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Saint-Omer betting preview
By Ben Coley Last updated: 16th June 2010
The St Omer Open plays second fiddle to the US Open this week but Ben Coley feels he's found some value picks.
The European Tour arrives in France this week for the Saint-Omer Open and home hopes are pinned on Raphael Jacquelin to give France its first winner in the event.
With the star names out in California for the US Open and many of the rest taking the opportunity to have a break ahead of the far more prestigious BMW International Open in a week's time, there a plenty of unfamiliar names here and it's no surprise the tournament has a history of providing upsets.
Still, that the line-up doesn't impress with its quality doesn't mean there's no value to be found as some lesser lights bid to conquer the 6,884-yard, par-73 layout and there are a couple that catch the eye.
Winning scores over the years have varied with the weather - Australian Brett Rumford shot the lights out with a 15-under-par, five-shot victory in 2003 before Josť-Felipe Lima scraped to a one-shot, five-under par winning total a year later - and with rain forecast this time around there'll certainly be times when damage limitation is required.
The key to the course though seems to be to hole your putts; the last three winners of this event have ranked in the upper echelons for both putts per round and putts per greens in regulation and it's that combined with accuracy rather than distance off the tee that has paved the way to success.
With that in mind, first on the list is Mark F Haastrup, a young Danish player whose recent form offers plenty of hope. The 26-year-old put together his best finish of the season in Estoril last week with a lone third, closing with an impressive 67 to advertise the fact that he can operate in the heat of a Sunday battle, and the forecast conditions can help him hold on to the fairways and go very close once more in a bid to emulate compatriot Thomas Bjorn's success in that event.
His effort in Portugal came out of the blue to some degree, following as it did missed cuts in both Wales and Madrid, but prior to that he'd taken a then season's best tie for ninth in Mallorca; what those two top-10 finishes have in common is that they came in low-key events against many of the tour's less familiar names and we're hopeful he can stay hot enough with the putter to contend again this week.
He was first in putts per greens in regulation in Estoril and 16th in greens hit and similar stats supported his performance in Mallorca where he was sixth in overall putting, while in two tries in the Saint-Omer Open he's shared 28th in 2009 and 35th a year earlier. Both are respectable finishes and he arrives on the back of what probably rates his best tour effort to date, so this unexposed Dane is worth siding with at the odds.
Without a win since 2007 it's fair to say French favourite Jacquelin is due a return to the winners' enclosure and what better event than a sub-standard one in his homeland? It's surely a sign of how eager he is to get the monkey off his back that Jacquelin plays Aa Saint Omer GC for the first time this week and surely he'll go very close to winning if playing as well as he has of late.
Three top-20 finishes in his last four starts and a tie for third in the Spanish Open at the start of May show that the steady journeyman has his game ticking over nicely and, perhaps crucially, his putts per greens in regulation figure is as good as it's been in the past decade from this year's admittedly limited evidence. Combine that with a look at his recent stats - he was top-five in greens hit at Celtic Manor, first in overall putting during his best finish of the year in Madrid and has hit a healthy proportion of fairways all season - and it appears that his entire game is in the sort of form that really should see him take care of these if piecing it all together.
While he's no tournament form to call upon, the same can be said for most of these and the emphasis on accuracy over distance should suit him; double-figure odds appear fair when the opposition is taken into account and we find it hard to see him out of the frame.
Sitting behind Jacquelin in the betting are three Challenge Tour players, each of whom has something to recommend them; Lee Slattery has won in division two already this year and showed with a top-five in last season's SAS Masters that he was what it takes to mix it with the big boys, while Robert Dinwiddie has also tasted low-key success and was tied for 17th in Mallorca last time he stepped up in class.
However, it's the third man George Murray who merits inclusion in the staking plan following a fine success in the Scottish Hydro Challenge over the weekend.
Having missed the cut here in 2007 and a year later, the Scotsman showed he's getting to grips with the layout with a share of 28th alongside Haastrup in the event last term. There's strong evidence that he's simply a better player this year too, with a tie for 36th in Tuscany his worst finish from eight starts across both the Challenge and European Tours
It gets even better when we narrow it down to the big league; in two starts the 26-year-old has taken a clear third in the Madeira Islands Open behind Oliver Fisher and James Morrison, which looks strong form, along with 16th in Mallorca where his closing 66 really impressed.Murray is just preferred at the prices to fellow Challenge Tour starlet Julio Zapata, who has four top-10s from seven starts but has to prove himself at this level, and Pelle Edberg whose exceptional putting will serve him well, but the memory of his final-round capitulation while contesting in Mallorca remains too fresh
Lima, meanwhile, who has been first and second on his last two starts here, simply looks out of sorts and his price is based on course rather than current form. Murray, on the other hand, arrives here at the top of his game and looks a player with a bright future; he can continue to show that with another big performance.
Our next vote goes to a compatriot of Murray's in the shape of Steven O'Hara, whose recent course form figures of T10 in 2009 and third a year earlier make him of interest. While his efforts this year have been less than inspirational he did show a bit more last when a second-round 66 allowed him to stick around for a weekend of golf and as he ranked eighth for driving accuracy and 12th for greens in regulation in Estoril the signs are that he simply needs to hole some putts to go close again.
In this event last year he topped the stats for greens in regulation too, showing he really does like the place and he'll only need to find something with the putter to go very close to breaking his tour duck. Those seeking extra encouragement can look at his strong efforts in the wind and rain - he finished T6 in the Johnnie Walker last year - while a tie for eighth in the Avantha Masters earlier this year means recent strong form isn't too far in the past.
In the hope that the home contingent can rise to the challenge our last selection is Michael Lorenzo-Vera, who took sixth on his sole start in this event three years ago.
Indeed 2007 was a great year for the talented Frenchman, topped off with a convincing Challenge Tour win, and he backed it up a year later with finishes including a T2 in the Volvo China Open and a share of ninth in the Alfred Dunhill Championship. That last effort showed he can cope should the weather close in and we're prepared to chance him despite some lacklustre efforts this year - he's made only four cuts from 11 starts.
That said, he did go well in the Alfred Dunhill once more at the back end of 2009 and when (and if) he does find the greens he's putting well, with an average of 1.67 required for every green found. There's no doubt backing Lorenzo-Vera is far from guaranteed to bring us a return but he's got the ability to beat most of these if bringing positive course memories to the table.
1pt e.w. Mark F Haastrup at 28/1 (general). Improving Dane can build on his best effort last time and putt his way to a big effort.
2pts e.w. Raphael Jacquelin at 14/1 (Sportingbet). Class act of the competition whose game this year looks in good shape.
1pt e.w. George Murray at 35/1 (Sportingbet). None of these arrives with more confidence and his form at the top table stacks up.
0.5pts e.w. Steve O'Hara at 50/1 (general). Top 10 on his last two visits and tee-to-green game is in better order than his finishing positions suggest.
0.5pts e.w. Michael Lorenzo-Vera at 80/1 (Coral). Enigmatic Frenchman went close here on his sole start and can benefit from the home support.
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