The European Tour starts a Spanish Swing this week with the Open de Espana and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...
"He played well here two years ago, bouncing into the top 10 with a Saturday 64 and pressing forward on Sunday to land tied seventh."
Main Bet: Justin Harding 1pt each-way @ 45/1
At an altitude of 820m the air of Madrid is not so thin as that of Johannesburg and Nairobi (1,753m and 1,795m respectively), but it is a location where a change in the ball flight is a factor.
It's also relevant, of course, in Crans (1,500m) and to a lesser degree in Munich (520m). By way on contrast, note that Paris is only 35m above sea level and Barcelona a mere 12m.
Why the geography lesson?
Well, let's take a close look at previous tournaments to be hosted by this week's course Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
In 2008 Charl Schwartzel lifted the trophy, in 2004 Richard Sterne and in 2001 Retief Goosen - right there you have not only three South Africans, but a trio who have consistently thrived when playing on the Highveld, the plateau that features Johannesburg, Gauteng and Pretoria.
In 2005 Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin prevailed and two years earlier Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez was the champion. What do they have in common, in addition to the win in Madrid?
Both have won in Crans. Jacquelin on the second tier, Gonzalez in the European Masters. Jacquelin was also defeated in extra holes at Houghton, Johannesburg in the Dunhill Championship and Gonzalez has a good record in the region, too.
In 1999 Padraig Harrington was the winner at Club de Campo and ahead of both wins he flourished at Munich Eichenried: second there in 1999, second at halfway in 2000.
Even Steve Webster, who lost a play-off in Madrid to Goosen, also had a second and third on the high veld.
And then, of course, we come to the most recent tournament at this week's layout, the 2019 Open de Espana which was won by Jon Rahm who has twice finished third at Chapultepec in Mexico City (2,240m) and also won the same event at Centro Nacional, another track in his nation's capital city.
That last edition looms large over this week because the World No. 1 won it by five strokes. He's also got two wins and a second from just four starts in his home country and has won six times in just 16 non-major or WGC European Tours events.
In other words, he's a hard nut to crack this week and it's absolutely no surprise that he's so short this week (2/1). Steve Rawlings makes Rahm his only bet of the week in his main preview.
But this column's raison d'etre is not merely seeking winners, but specifically finding each way value so it's possible to argue that this is where it ought to come right into it's own.
Undaunted then, let's try and give that hard nut the sweetly-timed crack it needs.
We'll started with another South African Justin Harding and the starter with him is that his results in 2021 look a great fit for this week.
He won the Kenya Open in Nairobi in March and a week later led the Kenya Savannah Classic on the same course by three blows after 54 holes before fatigue took a toll and he finished T14th.
Spin it forward to June and he was fifth at the BMW International Open at Eichenried in Munich, then he was fifth at halfway in the European Masters at Crans before struggling over the weekend.
That's the altitude box ticked for the year, and also the winning form. He also lost a play-off at Celtic Manor in July and was tied ninth in his penultimate start in the Dutch Open.
Historically, he has plenty of good results on the High Veld and also back in Kenya.
And what of Spain? Well, not only was he third at Valderrama last year, there's also the rather straightforward good news that he played well here two years ago, bouncing into the top 10 with a Saturday 64 and pressing forward on Sunday to land tied seventh.
His head for heights prompted him to become a column selection in Crans and after that bright start he looked primed to contend. Hopefully this week the short game wizard can maintain the pace.
Next Best: Adri Arnaus 1pt each-way @ 45/1
In many ways, second pick Adri Arnaus is something of a replica of Harding in terms of reasoning.
The young Spaniard has good form at altitude (tied sixth in Crans), specifically in Kenya (second), and he has also played well at Valderrama (tied second).
He also has the same tick with course form from the 2019 running. In his case, he was the halfway co-leader before ending the championship in a tie for fourth.
I've always thought that there is something about Arnaus that is reminiscent of Gonzalez, the winner here in 2003.
The Argentinean was a big-hitter who often confused punters by not playing especially well when faced with a bunch of vulnerable par-5s or on a wide open layout.
Yet he did win at fiddly Crans, tight Barseback and high up in Kenya.
Arnaus is often almost comical on par-5s but, as we've seen, he has Gonzalez's counter-intuitive touch and he can repeat it this week in the capital off the back of T12th in the recent Italian Open and a bright first round lead-tying 64 last week.
Final bet: Dani Van Tonder 1pt each-way @ 125/1
No secrets with the last pick: more of the same, in fact.
Dani Van Tonder made his European Tour breakthrough earlier this year when winning the Kenya Savannah Classic and his ability in the thin air was no surprise.
Two years ago he won the Zambia Open in Kitwe (at 1,200m) and he also claimed the 2020 Sunshine Tour Championship at Glendower on the Highveld.
He thrashed a third round 65 to get into contention at the BMW International Open at Eichenried in June and he performed neatly enough when T21st (and never outside the top 30) in the European Masters in Crans.
Four starts ago he was bang in the hunt at the Italian Open before he crashed backwards with a Sunday 79 and he's missed three cuts since.
But that drop-off in form given us some juice on the bone with his price and on a track that looks right in his cross-hairs he can bounce back in style.
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts
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