Dan Geraghty picks out four early morning starters to trouble the leaderboard on Thursday in Sotogrande...
"(Richard Bland) has thrown in a sneaky 65 in each of the last two weeks without threatening the top of the leaderboard; with a morning tee time, he strikes me as an ideal first round lead candidate here."
The weather forecast suggests the afternoon starters will face by far the toughest conditions of the week on Thursday, so all my first round picks will be coming from the morning starters.
Highly promising youngster Austin Connelly put two missed cuts behind him to register a solid 21st place finish in a competitive field in Italy last week. The Canadian sits 15th in the European Tour's driving accuracy stats; he has the desired early tee time and should be suited by this weeks test.
I have that nagging premature tipulation feeling that I put up Adrian Otageui a week early in the each-way column. The Spaniard didn't disgrace himself last week in Italy, in fact, his 45th place finish was one of his better efforts since his win six starts ago. But this week at Valderrama should really suit the Spaniard, whose strong suit is certainly accuracy.
We're still patiently waiting for Richard Bland to break his European Tour duck. The 44-year-old had one of his best ever seasons last year, finishing 28th in the Race to Dubai, despite a win eluding him. This year has not been as impressive, but the stats suggest Bland should enjoy the test Valderrama offers as his 11th place finish last year testifies. The Englishman has thrown in a sneaky 65 in each of the last two weeks without threatening the top of the leaderboard; with a morning tee time, he strikes me as an ideal first round lead candidate here.
Ricardo Gouveia is playing for his card this week. He sits 114th in the Race to Dubai and needs to climb into the top 100 to guarantee a reasonable amount of starts for next season. Gouveia has shown signs his game is coming around of late and he probably couldn't have picked a better venue to fight for his card; accuracy is the name of the game for the Portuguese grafter.
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