The European Tour completes the Spanish Swing with this week's Mallorca Golf Open and Matt Cooper has three selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...
"He should be happy to reacquaint himself with Spanish island golf."
Main Bet: Connor Syme 1pt each-way @ 80/1
I've always had tremendous affection for the various Spanish resort courses that have hosted European Tour events down the years.
In fact, I'd almost go so far as to say that the puzzle they represent was the one that fully dragged me into the alluring mystery of trying to pick a winner.
There is something about so many of the Iberian courses (because drawing Portuguese tracks in makes sense) that exerts a rather curious (and two-way) power over the field.
It's a fiddly factor: the layouts are never quite straightforward. The undulations are a little awkward, the shaping of the fairways a little unsettling, the tee shots a bit fidgety.
For very good golfers these examinations are about as welcome as green kryptonite is to Superman.
And for many journeymen, these courses give them the belief to put their pants outside their trousers and fly.
A glance at the final leaderboard at the last tournament held at this week's host of the Mallorca Golf Open provides a reminder of this Iberian paradox.
It was 23 years ago that Santa Ponsa hosted the Turespana Masters and two of my favourite players of the past - Santiago Luna and John Bickerton - made the top 20.
Give that pair a ticklish test, on an island or by the sea, and they were different gravy.
They popped the ball into the fairway, knocked it on the green, holed the odd putt, enjoyed the views, then sat back and let the attacking players lose their heads.
Because that's what these courses do - they infuriate the top grader. Apparently vulnerable, they have an in-built, and I suspect entirely unplanned, capacity to drive the impatient golfer nuts.
Having said all that, I should perhaps now expect Thomas Pieters to win by five.
Or I should throw up modern equivalents of Luna and Bickerton, but I'm not entirely sure they quite exist. Joost Luiten hits plenty of greens, but what happens when he misses one remains something of a worry when backing him. David Drysdale fits the mould somewhat, but he may be destined never to win.
The Iberian angle is one I am keen on, however, and first pick is Scotland's Connor Syme.
The 26-year-old is currently just about safe on the Race to Dubai rankings, sitting at 102nd, and he's missed a fair few cuts in recent times, but he carded three fine rounds when T34th at the Open de Espana and should be happy to reacquaint himself with Spanish island golf.
Admittedly Mallorca is some way from the Canaries, but the vibe, the test and the field will be similar to the three events held in the Atlantic in April and May.
Syme thrashed middle rounds of 61 and 62 to lie second after 54 holes in the first of those, before ending the week fifth. Two weeks later he started 66-64 to lie second at halfway on his way to T12th.
This week is likely - if past scores at Santa Ponsa are anything to go by - to be tougher than those three weeks, but Syme did land a top 10 at Valderrama last year so he can guts it out.
He's also contended at Heritage in Mauritius, which is a course very much in this week's vein, and was a winner on the Challenge Tour at a Turkish resort course.
Next Best: Sebastian Soderberg 1pt each-way @ 66/1
Sebastian Soderberg's 17th hole was quite something last Sunday at Valderrama.
He stood on the tee with a two-shot lead, left the green one behind Matt Fitzpatrick, and has probably replayed the tee shot more than once or twice in his head these last few days.
Clearly, that might have a detrimental effect this week, but we've seen plenty of golfers use a near-miss as motivation.
What's more, I suspect that the manner of his finish last week has left some value in his price. If you take the view that he's a fairly recent winner on the European Tour who finished second last week, he'd be shorter.
I also like him on this sort of test.
His first top five on the European Tour was at Santo da Serra in the Madeira Islands Open; he's a winner at Lumine in Spain on the third tier; has won at Is Molas on Sardinia (and thrashed a 61 at Verdura on Sicily); and is also a winner at the very fiddly Crans.
Last August he got himself into contention at Celtic Manor before not having the greatest Sunday. A week later, on the same course, he was right in the hunt again, landed the place and really could have won.
He can do something similar this week and hopefully better than similar.
Final bet: Matthias Schmidt 1pt each-way @ 30/1
Final pick is young German Matthias Schmidt who turned pro after carding a 65 in the Open at Royal St George's in July.
Before that he had spent all week in the top 20 when finishing T14th at the BMW International Open and since joining the paid ranks he has continued to impress.
He made the cut in his first start at Celtic Manor, added a second top 10 at Galgorm Castle, then dropped down a level to land T11th and T9th on the Challenge Tour.
Back on the European Tour he was second at the Dutch Open and tied ninth at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
He missed the cut last time out, but that's still mighty good form and the stats are wonderful.
He doesn't appear on the official rankings, but in 2021 his numbers would have him 36th for Driving Distance, 10th for Driving Accuracy, 11th for Greens in Regulation and 63rd for Putting Average. It's a strong combo.
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts
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