- Kim Koivu – 1 point each-way @ 40-1
- *In fine form and suited by a tree-lined track*
- Kalle Samooja – 1 point each-way @ 66-1
- *Everything points to a good run from last year’s 8th*
- Rhys Enoch – 0.75 points each-way @ 110-1
- *Improver has form in the right places, can build on recent SA victory*
- Hugues Joannes – 0.5 each-way @ 300-1 advised (250-1 okay)
- *Hunt the form, it is there, under the cobwebs and cackling bookmakers*
We may only have a share of 4th place to show for the season so far, I’m happy that the revised thought process will produce results. Using some method of course correlation has given live runners going into the final round in each of the first three events and I’ll continue until it proves otherwise!
After eight years at Tecina, the event returns for the second time since 2003 to the much tighter, Seve Ballesteros-designed Izki course. Although there is little comparison, there is a noticeable similarity in results despite not only the change in venue but also the time of year at which it is played, switching between May, July and September at will.
Recent winners such as Rhys Davies (twice), Matt Baldwin, Feplipe Aguilar et al strike a note that accuracy over bombers will win the day and looking at the last two victors tells a tale.
Both Victor Perez and Adrien Saddier have form at the same venues with both tying for 2nd in Denmark, finishing 18th and 8th at the Cordon in Brittany, 17th and 11th at Foshan and both in the top12 at Al Hamra. Given Perez also held high rank on the Alps Tour, his high finishes at Denmark, Finland, Joburg and in Kenya are no surprise, all taking place in either difficult conditions or tree-lined tracks, whilst his compatriot shows good form in Kenya, the tighter South African courses and Morocco.
What is more surprising is that Cordon form – Saddier with 8/19/31/4 -but that is backed up by 2014 winner Moritz Lampert, who has gone missing for a couple of years but showed his best form in a poor 2017 of 18th in Finland and 8th in Brittany. Whatever the reasons, that seems the place to start.
To be honest, I found this an excellent but difficult event to weigh up. There are cases to be made for an awful lot of the top players and whilst JB Hansen is a rightful favourite after justifying favouritism last week, he really cannot be entertained at single figures. Occasional reading of past previews is always interesting and I note he was made 12-1 in 2015 when attempting to continue a good run of form,eventually finishing down the field to Davies (yes, loyal followers, remember that one?), whilst a certain Matt Wallace was offered at 100-1!. Anyway, no. Okay?
Of the market leaders Nico Geyger was one that stood out. Coming off a 4th in Turkey, he has the season-opening 3rd in Kenya and can can also boast an 8th and 12th at the Cordon. The 33-1 was tempting but I’m not sure if he has any better chance than Yunnan winner and equally promising Kim Koivu at a bigger price. The Finn was one-paced over the weekend last week when the putter went cold, but was only three shots off the Chillean in Kenya and has loads of experience on the Nordic League, something that may be an advantage (four Scandinavians in the top-10 last year). We were on Koivu last week and I’m going in again but only at the best price available.
I’m not sure I’ve ever backed two Finns in one event but a first look at the field last week did point to Kalle Samooja and I’m happy to add the former Finnish amateur star. The 30-year-old should now be close to his peak as a golfer and after some impressive relevant finishes looks a touch of value at 66-1.
A 65/68 weekend at Muthaiga preceded a top-20 in Koivu’s win at Yunnan and I am not fussed about a missed-cut last week given his 8th here last year (opened with 64) and 13th behind Saddier when this was the Fred Olsen at Tecina (65/66/68/68). Whilst the 4th at the KPMG may not show amongst other form, alongside was Birgir Hafthorsson, a player with only one win to his name – at the Cordon!
With Rhys Davies seemingly in love with this event, it was tempting to find a Welshman for the plan, and Rhys Enoch fits the bill.
Although born in Cornwall Enoch played under Welsh descent rising to the top of the tree in the junior game and always rated a top talent. Despite personal tragedy and injury, the 29-year-old (how many near 30-year-olds are there?!) won his first Pro event within two months of turning professional and has improved every year, ranking outside the top-1000 in 2014 but currently residing in the top-400.
In terms of results that might be of relevance, Enoch finished 8th in India in his first year on this tour whilst two years later finished T8 in the Swiss Challenge behind proven short-game maestros and T14 in Brittany. A year later results recorded include T13 at Tecina and T4 at the very long and windy Montorosi course, whilst last season he improved again to notch up T19 in Sweden, T8 Finland, T10 at the Viking and another good finish at the Cordon, this time T21.
In between these results the potential star has numerous top-ten finishes in South Africa all leading to his win in February at the Cape Town Open, coming from behind proven multiple winner Peter Karmis. He has continued that decent form over in South Africa until a missed-cut in late April but that looks a blip in a progressive career. A huge hitter, he is expected to improve on last season’s eye-opener and exploit some of the shorter holes, all that will require quality wedge play. Given his undoubted renewed confidence, three figures is one too many.
There is temptation to have a few bets but I’ve restricted it this week to just those three main bets plus a more speculative go on this morning’s ‘twitter’ dog, Hugues Joannes.
Once again, regular readers of this rubbish will recall backing the Belgian numerous times during 2015 and with confidence in this event after an excellent runner-up finish behind Lampert a year earlier, but whilst he has never repaid the faith there is enough there to think he was worth a shekel at a hugues prices.
A winner in his time on the Algarve Tour (mixing and beating the likes of Gouveia and Smith, both Road To Oman winners), the pick of the 29-year-old’s form does give him claims, especially here.
Whilst carrying no form round Izki, Joannes has a 9th at the Cordon and 8th at Foshan in 2015, whilst his highlights the following season include top-20 finishes in tricky St Omer and Sweden as well as highly relevant (we think, okay I think) T12 in Brittany. Ignore 2017 as nothing happened bar three good rounds in Italy (29th) but that all ignores solid form in Portugal, in the same way official formlines don’t show a win on the Portugal Tour this year in tough conditions.
It is encouraging to see a trio of top-20 finishes on the Alps Tour so far this year and whilst that isn’t top-class form, it is hopefully a sign that the once-promising player can show his best. Capable of playing in tough conditions or when it is a birdie fest I felt 300-1 was an insult and double the price he could justify.
What do you want already?