European Open betting preview

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Soren Hansen has a penchant for Jack Nicklaus courses so Matt Cooper is tipping him for glory at this week’s European Open.

The Heritage course at the London GC is a Jack Nicklaus design which means there will be width off the tee, but the winner needs to be more than just a heavy-hitter.

The Golden Bear is as cunning a designer as he was meticulous as a player – the wide fairways are not as simple as some assume.

Nicklaus makes sure that the smart driver is left with the better approach option from the fairway whereas the less careful still has a good lie – but a poor angle into the flag.

In addition to this facet of his designs, he also places great emphasis on distance control into the greens.

One man who has always thrived when faced with this sort of challenge is Denmark’s Soren Hansen.

In the last three seasons his record on Nicklaus designs is second to none.

At Gleneagles he has finishes of 2-3-10, here last year he finished fifth and at Gut Larchenhof he has finished eighth and first.

When this event debuted at the London club last year the Dane ranked seventh for greens in regulation and tenth for putting average so arguably the two key stats were in good shape.

In recent weeks his form hasn’t been too hot, but there are signs that he is ready to contend again.

He topped the GIR stats in Italy and was third for ball-striking last week in Wentworth as he moved through the field after a poor first round effort of 73.

With his penchant for Nicklaus layouts, I’m keen to have him onside at 50/1.

Quality ball-striking should be rewarded this week as the rough around the greens is thicker than in 2008 – the more greens that are hit the better.

And currently few players are striping the ball better than Italy’s Francesco Molinari.

Only once this season has he failed to average 70% or better in greens hit in regulation.

His coach Denis Pugh recently said that he was hitting the ball better than ever which backs those stats up.

Second on the Nicklaus-designed Gut Larchenhof at the end of last season, his game, like Hansen’s, is well-suited to this track.

The key, as always, is the flat-stick and at Walton Heath in US Open qualification he was happy with his form on the greens, holing more putts than at Wentworth.

The field this week is high quality but there are reasons to doubt the form or price of many of the favourites, making the 66/1 on offer about Molinari well worth taking, especially as, in the week after his brother won on the Challenge Tour, he might be playing catch-up.

Last year Ross Fisher wowed the crowds with a superb display of long-hitting and the word on the course is that the longer drivers are going to be at an advantage once more this week.

That brings Johan Edfors into the equation.

Last year I followed him around Celtic Manor as he hit green after green without ever once threatening to hole any birdie putts – it was the story of his season.

But this year he is more confident about his short game and has proved as much with a win in Thailand on the Asian Tour.

He struggled last week on the Wentworth greens, but, like Molinari, he was far happier when putting on the smooth surfaces at Walton Heath.

In a buoyant mood after securing a third visit to the US Open, it is only two weeks since he was third in the Irish Open – a result he was happy with given that he had to play the first two rounds in the worst of the weather.

In a good mood and on a course that plays to his strengths, 80/1 is a good price.

Sticking with the long-hitting theory, Alvaro Quiros completes this week’s team.

The popular Spaniard suffered on his first trip to Augusta, unable to cope with a course he had not even seen on television.

A happy fellow, it took a little while for him to start smiling again on the course, but last Sunday at Wentworth he was joking with his friend Pablo Larrazabal.

Unlike the bookmakers I am convinced that he is the real deal – four professional wins in just 84 starts looks good enough, but on the European Tour he actually has three wins from a mere 46 starts.

He also has the rare ability to thrive on the back nine on Sunday – his display in Doha to win the Qatar Masters was sensationally good.

40/1 for Quiros, with his win rate. Or Lee Westwood or Graeme McDowell at 28/1? Quiros for me.

Tips:

1pt e.w. Soren Hansen at 50/1 (Ladbrokes 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Loves Nicklaus layouts and fifth here in 2008.
1pt e.w. Francesco Molinari at 66/1 (Ladbrokes 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Magnificent ball-striker who is ready to win again.
1pt e.w. Johan Edfors at 80/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Long-hitter has rediscovered his short game.
1pt e.w. Alvaro Quiros at 40/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). The Spaniard wins more often than his price suggests.

  • Preview posted at 1345BST on 22/05/2009.
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