The European Tour returns to Celtic Manor for this week's Cazoo Open and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...
"He led by one after three rounds of the Celtic Classic, and led or shared the lead through the first 54 holes of the Wales Open."
Main Bet: Connor Syme 1pt each-way @ 30/1
Scotsman Connor Syme would deserve to be satisfied with the start of his professional career, but it's also pretty evident that an element of frustration lies behind much of what he says - for the self-evident reason that he knows just how close he has come to a European Tour win.
He first signalled his ability when second back at the 2018 Shotclock Masters and, after graduating to the main tour for last season, he regularly contended.
It's a run that's trundled into 2021. "I've had a couple more chances to win and even my bad golf, when I've missed the cut, hasn't been that far away," he said of the season ahead of the Scottish Open. "There's loads of more chances and tournaments to play, so it's all good."
He's in the experience-trap: aware that you need to contend to learn from it, but irked that it's all a bit irritating finding the first W.
Consider his words having twice led at the 54-hole stage at Celtic Manor last summer.
"I took a lot of confidence from last week," he said after finishing tied third and tied eighth. "It was a new experience for me having a 54-hole lead and I really enjoyed it. I'm trying to get back into those positions as much as I can.
"I'm obviously delighted, but it does feel slightly bittersweet in the way I have achieved it.
"I guess you just never really know how you are going to handle these situations until you are in them, but I really felt like I was ready to win.
"I will learn a lot from it. It is definitely better to have been in that situation and knowing how to maybe handle it next time than never having been there at all."
That final point is crucial. It's far better to be knocking on the door and heeding lessons. His new-ish bagman Ryan McGuigan can assist with that process, too.
He is vastly experienced and has worked for Danny Willett, Stephen Gallacher and Richie Ramsay.
"He's handed the guy the club for the shot that's won a tournament," Syme has said. "It's hard to find that. I'm loving working with him, we get on really well and it's a nice partnership that should go from strength to strength."
Now Syme gets to return to Newport, scene of very close shaves: he led by one after three rounds of the Celtic Classic, and led or shared the lead through the first 54 holes of the Wales Open.
He's got a superb opportunity to show how what he's learned.
He was third in the Kenya Open in March and his best golf since then has come on courses which, like this week, had more par-3s than normal: tied fifth (shooting 61-62 in the middle rounds) at Meloneras, T12th (third at halfway) at Adeje, and T18th after a slow start at Green Eagle.
He took a step backward at Eichenried, but has since gone T41st-T35th, finding plenty of greens in regulation last time out.
A winner on the Challenge Tour, he can make it third time lucky this week on the main circuit.
Next Best: Maverick Antcliff 1pt each-way @ 60/1
I'm going to stick with the par-3 theme for pick number two.
Aussie Maverick Antcliff has popped his head up a few times in the last 10 months and plenty of short holes has typified where that has occurred.
He was T31st in his only outing at Celtic Manor last year, but that was his best finish on the UK Swing and he spun off it to finish tied ninth in the Open de Portugal at Obidos (five par-3s).
His tied third in the Irish Open was on a conventional layout at Galgorm Castle, but he led at halfway and it was further proof that he's got loads of potential.
This year he carded a 63 on his way to T21st at Meloneras (five par-3s) and then went T42nd-tied second at Adeje (six par-3s).
At the start of June he also shared the pre-final round lead in the European Open at Green Eagle (five par-3s) ahead of finishing T11th.
I not only like Antcliff's fondness for the short holes, but also the fact that he led the Greens in Regulation at the Celtic Classic last summer.
A three-time winner when dominating the China Tour in 2019 he thrived on big-scale, modern courses so it doesn't entirely surprise me that Celtic Manor's 2010 course suits his eye.
Final Bet: Callum Shinkwin 1pt each-way @ 80/1
At first glance there's not a lot to like about the Englishman Callum Shinkwin who won last autumn's Cyprus Open, played well the week after in the Cyprus Showdown, and hasn't done much else since.
In fact his recent outings include a withdrawal and two missed cuts.
But Shinkwin has peppered his career with many WDs, many more MCs and also plenty of top 10s. Consistency has never been his thing.
As a Challenge Tour player he landed five top three finishes and three of them came off two missed cuts.
His first top 10s on the European Tour followed three failures to make the top 40.
He should have won the 2017 Scottish Open (he was second) and was T30th the week before, but before that? In 10 starts he made one cut (T66th), withdrew twice, and was disqualified twice. A wretched run.
His tied sixth in the 2019 Indian Open was preceded by MC-WD, his tied fifth in the same year's KLM Open followed MC-WD-WD, the win last year off MC-T30-MC.
So I'm not going to fret that he arrives in Wales for form reading: WD-MC-MC.
Instead, I'm going to note that he finished T11th and tied eighth here last summer, that his first and tied fourth in Cyprus came (as noted above) on an Aphrodyte Hills course with five par-3s, and that his best score of the year (a 65) came at Adeje with six short holes.
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts
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