The European Tour is back at the Belfry for the British Masters and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...
"He played The Belfry last year and it was a persuasive performance: he hit the ball over 300 yards from the tee, ranked sixth for Greens in Regulation, eighth for Putting Average, fifth in Strokes Gained Off the Tee, ninth Tee to Green and was fourth heading into the final round."
Main Bet: Laurie Canter each-way @ 40/1
It's not unknown in golf for the mere mention of the Brabazon Course at The Belfry to prompt sneers of grey-faced derision and griping about how it's an average layout that got lucky.
Well, you won't find me indulging in such cynicism, partly because I'm a relentlessly cheerful pain in the neck, but also for a much simpler reason: I'm well aware that it's a big Barratt home set against the Victorian and Edwardian villas of Britain and Ireland's greatest designs, but it was also the scene of so many moments that prompted my generation's love of golf.
Like many of us, it was the 1985 Ryder Cup which first lit the blue touch paper, when the wonderfully exotic American names were every bit as exciting as Europe's triumph.
By 1989, I truly appreciated the event and spent the weekend running from the TV to the garden, relaying the scores to my dad with an eagerness that was in no way whatsoever related to his interest in them.
Another four years on, I was a ticket holder for the first time, spoke two words of Spanish to Seve, and swooned when he replied with a curt nod and a husky "Muchas gracias".
And now we get to the gist: in 2006, by now a keen punter, I volunteered to marshal, keen to see the entire field close up. Little did I know how that decision would impact on the rest of my life.
I not only backed Johan Edfors at huge odds (300+), I also wrote an account of the week which Dave Tindall read.
Edfors won and soon Dave (then at Sporting Life) needed holiday cover for a column. He asked me and the rest is history.
As lovely as my memories might be, I've never forgotten the secret of the Edfors punt: a big-hitter with the nous to utilise that advantage on the par-5s.
A year before Edfors, Paul Casey had won ranking first on the long holes, Edfors was second, Lee Westwood fifth when triumphant in 2007, he and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano were top 10 when contending the 2008 playoff, then last year's winner Rasmus Hojgaard and the man he beat Justin Walters both ranked third.
It makes sense: the three long holes are vulnerable but need big blows from fellows used to attacking. I'm also tempted to believe that the 18th, a par-4, sort of plays like a 5, requiring either an aggressive line from the tee or a long approach shot - and even birdie at the short par-4 10th demands a play somewhat like the end of a long hole: either a dynamic blow from the tee or a smart lay-up followed by up-and-down with a full wedge.
Moreover, winners here tend to not only play the par-5s well in the week of their win - they also tend to have ranked well at them ahead of the first round.
In the last four tournaments at the track, all four winners (and the two playoff losers) were top 20 in the field for Par-5s, and five of those players were also big hitters.
So first up this week is Englishman Laurie Canter whose ranks for Distance and Par-5s are okay this season (38th and 66th), but were much more solid throughout last season (23rd and 38th). There's less to go on his campaign, but over the last 12 months he ranks top 20 for both in this field.
He played The Belfry last year and it was a persuasive performance: he hit the ball over 300 yards from the tee, ranked sixth for Greens in Regulation, eighth for Putting Average, fifth in Strokes Gained Off the Tee, ninth Tee to Green and was placed fourth heading into the final round.
Some poor scrambling hurt him that Sunday as he finished T13th, but he's had far more experience of being in the hunt since.
His 2021 experiences have been scratchy, but the last fortnight in the Canaries got rid of some rust and he should be excited by his return to the Brabazon.
Next Best: Sam Horsfield each-way @ 20/1
If Par-5 scoring is important Sam Horsfield might be in the box seat.
He leads the Tour's rankings for that category this season and what fuels that quality? Length from the tee is a big part of it - he ranks 13th.
He ventured back to Florida a couple of weeks ago, missing the cut at Innisbrook, but that track calls for a slightly more nuanced strategy with first shots.
Here, Horsfield can open his arms rather more and revive memories of starting the 2021 European Tour campaign with four straight top 15 finishes.
He's a course debutant, but a 61 at Close House, plus victories at the Forest of Arden and Celtic Manor read nicely enough for this week, as do top 15 finishes at Albatross, The Hills and Green Eagle in 2019.
Final Bet: Richard Mansell each-way @ 80/1
It's not only punters and fans who get a little giddy heading to The Belfry.
Peter Baker thrived in the 1993 Ryder Cup and also in the 2002 B&H International Open, his fellow Staffordshire native David Gilford won the English Open there, Brummies Tom Whitehouse and Sam Walker landed rare European Tour top 10s, while Warwickshire's Paul Broadhurst, Steve Webster and Andy Sullivan have all got in the mix.
Is Richard Mansell about to join those ranks of Midlanders done well?
He gives the ball a good clobber (10th in the rankings) and it helps him score well enough on the long holes (52nd).
He's still raw at this level, but he's got plenty of experience playing and staying at British inland resort courses because it's only two years ago that he was playing them week in, week out on the EuroPro Tour.
He graduated from the third tier in style, finished second twice last year on the second tier, and has been getting used to life at the top table in recent weeks.
He's made his last four cuts, got involved at halfway in Austria and hung around until the final round last week.
Sunday was a steep learning curve, but one the Cannock man can spin off to good effect.
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts