European Tour: Open de Espana Preview

Golfer admires his shot

Our golf writer takes a look at the upcoming Open de Espana set to take place at Centro Nacional de Golf this week. 

After another disappointing weekend for European golfers at a major, the European Tour returns in rather nostalgic fashion to Spain. When the European Tour circuit opened in 1972, it was the Open de Espana that directly superseded the Masters- with Antonio Garrido winning his home open in Girona in the wake of a Jack Nicklaus victory at Augusta.

This event stretches all the way back to 1912 and actually never took place last year. The course has been switched from Valderrama to the Centro Nacional de Golf in the Northern Suburbs of Madrid.

Open de Espana | 12 April - 15 April | Centro Nacional de Golf, Madrid

Opened in 2006, this Dave Thomas designed course has already hosted two European Tour events- the 2007 Open de Espana and 2009 Madrid Masters. The course had various issues over those events, with Ross McGowan winning the event with a rather ridiculous total of -25 the last time around. The visually modern course is typified by shifting land lending to sweeping fairways and greens. There is water in play on six holes, while there is heavy rain expected on Thursday evening. This should make the course even more receptive over the weekend, lending itself to extremely low scoring.

Jon Rahm will clearly be the man to beat in the wake of a week of could-have-been’s at Augusta National. The expressive Spaniard is by far and away the most high profile player assembled this week, adding much needed gloss to an event that is struggling for relevancy to some extent. Other local favourites will include fellow US PGA Tour aficionado Rafa Cabrera Bello and the durable Pablo Larrazabal.

Past Winners
2017: no event
2016: Andrew Johnstone (+1)
2015: James Morrison (-10)
2014: Miguel Angel Jimenez (-4)*playoff
2013: Raphael Jacquelin (-5)*playoff

To Win Outright: 
John Rahm 7/2 | Rafael Caberera Bello 12/1 | Pablo Larrazabal 18/1 | George Coetzee 18/1 | Paul Dunne 20/1

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Value Bets

Thorbjorn Olesen- To Win 33/1, To Place 13/2
The young Dane is just the sort of enigmatic birdie machine that could thrive in the post Masters malaise. He has had a nondescript season, with really nothing to speak of this side of a top 10 at the World Super 6 event in Perth. But he also has positive juju in Spain, with a T5 in Sevilla in 2012 followed by a T19th in Valderrama in 2016. This will be the first start for the Dane at this course, though that will probably be turn for large swathes playing this week. He is a birdie maker who thrives on conducive courses.

Eddie Pepperell- To Win 40/1, To Place 8/1
Eddie Pepperrell was perhaps the one player who did not want the European Tour to go on such a long hiatus. He had just picked up his inaugural win with a brilliant 18 under victory at the Qatar Masters. He is also four for five cuts in terms of cuts made in Spain, which includes four for four in this very event. This included a T8 in El Saller in 2013. He is also striking the ball well this season, sitting 12th in strokes gained in approach thus far.

Gonzalo Fernandez Castano- To Win 90/1, To Place 18/1
Growing up in Madrid, Castano’s record in Spain is highly impressive and his big price makes him an enticing local favourite. He had made 19 straight cuts before missing the cut in Valderrama in 2016. This includes a top six in the Madrid Masters and a second at the Castello Masters. His form has largely been disappointing since moving to Florida, but he has two top 10’s on the Tour this season, which goes some way to reminding the golfing public of those seven European Tour victories. He also recently posted four consecutive sub 70 rounds in Qatar, helping him towards a T4 finish.

The Man to Beat- Jon Rahm- To Win 7/2, To Place 7/10
Yes I know, one has to consider the effects of jet-lag and, perhaps more importantly, Augusta-lag. But you have to think that the man who finished solo fourth at Augusta has the beating of this field this week, even at such a short price. He has course familiarity, having played this course whilst studying in Madrid. The bullish Rahm has teed it up five times on the European Tour this season, winning twice whilst accumulating four top 15 finishes. He also won the CareerBuilder on the US PGA Tour and finished second to Dustin Johnson in the Tournament of Champions.

Written by Damien Kayat for

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