Back Molinari to reign in Spain

Dave John previews the Open de Espana and says Italian Francesco Molinari has very good claims for victory this week.

Hopes will be high that the local galleries will be cheering home one of their own in the Open de Espana as a quartet of Spanish golfers go into the event in Girona chalked up at 40/1 or less by the layers.

Sergio Garcia – the last Spaniard to lift the title back in 2002 – might have decided to sidestep it in preference for the Quail Hollow Championship but bang-in-form Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano still heads the betting at a best price of 16/1.

Fernandez-Castano will tee it up on the back of three straight finishes in the runner’s-up circle and he seems in bullish mood in terms of snapping that streak with a victory.

He said: “For me to win there, it would be my biggest achievement.

“It’s a massive tournament for the Spanish players – it’s something that I would love to have on my CV.”

He has a lovely laid-back style on the course but does seem ultra-keen to do well this week – an approach which could add some undue pressure in front of his own fans.

Two tough weeks playing right in contention in Asia – particularly last week at a windswept Ballantine’s Championship – could also have a detrimental effect while his past record in this event is nothing really to shout about.

On balance, I’m happy to look elsewhere and the first player to catch the eye is Italy’s Francesco Molinari.

He can nearly match Fernandez-Castano for recent consistency having posted back-to-back third places in Andalucia and Portugal.

Off since the latter effort at the start of the month, he makes plenty of appeal at 20/1 as he looks maintain his tremendous run of form figures ahead of his own national title bid next week in Turin.

He last played this event in 2006 when he finished a creditable T16 and he should thrive on a course which puts a premium on accuracy from the tee.

Youngster Danny Willett has seen plenty of early support in the build up and you can see where punters are coming from considering he was second at the Qualifying School at the end of last year on this course.

In a similar vein, I like the chance of David Drysdale, who T7 behind Willett and almost got off the mark on the European Tour in the Open de Andalucia behind Spanish specialist Soren Kjeldsen.

He may not have been happy with his performance over the final three holes after getting into a position to take the title but he should have learned plenty from the experience and on reflection will have been satisfied with the fact that his second-place cheque will ensure he won’t be heading back to Q-School in November.

He also came close at the Joburg Open in January (third) and should be fresh and raring to go having rested up since Portugal, where he closed with a pleasing 68 in testing conditions.

It is little surprise to see him make a comeback on a course that suits and has plenty of positive memories for the Edinburgh man – he is worth an interest at 55/1.

Compratriot Alastair Forsyth is another player at the top of his game currently and also gets a positive vote at the general 33/1 on offer.

He also has two very strong displays to build on from his last two starts where he posted high finishes in Andalucia (5th) and Portugal (T7).

He has a number of good results to his name in Spain and Majorca, including a T8 in this event a couple of years ago and he does have form at the course as well from the 2000 staging of the tournament won by Brian Davis.

He carded rounds of 78-69-71-75 to finish in T67, a display hard to to draw a hard-and-fast conclusion but he is worth risking on balance considering the wellbeing of his game.

Add to the two Scots in the portfolio with Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who remains well capable of a win sooner rather than later.

He has shaken off chronic back problems that had blighted his career and seven made cuts from nine events so far in 2009 is an encouraging start.

His best effort of the season was his most recent – T4 in Portugal – and he looks to have been a little disregarded in the market by Betfred at 100/1.

Donaldson has shot some low rounds in this event in the past and it would be no real shock to see him repeat the trick this week now thankfully back to full fitness.
2pts win Francesco Molinari at 20/1 General). Top of his game currently and sure to make a bold bid.
1pt e.w. David Drysdale at 55/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 bet365, Paddy Power). Solid course form and can make amends for Andalucia wobble.
1pt e.w. Alastair Forsyth at 55/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 general). Two very good recent efforts and has done well in Spain previously.
1pt e.w. Jamie Donaldson at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Betfred). Back to full fitness and can build on good display in Portugal.

  • Preview posted at 2045BST on 28/04/2009.

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