No need to Fish for value – it’s clear

It’s rare that an early show surprises me to the extent that I thought the player may well have withdrawn from the event, but that’s the case this week in the ISPS Handa Wales Open.

Ross Fisher is the main in question and at 30/1 he’s must-bet material for me.

Fisher finished 17th in the Johnnie Walker Championship last week, a result which could and perhaps should have been better as he faltered in the final round having started it within sight of the leaders.

As has been common throughout his 2013 season, problems with the putter were again to blame but what’s encouraging about his prospects this week is that he putted supremely well here 12 months ago, when finishing sixth having been slapped with a slow play penalty when firmly in contention on Sunday.

Fisher actually ranked just 54th for greens in regulation here – only one man in the top 30 hit fewer – yet still led at halfway and held every chance until the final few holes on Sunday.

Some may see that as a negative – it’s possible to interpret those figures as evidence that the course doesn’t suit him tee-to-green – but given that he arrived on the back of a pair of missed cuts I see it as a huge positive that he went so close to winning with one of his best putting performances on tour.

Fisher also putted brilliantly in the 2010 Ryder Cup here and a return to Celtic Manor seems sure to suit – for me it’s certainly the event on this year’s calendar he’s most likely to win.

The Ryder Cup points race gets under way this week and having been involved in it three years ago he’ll be desperate to get off to a fast start, and we know Fisher is a proven winner who at his best is every bit as good if not better than every other player in this field.

In addition, three of his four European Tour wins have come in the United Kingdom so playing close to home clearly suits.

I really would’ve made him around an 18/1 co-favourite for this event and at 30/1 I’m compelled to have a substantial bet.

There are only two other players who seriously appeal to me here and first of them is Gregory Bourdy.

The fiery Frenchman can sometimes get in his own way but there’s no doubting his ability to get the job done as he’s a three-time European Tour winner.

It’s been a while since the most recent of those victories but his form in 2013 has been particularly solid and he arrives here on the back of nine consecutive cuts made, which is particularly encouraging given that consistent if not spectacular form has been a good pointer in this event.

Bourdy adores Celtic Manor, and his results show why. Since 2007 he’s played the event every year with a worst finish of 39th, a best of second, and four top 15s – he was particularly impressive when second to Alex Noren two years ago, firing a bogey-free 67 in tough conditions to set a competitive target which Noren did well to beat.

Last year he led the field in greens hit and ranked third in driving accuracy here and having struck the ball with authority again last week he arrives here with excellent prospects.

Bourdy is still only 31 so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the best may yet be to come and I expect him to play very well this week.

Finally, Ricardo Santos is worth a bet to build on last week’s encouraging tie for 35th in Scotland.

That result alone doesn’t suggest he’s about to add to last year’s win in Madeira, but the fact that he closed with a round of 67 hinted at a return to the sort of form which saw him sent off a fifth of this price earlier in the season.

Santos actually played solid golf all week at Gleneagles, ranking fifth for greens in regulation, but was unable to make enough birdies to contend. But here at a much tougher track, the fact that he made only seven bogeys – fewer than winner Tommy Fleetwood – is more encouraging.

Furthermore, in an interview with Golf Magic, Santos picked out Celtic Manor as one of his favourite places to play on the European Tour and I find that particularly interesting given his sole visit last year resulted in a missed cut.

What it suggests to me is that Santos, like me, is prepared to put that down to the fact he was adapting to life as a European Tour winner at the time and I’d expect better from him this time around.

Both Scott Henry and Emiliano Grillo, particularly the latter, make some sort of appeal at a similar price but it’s Santos who has the stronger bank of European Tour form to his name and with a love for the course documented, he’s worth chancing to complete the staking plan.

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