After a break of six years, the Cazoo Open (formerly the Wales Open) returned to the DP World Tour schedule in 2020 as part of its innovative UK Swing.
First staged in 2000 and won by Denmark's Steen Tinning, the Cazoo Open has been staged at this week's venue, the Twenty Ten Couse at Celtic Manor since 2008.
Twenty Ten Course, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales
Par 71 -7,393 yards
Stroke Index in 2021 - 71.54
The Twenty Ten Course was used for the 2010 Ryder Cup, and although this event wasn't staged between 2014 and 2020, it's been the permanent home for the tournament since 2008.
It also hosted the one-off Celtic Classic - won by Sam Horsfield - one week before this tournament in August 2020.
Designed by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design, the Twenty Ten Course is an amalgamation of nine new holes and nine holes from the old Robert Trent Jones II designed Wentworth Hills course. It winds its way around the River Usk and water is in play on 10 holes.
It's a long, flat, and exposed course and given it was designed specifically for match play golf it's perhaps not completely surprising that those playing it in stroke play format aren't too enamoured by it.
It's a varied course, with a links feel for the first third. The lakes are a feature throughout the middle section and it's a tough finish. The drivable par four 15th offers a great chance to pick up a birdie or eagle but it also causes plenty of carnage.
Be careful with the hole averages. As the course was built for match play, there are plenty of tees to choose from and the holes can vary greatly from round to round. The organisers used to have a habit of moving tees quite markedly here and a hole that plays easy one day can be a brute the next. The par 5 finishing hole, for example, is reachable in two one day but a challenge in three strokes the next.
The weather dictates how the course plays. Nacho Elvira won last year's edition in 16-under-par but that was eight strokes less than Romain Langasque took to win in 2020 and five of the last eight Cazoo Open winners at the Twenty Ten Course won with a single digit under-par score.
Live on Sky Sports all four days beginning with Red Button coverage form 11:00 on Thursday
2020 Celtic Classic Result
1st Sam Horsfield -18
2nd Thomas Detry -16
T3rd Thomas Pieters -15
T3rd Andrew Johnston -15
T3rd Connor Syme -15
Cazoo Open Winners at the Twenty Ten Course
2021 - Nacho Elvira -16
2020 - Romain Langasque -8
2014 - Joost Luiten -14
2013 - Gregory Bourdy -8
2012 - Thongchai Jaidee -6
2011 - Alex Noren -9
2010 - Graeme McDowell -15
2009 - Jeppe Huldahl -9
2008 - Scott Strange -22
What Will it Take to Win the Wales Open?
Looking back at the 2020 Celtic Challenge and the nine editions of the Cazoo Open staged here, length off the tee is fairly irrelevant. Alex Noren ranked first for Driving Distance when he won here in 2011 and Romain Langasque ranked ninth in 2020 but every other winner has ranked 33rd or worse.
Noren and last year's winner, Elvira, who both ranked ninth, are the only two course winners to rank inside the top-ten for Driving Accuracy and the two men to win here in 2020 ranked only 41st and 54th so driving straight isn't imperative either.
Denmark's Jeppe Huldahl was a strange winner at a huge price in 2009, ranking 37th for DD, 53rd for DA, and only 17th for Greens In Regulation. Gregory Bourdy, who ranked 27th for GIR, and Langasque, who ranked 13th, are the only other Cazoo Open winners not to rank inside the top-10 for GIR and Horsfield ranked 12th for GIR in the Celtic Challenge so that's been a key stat.
Elvira ranked eighth last year and four of the top-seven ranked inside the top eight for GIR.
Huldahl was deadly on and around the greens. Like five other Cazoo Open winners, he ranked inside the top-six for Scrambling and he had a Putting Average ranking of sixth.
At the two events here in 2020, the front three in this event ranked fifth, ninth and first for Scrambling and the first and second in the Celtic Challenge ranked 11th and second. And in last year's edition of this event, Elvira only ranked 23rd but the second and third ranked first and second for Scrambling so that looks like a key stat.
Is There an Angle In?
There are too many examples of players performing well here and at Le Golf National in Paris for it to be a coincidence. Graeme McDowell, Thongchai Jaidee and Alex Noren have won here and the Open de France in Paris. The 2017 Open de France winner, Tommy Fleetwood, finished second to Joost Luiten here in 2014 and Peter Uihlein has finished runner-up at both venues.
Francesco Molinari, twice a runner-up in Paris, finished fourth here on debut and the 2019 surprise Open de France winner, Nicolas Colsaerts, has Twenty Ten Course form reading 12-4-63-53 with his two performances coming last year in consecutive weeks.
The first and second at the Celtic Classic, Sam Horsfield and Thomas Detry, had finished 14th and eighth in Paris the year before and the 2020 Cazoo Open winner, Romain Langasque, was just behind them in 18th.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we haven't been to Le Golf National since 2019 so it's fairly old form to look back on. The Open de France returns next month.
G-Mac shot weekend rounds of 64-63 to win from a long way back 12 years ago. He sat tied for 63rd and seven adrift after round one and he was still six back and tied 27th at halfway.
Huldahl was trailing at the 36-hole mark too. He sat tied 29th and five off the lead but they're the only two (of 10) course winners to be outside the top-eight places at halfway and seven of the 10 course winners here have been leading or tied for the lead with a round to go.
Horsfield was in front at halfway in the Celtic Challenge in 2020 but in foul conditions. Romain Langasque won from tied sixth and five back in this event a week later. He'd sat tied eight and only three adrift at halfway.
Last year's winner, Elvira, won wire-to wire but not before an almighty scare. He began the final round leading six and trading at 1.330/100. But he was trading at odds-against again on the front-nine on Sunday after a slow start and he was the outsider of the two when the event went to extra-time before he edged out Justin Harding in the playoff.
Jordan Smith heads the market but with current form figures reading 24-24-47 and course form numbers of 22-27-47, he makes no appeal.
The 29-year-old Englishman lost a playoff in the MyGolfLife Open back in March and he had a pair of top-tens as recently as June but with just one win to his name, way back in 2017, he's not my idea of a great bet at 16/1.
Incredibly, the highly talented 29-year-old Belgian, Thomas Detry, is still in search of his first win on the DP World Tour so it's very difficult to make a case at just 20/1 but he does at least have some decent recent form and a second placed finish here.
He finished runner-up to Horsfield in the Celtic Challenge two years ago in his only start here and his current form figures read 29-15-58-10-34.
Callum Shinkwin was matched at a low of 4.1 last year when he got to within two of Elvira but he eventually finished fourth.
Shinkwin clearly likes here as he was 11th and eighth in the two events staged in 2020 and he arrives in fair form having finished 16th at Hillside in the Cazoo Classic and seveth last week at Fairmont St Andrews.
It's hard to make a case from a value standpoint though, given he's still only won once on the DP World Tour and he was an 80/1 chance last year.
I'm happy to take a chance on Eddie Pepperell here at 38.037/1.
The Englishman has been in the doldrums for a few years now but he followed his 11th in the Cazoo Classic two weeks ago with a second-place finish in Scotland last week, where he ranked second for Scrambling and fourth for both Putting Average and Strokes Gained Putting. He was fourth here back in 2014 so he has course form to boot.
Eddie Pepperell @ 38.037/1
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