Malllorca Open Contenders
With nothing to go off in terms of course pedigree, taking the track on looks we can expect a fairly easy test with regard to its’ layout, though the biggest factor will likely be the wind.
If the breeze doesn’t pick up at all over the weekend, expect a relatively low score on this short course that the biggest hitters in the game can muscle their way around.
That said, the chances of a windless affair are extremely slim on coastal tracks like this, and that’s why seaside form will likely count for a lot, with those with a low-ball flight promising to fare well.
It’s for that reason that Ryan Fox appeals. The New Zealander is unsurprisingly effective when playing on the coast. Indeed,
He finished fourth last week in at Valderrama on the Andalusian Coast, with his previous top-10 finish coming on the Saudi Arabian Coast earlier in the Season, somewhere he’d also previously had a top-10. He’s got a brace of top-10s at both the Scottish and Irish Opens, with a victory and runner up place in his most recent visits to Melbourne and Perth on the Australasian Tour.
His distance off the tee should serve him extremely well here with these wide-open fairways promising to be some of the most forgiving on the tour, and if he can strategise to avoid the hazardous lakes that can sometimes come in to play, we’d expect him to be extremely difficult to beat.
Indeed, while his short game has often been his downfall, there are some serious sings of improvement in recent weeks. He was the second-best putter at Valderrama last week in terms of average, while he becomes a completely different iron player on the Iberian Peninsula.
He’s gained an average of 4.4 strokes on approach in the last two weeks at the Open de Espana and Andalucia Masters, with his last two Portugal Masters seeing him gain 4.96 and 7.56 strokes on the field with his irons.
This course looks tailor made to the kiwi and it would be a real surprise not to see him in the mix come Sunday.
Fox will undoubtedly be ranked in the top five for driving distance this week, though one player who’s almost guaranteed to hit it further than him is Wilco Nienaber.
The young South African is the biggest hitter on the tour by some margin, while he’s also fared very well in Spanish conditions.
Admittedly, a tie for 49th at Valderrama last week was below expectation, though that course can throw up some serious obstacles and a bad week there can be expected from time to time, you just have to look at Jon Rahm’s Thursday session to understand that.
Prior to that, he had back-to-back sixth placed finishes in Spain, with one of them being at Valderrama too so it’s not as though he necessarily struggles with coastal conditions.
For the first time in his professional career he led the field in putting average last week, and only failed to get in the mixer due to his worst irons display of his career too hitting only 43% of his greens in regulation.
We’re inclined to put that down as an anomaly and not and indication of his approach play tailing off, and like Fox he’s otherwise showing strong signs of a big finish, and this is exactly the field he needs to make a statement.
Finally it feels wrong not to back a Spaniard when they so typically perform so well on home soil.
Last week, Pablo Larrazabal was the highest placed Spaniard in a tie for 20th, though we would expect this leaderboard to have a more similar feel to the Open de Espana, where five locals made the top 20, with two of them entering a play-off for the title, and we’re going to back that play-off loser to enact some sort of revenge here.
Adri Arnaus missed the cut at Valderrama last week, though as we’ve mentioned that can happen to even the best players around and certainly doesn’t say anything about the kind of player Arnaus is.
Prior to that, he had five top-10 finishes from his last six starts in his home country, including four top-5s, the two most recent of which came in what is likely to be extremely conditions in the Canary Islands, so we’d certainly expect him to bounce straight back this week.
While home form certainly counts for a lot, his recent form is also ticking over quite nicely on tour as he finished 24th at the tricky Alfred Dunhill Links and 12th at the Italian Open.
Currently 37th in the Race to Dubai, he could do with a big performance to cement his place in the top-50, and there’s little suggestion he won’t do that having had two days extra rest than most having not played last weekend.
RYAN FOX E/W
WILCO NIENABER E/W
ADRI ARNAUS E/W