Tuesday, 16 September 2014

ISPS Wales Open 2014 - Celtic Manor

After all the excitement in the FedEx Cup, all golfing eyes turn towards Gleneagles and the Ryder Cup next week but before then we have a former Ryder Cup venue hosting on The European Tour this week where one of Paul McGinley’s wildcards, Lee Westwood will make an appearance as he prepares to get his game in some shape for the battle that awaits. He’ll be joined by fellow teammates, Jamie Donaldson, Thomas Bjorn and Stephen Gallacher.

The course is of course Celtic Manor, a par 71, 7300-yards, where Gregory Bourdy will defend his title. The course hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010, the same year that Graeme McDowell prevailed here and if looking for omens it was also where Paul McGinley himself prevailed in 2001.  The Dubliner also produced a TOP10 here twelve months ago and in 2012!

With Westwood and Donaldson in attendance, they are no doubt the two they all have to beat this week. As a psychological advantage, both Westwood and Gallacher may want to produce a better performance than Tom Watson’s picks did at East Lake, so I do expect them to go well here. We have a very strong field this week though with many of Europe’s leading Tour players in attendance. Paul Casey will look to go back-to-back and move up those rankings further following victory in Zandvoort.

The one player that not many would have qualms about had he received a captain’s pick that could spoil the party here is Joost Luiten. The Dutchman put up a solid defense of his KLM Open last week and showed great composure and competitive spirit when fighting back on Saturday following his horror nine at the second. Luiten was T-2nd in Wales back in 2012 and was T-4th twelve months ago. Like McGinley and defending champion, Bourdy, the Dutchman has shown his likeness for Celtic Manor and given how he played last week at his home Open under the pressure to defend, he would be my headline pick this week but I'm surprised he's been made favourite with the bookies here. At 14/1 he is of no value in my opinion, whereas Lee Westwood @ 16/1 may be a better bet. There is no doubting the Englishman's ability, especially when playing in European Tour events and he is by far the best player on show this week. If Joost is 14/1 alongside local hope, Jamie Donaldson with Westwood quoted at same price for last week's winner, Paul Casey then Lee Westwood's price becomes the value of the market leaders. It will be a win only bet for me though as yet again last week's results show that each way punting in golf is probably not the way going forward. It's frustrating that Pablo Larrazabal T5th last week @ 80/1 and yet returned a 75% reduction for his place when the others in the staking plan were for a TOP10 finish. It was equally frustrating that he should bogey the last to put himself into that tied position as well! That said it did eventually require Romain Wattel to bogey 18 to bring Pablo back into it, and so at least recoup some of the original stakes. So its a win bet this week on the Woksop Wonder to strike a physological blow for the European wildcards given the performance of Tom Watson's picks in the FedEx Cup playoffs. As mentioned, Westwood is the class player in the field and will be motivated to play well in time for next week's big event. He played quite well at Celtic Manor in the Ryder Cup so will be comfortable playing here again.Westwood has had a decent enough season, got into contention again at Augusta and performed well at the PGA. This is a step down in grade somewhat and his class can outshine the best of the rest this week.

Pick 2: Seve Benson
 The Guildford native may have one of the coolest names on tour this year but he’s also a player that could be destined to great things too. From fifteen starts on tour this season, the Wentworth man has only missed three cuts and has been in fine form of late with results of 13-46-21 in his last three starts. Seve missed the cut on his first appearance at Celtic Manor in 2012 but followed that up with a TOP10 twelve months ago. Ranked at 79 in the Race to Dubai, the 27 year old will be looking for some solid results over the next few tournaments to make that TOP60. He’s rested having not played last week and can contend. As tweeted on Monday, I took the 125/1 available but he is still great value @ 110/1 with Bet365

Pick 3: Peter Uihlein @ 50/1

The American has had a poor summer campaign when missing the cut in eight consecutive events before returning to Denmark to stop the rot. Since then though he has returned to playing some solid golf the past few weeks by finishing 22-36-19 in his last three starts. He probably contended better than his result shows from the KLM but he is a streaky player and when he tends to get into some form, he improves over the weeks. He’ll relish Celtic Manor where he was runner up to Bourdy twelve months ago. Like Benson, he will need a few good tournaments if he is to make it to Dubai as he hovers in 89th place on the ranking but has the incentive and game to make it.

Staking Plan (8 pts)

2.5 pts WIN Lee Westwood @ 16/1
0.5 pts WIn Seve Benson @ 125/1 (110/1 Bet365)
1 pt WIN Peter Uihlein @ 50/1

2 pts TOP10 S.Benson @ 10/1
2 pt TOP10 P.Uihlein @ 9/2

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