Open De Espana Contenders
Jon Rahm heads into this event as the heavy favourite and it’s clear to see why. Firstly, the Spaniard is the best golfer in the world, and he proved that by being the shining light in an otherwise dull European Ryder Cup team.
Secondly, this is his home event and one that he’s won twice in a row now as he looks to become the first player to take the Open de Espana on three successive occasions.
There’s no one in this field that even holds a candle to Rahm at the moment, and if he’s even remotely on his game, there’s very little doubt that he’s going to go on and win this.
The market knows that though, so even if he does take the crown here, the returns are minimal and each way shouts at longer prices look to be the best strategy.
The first player to consider here at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid is another Spaniard in the form of Adri Arnaus.
While he’s become slightly erratic off the tee over the last season, missing at least 40% of fairways in each of his last 33 events dating back to a missed cut in March last year.
His current form isn’t something to marvel at either failing to make a top-10 in any of his last 12 events, though there’s an argument to say he’s due a performance and there’s no better place to get back on track than Spain.
He has a very good record in his home country, going 2-4-68-8-4 from his last five such events.
The first of those fourth placed finishes came here two years ago, where he was immaculate with his irons and 77.8% of his greens in regulation, being the top ranked player in the field for that metric.
He also hit’s the ball an extremely long way, and that served him extremely well here last time. Since that 2019 renewal, his game balance has teetered slightly and he’s now become a much more impressive putter, though his long game seems to have taken a bit of a hit.
At his price however, he’s worth backing despite that obvious risk, and hopefully the home crowd can push him on to yet another top-10 finish.
Another that has strong local form, albeit not at this particular run in Madrid is Maximilian Kieffer.
The German loves this event having made all six of his cuts, including five top-30s with form reading 2-5-9-29-12-49, while he also has top-5 finishes at the Andalucia Masters and the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open in the last three years.
While he’s not the biggest driver of the ball by any stretch of the imagination, he’s certainly one of the most accurate.
He ranks seventh on tour for fairways hit, and third from those having played at least 60 rounds this year, and that proved to be imperative at this course in the most recent Open de Espana, with Rahm and Cabrera-Bello (first and second in 2019) ranking third and fourth for driving accuracy, respectively.
He comes into this off the back of a missed cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links, though links golf has little bearing here and prior to that he finished an impressive 15th at the Dutch Open, so he’s well poised for another strong finish in Spain.
While Guido Migliozzi is again tempting, he’s the shortest price from all non-Ryder Cup players and considering he’s yet to fully deliver on his potential, that seems too short despite his obvious quality, and it’s another player with proven pedigree here and strong current form that looks a better pick at a slightly longer price.
Masahiro Kawamura enters the tournament of the back of five top-20s from his last eight events, including three top-5s and although his last outing was a missed cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links, we’ve highlighted already how insignificant that event is when picking a winner here, and Kawamura himself proved that two years ago when finishing seventh here off the back of a missed cut in that Scottish event.
He ranks 11th for strokes gained off the tee (and second from those having played 60 or more rounds), a field in which Rahm led when victorious here two years ago, and that reliability off the tee is going to stand him in great stead at a course that he’s got proven comfortability with.
Not only does he have a top-10 here in his only start, but he also has one at Valderama just last year and although there are obvious differences in the two courses, the conditions can often be similar and pedigree has been known to translate, so we’re happy to get behind the 28-year-old to challenge Rahm up toward the top of the leaderboard.
MASAHIRO KAWAMURA E/W
ADRI ARNAUS E/W
MAXAMILLIAN KIEFFER E/W