Damien Kayat previews the 2021 European Tour.
2021 European Tour
The Torrance Course, Fairmont St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Last week’s event at Galgorm Castle really highlighted the complete unpredictability of these poor European Tour events. Daniel Gavins, a Challenge Tour professional, shot a closing round 65 to win his maiden European Tour title. This makes the art of punditry exceedingly precarious on this tour at present. The tour will actually be returning to Fairmont for the 2nd time in 10 months (the Torrance Course played host to last year’s Scottish Championship in October). The course will replace Forest of Arden as the host of the Hero open (previously the English Open). Located on former farmland overlooking St Andrews Bay, The Torrance Course is named for one of its creators: former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance. This is one of many iconic courses located in Fife (the Old Course being the obvious standout). With only two of the world’s top 100 in attendance this week, who knows what could transpire as we head towards the close of this British Isles Swing.
The Torrance Course was designed by Denis Griffiths with input from Sam Torrance and the late Gene Sarazen. Much like the Renaissance Club, which hosted the Scottish Open at the start of July, this course can best be described as a semi-links layout. The fairways are generous (as long as you avoid the dreaded pot bunkers). This should be a scoring paradise. There are four smallish par 5’s and three par 4’s that measure under 360 yards. As many as 29 players finished at 10-under-par or better during last year’s Scottish Championship. Adrian Otaegui won after an opening 62 and closing 63 (he ultimately finished with a score of 23-under-par).
It will tell you quite a bit about this event that world number 86 Andy Sullivan is the solid pre-tournament favourite. Scottish Championship winner Adrian Otaegui will also be in attendance this week. Last year’s Hero Open Champion, Sam Horsfield, won’t be defending his title this year. Marcus Armitage has slowly become one of the more low-key, consistent performers on the tour. Perhaps it might be wise to look at links specialists such as Richie Ramsey this week. It’s actually rather depressing to see how poor these fields have become. And it’s not all down to Covid.
Past Winners of English Open
2020: Sam Horsfield (-18) *at Forest of Arden
2003-2019: no event
Betting Favourites (To Win): Andy Sullivan (16/1), Marcus Armitage (22/1), Ryan Fox (25/1), Jordan Smith (25/1), Masahiro Kawamura (25/1)
Matthew Jordan- To Win (55/1), To Place (12/1)
This talented European Tour player could threaten a maiden victory this week. The 25-year-old is a links natural who won the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2017. He also won the Lytham Trophy by nine shots in 2018. He would also go on to finish 5th at the 2019 Dunhill Links Championship. He finished 25th on this course at the Scottish Championship last year and we should expect better from Jordan this time around. Three top 20’s from the BMW International through the Scottish Open show that his game is in good nick. He should thrive in these conditions after a couple of disappointing recent finishes at the Cazoo Open and ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Matthias Schmid- To Win (75/1), To Place (16/1)
A two-time winner of the European Amateur Championship, Matthias Schmid was one of the shining lights of last month’s Open (he carded a 2nd round 65 to win the Silver Medal). The 23-year-old German has gone on to make a solid- if unremarkable- start to his professional career. He finished 47th at the Cazoo Open before improving to a top 20 at last week’s ISPA Handa World Invitational. I think there’s every chance that he could thrive in these links conditions.
The Man to Beat- Matthew Southgate- To Win (35/1), To Place (15/2)
Yet to win his maiden title, Southgate still could be great value on this turf. This is the guy who finished runner-up to Jon Rahm at Portstewart in 2017. He also finished in a tie for 6th at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He was also 2nd behind Victor Perez at the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He was 16th here in last year’s Scottish Championship and he could fare better this time around. He also finished T2 at the European Open in June, which means that he should be in decent form.