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Czech Open betting preview
By Ben Coley Last updated: 18th August 2010
Ben Coley previews this week's Czech Open and believes Miguel Angel Jimenez could hold an advantage.
With two events to go before the European Ryder Cup team is announced it's no surprise that this week's Czech Open is headlined by two men desperate to get on the team in Miguel Angel Jimenez and Peter Hanson.
Jimenez is currently lying eighth on the list and a couple of steady weeks should get him to Celtic Manor but for Hanson, 15th on the European points list, only victory will do.
The event itself is being played over two courses at the Prosper Golf Resort, situated in Celadná, a small village in the mountainous Moravian-Silesian region. Indeed, it has been rebranded from the Moravia Silesia Open to it's rather more approachable 2010 title after little known Oskar Henningsson shot a 13-under total of 275 last year.
The Swede won by giving himself plenty of looks and putting masterfully and that's in keeping with the tree-lined appearance of this short selection of holes, which perhaps significantly were co-designed by Jimenez in 2001.
He said: "They are very natural golf courses and they make you think. The key is being straight off the tee. You also need a very good short game."
So, what Miguel Angel Jimenez is saying is that you need to be, well, Miguel Angel Jimenez.
The evergreen Spaniard lies 29th in driving accuracy, 11th in putts per greens hit and 12th in putts per round this year. Add to that a respectable 47th in scrambling and the fact that he knows this course better than any of his compatriots and the case for him is strong already.
Of course, Ernie Els arrived at Wentworth with a similarly likeable profile but this is very different; Els was playing in his sponsors' event and his radical changes were coming under intense scrutiny.
This relatively low-key affair lacks the tour stars and we shouldn't forget that Jimenez has won twice this year already, in the Dubai Desert Classic and Open de France.
Interestingly in both events Miguel was not only among the best with the flat-stick, but he hit plenty of greens in regulation, something he doesn't always do.
Last year when tied for 17th here, he ranked 22nd in greens in regulation but the putter was cold.
Put simply, if he putts as he has been this season and strikes it as he did here this year, the 46-year-old should go close.
Don't be put off by a missed cut at Whistling Straits either as for me that result was perfect; he missed out only by a couple of shots, suggesting the game remains in good order, and the weekend off means tiredness concerns are significantly less.
All things considered he should be the favourite here and quotes of 20/1 in this field seem very generous.
That's not to underestimate Hanson.
Like Jimenez, he's a winner this year having landed the Iberdrola Open in Mallorca and since that victory he's recorded four top-20's in eight starts, most recently taking an impressive eighth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Only a final round 78 at the PGA Championship cost him a top-20 finish there too, so we know he's in good form, but Hanson is longer than he is straight and, while finding a respectable number of greens, he's not the greatest putter and this just doesn't feel like the right course.
For our second pick lets go back to the Jimenez mould - a player who finds his greens - and who better at present than Stephen Gallacher?
The in-form Scot is having a stellar year that lacks one thing and we fancy he'll go close to getting that elusive second tour win, some six years after landing the Dunhill Links.
Currently 14th in stroke-average and eighth in greens hit, the Scot also has a couple of bonus stats to call upon in 15th in sand saves and driving distance. Clearly, the fact that he isn't the straightest off the tee doesn't cost him as he plays well from the rough and only a lack of class with the putter deters us.
That concern is in part at least negated by a quite excellent run of form. His results of late read: 4 - 6 - 4 - 30 - 56 - 4 - 23 - 27 - 18
That's three each-way payouts in nine starts and in a host of top-class events too; this represents a step down in class and he's strongly fancied to finish inside the top-10; why not a win this time?
Of the other market principles Simon Dyson makes appeal as he signalled a return to form with a fine 12th in the PGA and finished inside the top 20 here last year, but one swallow doesn't make a summer and he's best watched this week with a view to next.
Let's take a flyer instead with Ross McGowan.
I know, I know, he's played pretty poorly all season, running himself into the ground in a bid to keep hold of his Ryder Cup spot. Ironically, he's just fallen out of the team as his form has started to turn.
Look beyond the finishing positions at Firestone and Whistling Straits and you'll see that after three rounds he was level par in both. Nothing exceptional, no, but a step back in the right direction without doubt.
At his best, McGowan fits the bill here. When winning the Madrid Masters in 2009 he ranked second in greens hit and ninth in putts per greens hit; he knows how to give himself chances.
All of this adds up to a reasonably compelling case and I've got a theory that dropping out of the team changes his situation from "I've got to play well otherwise I'm out" to "I'm out. If I play well, you never know" and that could make 66/1 look big.
Swedes have a strong record in this event, with Henningsson winning last year and Per-Ulrik Johansson in '94 (there was an 11-year break in proceedings from 1997 so it's two from the last five), but with Henningsson out of form and Hanson perhaps underpriced, a small bet goes on Patrick Sjoland.
He finished T11 in this last year, closing with a fine 69, and has shown signs of form with five consecutive cuts made. Sure, that sentence wouldn't inspire you to back one of the market leaders, but we can get 150/1 about this chap.
Before the decade break he finished fifth in this event and while that's a long time ago on a difference course it still helps to build the feeling that he's overpriced, as does the fact he's among the top 25 putters this season and has a fine sand-save percentage too.
Sjoland hasn't won for a decade on tour and while it'd be ambitious to think that's about to change, 150/1 doesn't accurately reflect his chance in my view.
The final vote goes to last year's joint-second Steve Webster, a man who doesn't win as often as he should with such a wonderful swing.
Webster arrives on the back of three missed cuts but he's a solid, all-round ball-striker who has the class to go close and has that tie for second to call upon.
He actually lead after three rounds only to find Henningsson finishing stronger but his overall form both this year and throughout his career makes 50/1 just a shade bigger than I expected.
2pts each way Miguel Angel Jimenez at 20/1 (general, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). dual 2010 winner and co-designed can cement his Celtic Manor spot.
1.25pts each way Stephen Gallacher at 25/1 (general, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). In the middle of a purple-patch and this is his easiest assignment for some time.
0.5pts each way Ross McGowan at 66/1 (Sportingbet, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). being out of the Ryder Cup side for the first time all season could ease the pressure and he's classier than most of these
0.5pts each way Patrick Sjoland at 150/1 (totesport, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Swedes have a good record in this as does Sjoland and he's ticking over nicely right now.
0.75pts each way Steve Webster at 50/1 (totesport, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Led after three rounds in 2009 on his way to a tie for second and can build on that.
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