The European Tour make makes the short trip from England to Ireland for this week's Cazoo Wales Open.
2021 European Tour
Cazoo Wales Open
The TwentyTen Course, Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales
South African golfing enthusiasts are still in a slight state of shock after yet another ill-fated Major Championship bid by Louis Oosthuzien. The decision to play so cautiously on the 7th really cost him (it’s as if he didn’t believe he could win). I suppose I have the consolation of knowing that I backed Collin Morikawa at 35/1. Those were just ludicrous odds considering his recent form in big events. I heard it mentioned that he drove like Nicklaus and putted like Tiger. I couldn’t agree more. It’s frightening to consider what the American star could achieve in his career.
The European Tour was always going to struggle in the week following the Open Championship (especially in a pandemic). So, I guess we should be grateful that online car retailer Cazoo has stepped up to the sponsorship plate this year. Perhaps one of the most intriguing sub-plots this week will be the support of Welsh footballing icon Gareth Bale. Bale has long been a golfing nut (much to the chagrin of Real Madrid supporters). He will likely take part in a pro-am this week leading up to the serious business. As host he will also be the main attraction this week, with a severely depleted post-Major field assembled. This tournament represents the mid-point of this seven-week British Isles Swing. It will once again be staged at Celtic Manor.
The TwentyTen course at Celtic Manor is so named for its starring role in the 2010 Ryder Cup (this course was actually built specifically to host the showpiece event). This is a flat, parkland course with plenty of risk-reward holes. This is hardly surprising given the Ryder Cup connection. This is actually a true test, with considerable length and a variety of water hazards in play. Four par 5’s will also offer plenty of scoring value (especially for the longer hitters). This course has played host to every Wales Open since 2008. It actually played host to back-to-back events last season, as the European Tour frantically rescheduled due to the pandemic.
Robert Macintyre has been forced to withdraw this week following his excellent top 10 finish at the Open. He will be playing Stateside this week for the chance to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. You can’t blame the ambitious Scot for prioritizing his future despite some complex Ryder Cup permutations. Matt Wallace will be the favourite this week. The 31-year-old was a former World Number 23. However, his fiery temperament has really held him back from realizing his potential. Sam Horsfield won here in last year’s Celtic Classic. But the bullish young Englishman has plateaued of late. Aaron Rai and Justin Harding are both coming off excellent top 20 finishes at the Open Championship. They will certainly add a lustre to this fairly stagnant field.
2020: Romain Langasque (-8)
2015- 2019: no event
2014: Joost Luiten (-14)
2013: Gregory Bourdy (-8)
To Win Outright:
Matt Wallace 8/1 | Sam Horsfield 12/1 | Justin Harding 14/1 | Aaron Rai 16/1 | Jordan Smith 22/1
Adrian Otaegui- To Win 25/1 | To Place 11/2
Otaegui is a talented player who has struggled for consistency throughout his career. But the three-time European Tour winner could thrive in this field. He has shown some encouraging form of late in superior fields, finishing 12th at the Irish Open and 26th at the Scottish Open. He also finished runner-up last month at the admittedly weak Scandinavian Mixed event. Otaegui also has some course form, finishing 14th in last year’s hastily arranged Celtic Classic.
Connor Syme- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
Connor Syme is one of the few players who actually performed well in both of those back-to-back events played at Celtic Manor last year: he picked up a pair of top 8 finishes. The Scotsman is currently gaining strokes on the field off the tee, on approach and when putting this season. He hasn’t exactly been setting the European Tour alight this season. But he could certainly compete this week in a severely depleted field.
The Man to Beat: Aaron Rai- To Win 16/1 | To Place 7/2
Aaron Rai will be full of confidence following a terrific showing in his first Open Championship at Royal St George’s. He ultimately finished in a tie for 19th, expertly plotting his way around that pernickety links layout. He has gone slightly quiet over the past year (though he did pick up an encouraging 12th at the recent Irish Open). Lest we forget, Rai was really the form player during last year’s pandemic affected British swing. He was runner-up in Ireland prior to his mammoth victory at the Scottish Open. He then went on to finish 3rd at the Scottish Championship. He should be a huge contender in this field.