Romain Wattel – Open De Espana
After clocking up many miles since the start of the current season, the European Tour finally touches down in mainland Europe this week, for the Open De Espana, which is being played this year at the Real Club de Golf El Prat, Terrassa, Barcelona. The Greg Norman designed Par 72 7,298yd course, which is regularly rated as one of the best in Spain, last played host to this well established event in 2011, but has also hosted Challenge Tour events in both 2005 and 2006. Fairways are mainly generous here, with large greens, featuring subtle borrows, and tricky run off areas, but this tough course very much fits into the category of a second shot test. Accuracy on approach shots will be paramount this week for any potential winner, and the top end of the 2011 final leaderboard, strongly indicates this is more a thinking mans track, rather than a layout suited to the power hitters. Mainly sunny skies, with a decent breeze of 10-15mph are forecast for the four days.
A decent quality field is headed by local favourites Sergio Garcia and defending champion Miguel Angel Jiminez. The layers have predictably put in Garcia at a skinny price after his play off loss at Sawgrass last week, but I still have doubts about his temperament to be diving in at such prohibitive odds. In horse racing speak, he drops the bit a little to easily for my liking, and with the possibility of both physical and mental fatigue from last week, there is sufficient negatives to bypass El Nino this week.His compatriot Jiminez arrives here in poor form, and off the back of a fantastic spat with Keegan Bradley and his caddie in the WGC Cadillac Matchplay a couple of weeks ago (a must watch for any golf fan). At least no alarm clocks are required for the next few months, which is definitely a relief to this bleary eyed golf pundit!
The nap this week goes to the well touted 24 year old Frenchman Romain Wattel, who remains a maiden on the European Tour, despite flirting with final day leaderboards on several occasions over the last couple of years. He has posted three top ten finishes in his last five starts, and also has course form, having finished Tied 5th here in 2011. He had a stellar record in the Amateur ranks, including being part of the 2010 Eisenhower Trophy winning French team with Alexander Levy, so there is no doubting his golf pedigree. Hopefully he will choose this week, to be the next of the ever increasing band of Frenchmen to post a victory on the European Tour.
Another fancy to break his maiden tag this week, is the in form Florida based Argentinian Emiliano Grillo. The promising 22 year old seems to be a constant feature on leaderboards this year, and arrives here in good nick having posted Tied 11th and Tied 3rd place finishes in his last two starts. This great ball striker, who also lost earlier this year in a play off in Puerto Rico on the PGA Tour, features high in both Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation (GIR), so despite this being his course debut, there is every reason to think this track will ideally suit his game. If his sometimes wayward putter behaves this week, expect a bold show from this rapidly improving youngster.
My final selection is Gregory Bourdy, who has made a really consistent start to this season, having posted five Top 15 finishes in his 10 starts. The smooth swinging Frenchman boasts two solid previous bits of course form around this layout, having finished Tied 15th here in the 2011 renewal of this event, and also a 7th place finish on the Challenge Tour in 2006. The stats show his main strength is very much GIR, so this tough second shot track sets up perfectly for this previous four time Tour winner. He represents decent each way value this week.