The European Tour visits Cyprus for the very first time this week for the Cyprus Open and our man has the lowdown ahead of the Thursday's start here...
“The big hitting Belgian hasn’t won the array of titles that his outstanding talent deserves but he won the final edition of the Volvo World Match Play at Finca Cortesin and it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s hit form at the same time as he did last year when he won the prestigious Open de France.”
This is the European Tour's first visit to Cyprus, for yet another tournament created to keep the Tour going through the pandemic.
As punters, it's not easy to take in venue after venue that we've never seen before but the Tour are doing an incredible job to keep things going and it's nice to see they've been rewarded with a fairly decent line-up for this week's Cyprus Open.
PGA National Cyprus, Aphrodite Hills Resort, Paphos, Cyprus.
Par 71, 6956 yards
Designed by Cabell Robinson and opened in 2002, the course underwent an upgrade and complete modernisation, including the reconstruction of greens and bunkers in 2017, to become the first and only course in Cyprus carrying the PGA title. According to the course website.
"Robinson has designed Aphrodite Hills to be the perfect mix of challenging pot bunkers, manicured fairways of lush Bermuda grass and generous tiered greens. Visually spectacular, the course expands through indigenous olive and carob trees and is built on two plateaux, separated by a dramatic ravine with outstanding views over the Mediterranean. The staggering 130 metre gorge dividing tees at the 7th hole is an enticing challenge for all lovers of this beautiful game."
Aphrodite Hills is an exposed coastal course primarily designed for tourists so with no significant wind forecasted this week, with its fairly wide fairways, the course should play easily enough for the pros.
Water is in play on only two holes, the fairways and rough are Bermuda and the large greens are bentgrass. The course comprises of nine par fours, five par threes, and four par fives.
It looks like a very unique and interesting course with the par three seventh played over a huge ravine. The flyover below provides a great feel for it.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 9:30 on Thursday.
What Will it Take to Win the Cyprus Open?
As Matt Cooper reveals in his each-way piece, Robinson began his career working with renowned architect, Robert Trent Jones Sr, so this week's course is likely to have Trent Jones characteristics but the track I thought may correlate best is the Robinson-designed Finca Cortesin, which hosted the now defunct Volvo World Match Play in 2009, 2001, and 2012.
Finca Cortesin doesn't top this list of Robinson-designed courses but it's arguably his most famous design.
Others courses to consider, although not designed by either Jones or Robinson, are Doha, home of the Qatar Masters, Dom Pedro Victoria, which hosts the Portugal Masters, the Heritage and Four Seasons tracks that have hosted the Mauritius Open, and Vendura, which hosted the now defunct Rocco Forte Open.
They're all coastal, exposed tracks so they could well correlate nicely but until we actually get to see it play, we're all in the dark really.
The course is certainly not long. The third measures 627 yards but the other three par fives look reachable for the bigger hitters and with a couple of par fours measuring only 353 (8th) and 362 yards (14th), there could be eagle chances aplenty for the bombers.
Obviously, with no prior knowledge of the track, and with a consistently benign forecast, there isn't much I can add here but as usual with the European Tour, nerves often come in to play and looking to lay anyone at odds-on could well pay dividends again.
Laurie Canter was beaten last week after trading at a low of 1.341/3, Matt Wallace hit a low of 1.374/11 before losing the week before and I can go back week after week for example after example.
The par five finishing hole looks like a great chance to score, provided you get a decent drive away, but the three holes that precede it are all tough so if someone posts a score from off the pace on Sunday they're likely to be trading at a bigger price than they should be while sat in the clubhouse.
Andy Sullivan is a best priced 14/1 with the Sportsbook and that's about what he should be. He's not monstrously long off the tee but he's long enough, he's in fine form if his third at Wentworth three weeks ago is anything to go by, and he comes into the event with the confidence of a recent win - at the English Championship in August. Sullivan's a winner of the Portugal Masters and I fancy he'll take to the track.
Still in search of his first win, 25-year-old Austrian, Matthias Schwab, looks short enough after a 37th at Wentworth and 30th in Italy last week and I'm in no rush to side with the frustrating Belgian, Thomas Detry, either.
Although a winner on the Challenge Tour, and a winner of the World Cup, alongside Thomas Pieters, Detry is also in search of his first European Tour title and he's lost his form since missing his last couple of chances at the Hero Open and the Celtic Classic in August.
With three top-20s in his last four starts (MC at Wentworth in his penultimate outing) multiple winner, Joost Luiten, appears to be creeping into form. It would be no surprise to see him contend again here but he's not quite big enough to tempt me at 28.027/1, Sullivan at ten points shorter looks a far better proposition.
I've had a small bet on Andy Sullivan at 18.017/1, as that's at least a couple of points too big, and I've followed Matt in with the in-form Swede, Joakim Lagergren, who really should take to the venue. And my only other selection is last week's runner-up, Nicolas Colsaerts at 50.049/1.
The big hitting Belgian hasn't won the array of titles that his outstanding talent deserves but he won the final edition of the Volvo World Match Play at Finca Cortesin and it's perhaps not surprising that he's hit form at the same time as he did last year when he won the prestigious Open de France.
Colsaerts has form at a number of other courses that I thought might correlate nicely and he strikes me as someone that doesn't get too wound up about how he plays anymore. He'd have won with ease last week but for a disastrous three hole stretch on Friday morning and he had his work cut out on Sunday after bogeying the opening hole but he takes it all in his stride nowadays and he's just the sort to bag a couple of titles in the autumn of his career. I thought 50.049/1 was more than fair.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
Andy Sullivan @ 18.017/1
Joakim Lagergren @ 50.049/1
Nicolas Colsaerts @ 50.049/1