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Iberdrola betting preview
By Ben Coley Last updated: 12th May 2010
Chris Wood can land his first European Tour win by capturing this week's Iberdrola Open at Pula Golf Club, says Ben Coley.
With The Players Championship bringing to a close a fantastic run of high quality events in America and the BMW PGA Championship just over a week away, many of golf's star names take a breather this week as the European Tour returns to Pula Golf Club, former host of the Mallorca Classic, following a two year absence.
With a host of infrequent or indeed non-winners heading the market and recent course form in scant supply you'd be forgiven for thinking the first Iberdrola Open is a minefield for punters.
But we've hopefully unearthed some value in our search to find the conqueror of this Jose Maria Olazabal-designed course, described as the most exclusive and desirable track on the island.
We'll start with favourite Soren Hansen, at 49 in the world the highest ranked player on display and a veteran of two Ryder Cups.
The deceptively long Dane is a beautiful swinger, so it's undeniably disappointing that he's only managed two wins on the tour so far, the last of which came back in 2007 at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
His record at the track is a reasonable one; he tied 17th here in 2005 when a level par final round would have seen him finish second and was bang in contention at halfway a year prior to that only to fade as the weekend progressed.
That, though, is the continuing theme with Soren Hansen - he regularly begins well and surely soon his turn will again come but, despite the fact he has four top 10 finishes already this season and ranks 10th in overall scoring, he continues to be opposable at quotes of around 12/1 despite the lack of strength in the opposition.
At the prices on offer we much prefer Chris Wood, the lanky Englishman who has been in the top 5 in two Open Championships already despite the fact he's now only in his third year on the tour.
Clearly he's got the game and his winning turn isn't too far away; we're hopeful that this could be the week he puts everything together.
Last week he ended in a share of third despite putting poorly - third in greens in regulation and 37th in putts per round are stats that tell their own tale - but he should take a lot from that and his straight-hitting game will be suited to the demands of this relatively short course.
Indeed, a look back through the list of winners highlights the fact that length off the tee is far less important here than it can be elsewhere with Miguel Angel Jimenez, Gregory Bourdy and Niclas Fasth having triumphed at the course by hitting greens and holing a few putts.
With a season-long greens in regulation rank of fifth Wood looks primed to go very close if he can get the flat stick working, so take the general 16/1.
Returning to look at the roll of honour here points us in the direction of our next best selection, who as a Spaniard will be hoping to give the crowds something to cheer on Sunday as they did when Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal led a period of domination for the locals from 2003 to 2005.
The man in question is Jose-Manuel Lara; a good friend of Sergio's who can step up on recent efforts to take a hand in the finish.
A winner on tour back in 2007, Lara's recent form figures of tied 57th in the Spanish Open and tied 22nd last week in Italy have a progressive look to them and our hope is he can be spurred on by the win of countryman Alvaro Quiros in the former event.
He's got the game to go close here as he's showed when 11th in 2004, tied second a year after, third in '06 and seventh the last time the tour came here in 2007 whilst a glance through last week's stats offers further hope - the 32-year-old ranked 16th in driving accuracy, 11th in putts per round and 16th in greens in regulation.
Lara opened with a 76 on that occasion and was simply never going to win after that but he shot 10 under for the rest of the tournament, equalling joint-second-placed Nicolas Colsaerts and David Horsey from Friday onwards, and if he continues that upward curve he might have to bring forward his late-May birthday celebrations come Sunday evening.
Throw in the fact he's played well in the World Cup when partnering Jimenez on an Olazabal-designed course and 33/1 surely can't last.
There are cases to be made for plenty of the others who figure prominently in the market. Alejandro Canizares looks a rejuvenated golfer this term and can go very low but his one visit here resulted in an 11 over par missed cut, whilst multiple winner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano has a love/hate relationship with the place, sandwiching an opening round 84 in between three fair efforts, the pick of which was a tied seventh back in 2004.
This four-time tour winner hasn't looked totally at one with his game so far in 2010 though and is opposed along with Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, who brings course form of T11-T8-3 into the week as well as four top-30 finishes from six starts this term. It's approaching five years since he last tasted success though and we're inclined to look elsewhere given the quotes on offer.
Robert Coles is next on the list. The Englishman has three good runs at the track to his name - tied 38th in 2006, a share of 17th in 2005 and 19th a year prior to that - and remains in good heart following his best year as a golfer in 2009 when he captured two titles on the Challenge Tour.
In theory it's a different ball game here with the big boys but the reality is this field is arguably weaker than many on last year's tour with the likes of Rhys Davies, Edoardo Molinari, Colsaerts and last week's winner Fredrik Andersson-Hed helping to make the class of 2009 look exactly that.
Coles hasn't pulled up any trees in his last two events but three top-20s in nine starts is a fair return and he could well have turned one of those into a win when fourth in the Open de Andalucia.
Taking forward positive memories from that visit to Spain, he's selected to bring his accurate A-game to the table and make quotes of 66/1 appear generous.
After much deliberation over whether to forgive Benn Barham a poor effort last week, the final vote goes to Francois Delamontagne, despite the fact he's missed four cuts from six events this term.
Last week in Italy the talented Frenchman showed distinct signs of promise in finishing in a share of 17th, a position that could've been a good deal better were it nor for an average final round.
His record here at Pula is reflective of his entire career - a pair of 78s in 2006 overshadowing a T31 in 2005 and an even better tied fourth a year previously, when he led after round one.
There is of course a large chunk of risk involved in backing such an unpredictable character but he's got the profile to be suited by this event and could put himself into contention, in the process making the 66/1 look a tad on the big side.
2pts e.w. Chris Wood at 16/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). T3rd last week and straight-hitting game will be suited to the Pula course.
1.5pts e.w. Jose Manuel Lara at 33/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Progressive form figures and lots of good rounds at this track.
1pt e.w. Robert Coles at 66/1 (Hill's 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Plenty of course form and can be another Challenge Tour grad to shine.
0.5pts e.w. Francois Delamontagne at 66/1 (Ladbrokes 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Went well for three rounds last week and another with form at this venue.
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