As the FedEx playoffs get going on the other side of the Atlantic the European tour is just thankful to have an event on the roster, after 4 weeks off in the middle of summer; this is a huge concern and the likely reason for the recent muting of a PGA tour take-over of the European tour. But, back to the golf itself and it is a quality course this week, the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles the 2014 Ryder Cup venue.
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This event always seems to produce some drama, whether it is Eduardo Molinari forcing his way into the 2010 Ryder cup team or Thomas Bjorn winning in a five man play-off in 2011, the Johnnie Walker has made this spot on the calendar its own. Both the previous winners mentioned and last year’s champion, Paul Lawrie, have good all round games and with the Jack Nicklaus design it will be important to hit the fairways, the rough is often brutal outside the first cut so being able to scramble when missing the well guarded greens will be a significant benefit this week. Last year’s top 5 here were all in the top 35 in total driving and top 29 in scrambling, with greens expected to be relatively slow by tour standards, accurate ball strikers rather than super putters should have the edge, although Brett Rumford bucks this trend; he is a short game specialist with a good record here.
With many of Europe’s leading players over in the States contesting the Play-offs, I have opted to select a mixture of proven ability and potential this week, with the big guns away a youngster might break through, but the experienced players with plenty of course knowledge will fancy there chances!
Thomas Bjorn – 25/1 Win
Winner here in 2011, he has five starts at this event and has added another two top 10’s and 2 missed cuts too his win, his excellent form this year however suggests he should feature. Picked up an injury prior to the open which has hindered his performances, but should be healed by now and will have benefitted from playing just 1 week in the last 4 (MC at USPGA); finished in the top 20 of all significant stats in his win here in 2011, shows his great all round ability and liking for the course.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 40/1 Win
If Bjorn does not win, don’t be surprised if Rafa does;has made just 1 of 4 cuts here but that was a fine T10th here last year where he was an excellent 5th in all round ranking. 5 top 30 finishes in his last 6 starts suggest his form is peaking for a late season burst and I hope this week is the start of that run, his driving accuracy has been a concern this season, if he hits enough fairways he should be a factor.
Romain Wattel – 50/1 EW
In just 2 starts in this event Romain has finished 44th here on debut in 2011 and an impressive 3rd last season, what I really like about his profile is he is a long relatively accurate driver, who can really putt, that is a lethal combination if his iron play is reliable. Still looking for his first win on the main tour, but has previously won on the challenge tour and has racked up 3 top 3’s in the last 20 months on the European tour, a good chance of a place surely.
John Parry – 80/1 EW
His biggest cheque on tour was the 2010 Alfred Dunhill Links and he finished 5th last time out at the Aberdeen Asset Management, he clearly likes playing in this neck of the woods. Showing a fine return to form this season, including a very impressive 28th in the US Open, he has 2 top 10’s since then and has played here twice finishing 26th and 22nd in 2010 and 2011 respectively. A solid all round game, and helped by excellent putting, it could prove to be another profitable visit north of the border for Parry.
Gareth Shaw– 125/1 EW
5th in the recent Irish Open and followed that up with a 13th at the Open de France, Shaw has played predominantly on the challenge tour this season but has shown excellent consistency and has actually performed better on the European tour than on the Challenge tour. All this fits the profile of someone who can raise their game when the adrenaline is flowing and is mixing it with a better standard of player, let us hope that’s the case once again this week.
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