It is hard to believe that it is now four years since Francesco Molinari won an event on the European Tour but he looks to have an excellent chance of ending that drought at this week’s Open de Espana in Valencia.
The Italian will obviously be hoping to hit absolute peak form for his own national event next week but his form so far in 2010 has been out of the top drawer and he looks to be inches away from a victory.
His most recent effort in Europe – in Spain as well – saw him end up in a tie for fourth before he moved on to make his debut in The Masters at Augusta.
He made a very decent first of things too, making the cut before going on to claim a creditable tie for 30th place.
He has skipped the two consecutive tournaments in the Far East so should be nice and fresh and this looks a good time to get with him in the betting.
Molinari is an obvious pick at 15/1 but that probably reflects his chance here and he is a major contender both this week and next.
Some more exotic options are headed by England’s Mark Foster at a general 150/1.
Lee Westwood may be the biggest name to swing a golf club from Worksop but Foster is no mean performer himself when he manages to put things together and he has been a regular fixture on Tour since 2002.
He has still only managed one win – back in South Africa in 2003 – as an infuriating ability to follow a very low round with a bit of a cricket score seems to have consistently been his undoing.
This season has seen a continuation of that trend with a fast start in Malaysia and last week at the Ballantine’s followed by a pair of 77s.
He did a similar thing in China as well where his first three rounds read 75-64-77 so it is clearly a bit of a lottery expecting Foster to string four successful rounds together.
He did manage to do so three years ago in this very event on the way to a T4 while his course form in 2008 and 2004 has seen him post finishes of T22 and T33, the former blighted by, you guessed it, a closing 76 having started the final day in a tie for third place!
So backing Foster comes with some risk but at the prices he looks worth a chance with better weather on the cards than at his last two events and proven form he can score well on this course.
Scandinavian players have won five of the last 12 renewals of the Open de Espana and Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson could be worth a punt at 150/1 to add his name to the list.
He made a lovely start to the event back in 2008 and then faded rather tamely over the weekend as he struggled to handle the spotlight.
He also posted a top-25 back in 2004 at the Open de Seville and has admitted that he finds the course a “lot of fun to play”.
If he can draw on that and the positive memories from his opening 36 holes here two years ago, then Erlandsson is a lively outsider.
You can guarantee a couple of top-five performances from him each season somewhere down the line and it more than often comes at a venue where he has scored well before – Gleneagles (2009-2nd, 2006-T3) being a good example.
He arrives on the back of a pleasing closing 69 at Jeju Island last week and that should set things up nicely.
Final pick this week is for Dutchman Joost Luiten, who is beginning to find his best form once more following a wrist problem that stretches back to 2008.
It is no secret that this guy is a very serious talent and he proved that back on the Challenge Tour in 2007 when winning two of his first six events after turning professional.
He looks to be coming to the boil too in 2010 with a 14-T6 on his last two starts in Morocco and Andalucia while golf in Spain brings back plenty of fond memories for him as well as he was their amateur champion in 2005 and finished T4 in Madrid back in 2007.
I like his chances of a positive display at 55/1.
2pts win Francesco Molinari at 15/1 (Stan James). Class act and form suggests another very big week.
1pt e.w. Mark Foster at 150/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Decent claims if eradicating the odd dodgy round. Has scored well here previously.
1pt e.w. Martin Erlandsson at 150/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). One of the early pacesetters two years ago and clearly enjoys the course.
1pt e.w. Joost Luiten at 55/1 (Stan James 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Huge talent and chance to kick on now back to full fitness.
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