently. He should have won in Africa, but a disappointing final day 73 cost him victory and a late surge in Dubai nearly took the trophy away from Stephen Gallacher, eventually falling one shot short. But he has recorded a couple of finishes inside the 20s in the past couple of weeks, after a dip in form and we cannot help but feel that at 100s he is decent value. He was sublime tee to green for the final 3 days in Holland and if he can keep his head together and maintain his form, his quality is a fascinating mix for seaside golf.

T35 and T18 in his only 2 outings here certainly add to the appeal and if anything, he is just an interesting watch!

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