The Punter

European Open: Stats suggest Spaniard can go in again

Green Eagle Golf Resort

The DP World Tour hops from Belgium to Germany for the European Open and Steve Rawlings is here with his comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start...

  • Great event for outsiders

  • Poor putters have a chance to prosper

  • Read my Canadian Open preview here


Tournament History

The European Open was first staged back in 1978, when Bobby Wadkins got the better of fellow American, Gill Morgan, and Scotland's Bernard Gallacher in a playoff at Walton Heath and the tournament was a nomadic ever-present on the DP World Tour until 2009 when it fell off the schedule.

It returned to the rota in 2015 and it's been played in Germany ever since. The first two editions were played at the Beckenbauer Course in Bad Griesbach but it switched to the Green Eagle Resort, just outside Hamburg, in 2017 and we're back there again this time around for the seventh time.


Venue

The Porsche Nord Course, Green Eagle Golf Resort, Hamburg, Germany


Course Details

Par 72, 7,455 yards
Stroke Average in 2023 - 75.12

Formally known as the North Course, and now known as the Porsche Nord Course, this week's host track is extremely long, measuring in excess of 7,800 yards but it's impossible to know what yardage it will play to.

It's changed every year and with as many as four teeing areas on each hole, there's plenty of flexibility with regards to set up. It played to the shortest yardage yet 12 months at 7455 yards - 20 yards shorter than the 2022 edition.

In addition to the last six renewals of this event, the Porsche Nord Course was also used on the Challenge Tour in 2010 for the ECCO Tour Championship, which was won by the then amateur, Andreas Harto, in eight-under-par.

It's reputed to be one of the ten longest courses in the world, and it's described as the most difficult golf course in Germany.

The Porsche Nord Course is a flat parkland course with wide fairways but it has water in-play to varying degrees on every hole bar one. The greens are laid to a mixture of Bentgrass and Poa Annua and they're large with big undulations.

The flyover below gives a good feel for the terrain and I've looked at the layout in more detail in the In-Play Tactics section below.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at midday on Thursday


Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2023 - Tom McKibbin -9 140.0139/1
2022 - Kalle Samooja -6 200.0199/1
2021 - Marcus Armitage - (54 holes) 120.0119/1
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Paul Casey -14 10.09/1
2018 - Richard McEvoy -11 170.0169/1
2017 - Jordan Smith -13 (playoff) 48.047/1


What Will it Take to Win the European Open?

Green Eagle is monstrously long with five par fives and the 2017 winner here, Jordan Smith, ranked second for Driving Distance but the 2018 stats suggested it was far from a bomber's paradise and the last four results have confirmed it.

The 2018 winner, Richard McEvoy, ranked only 62nd for DD and the two men to finish alongside John Allen in second, Christofer Blomstrand and Renato Paratore, ranked 50th and 58th.

The 2019 winner, Paul Casey, ranked 12th for Driving Distance and the last two victors have ranked 13th and 16th. Length is certainly beneficial but it's far from essential and Driving Accuracy appears more important than distance.

The first five home five years ago ranked eighth, fourth, tenth, 17th and second for D.A, the four players tied for second behind Marcus Armitage in 2021 (who ranked 34th for DA) ranked first, second, ninth and 15th for DA, four of the top-nine two years ago ranked seventh of better and six of the top-nine last year ranked inside the top-10 for DA.

It's a long course on paper but they fiddle with the yardage during the tournament and it's far from a bombers' paradise. There's water in-play all over the track so trouble awaits and finding fairways is key.

As many as four of the top-five ranked sixth or better for Frrens In Regulation last yeat and the 2022 winner, Kalle Samooja, ranked second for Greens In Regulation with five of the top-eight in the GIR ranking finished inside the top-nine.

The top two in the GIR rankings finished tied for second in 2021 and the top three in the GIR rankings five years ago finished fifth, first and second. Romain Wattel, who finished sixth, ranked fifth for GIR.

Unsurprisingly, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green has been a key stat too (McKibbin ranked fourth) but it's possible to win here without having a remarkable week with putter.

The 2018 winner, Paul Casey, ranked 24th for Putting Average, Samooja only ranked 33rd for PA and 66th for Strokes Gained: Putting in 2023 and the first four home last year ranked 58th 35th, 54th and 41st for PA and 20th, 34th, 59th and 51st for Strokes Gained: Putting.

This looks a great opportunity for anyone that stripes it from tee-to-green but struggles on the dancefloors. And if they're in search of their first victory on the DP World Tour, that's another box ticked...


Is There an Angle In?

Paul Casey was winning the 14th of his 15 DP World Tour titles when he won here in 2019 but the three players to finish tied for second were in search of their first victories and the other five course winners were all winning on the DP World Tour for the first time.

paul casey.jpg

Casey was a well-fancied 9/110.00 chance but the other five course winners were all outsiders and the last four were all triple-figure priced outsiders.

McKibbin was generally a 140.0139/1 chance last year but he was matched at 100 points bigger when the market first opened.


Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2023 - Tom McKibbin - tied for the lead 9.89/1
2022 - Kalle Samooja - tied 22nd, trailing by seven 1000.0999/1
2021- Marcus Armitage - tied 11th, trailing by four 70.069/1
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Paul Casey solo 3rd - trailing by one 3.1511/5
2018 - Richard McEvoy - tied for the lead 7.87/1
2017 - Jordan Smith - led by two 3.1511/5


In-Play Tactics

The combination of a really tough track and nervy pros playing for an awful lot, and very often their first wins, makes for plenty of drama and more importantly, trading opportunities.

McKibbin was tied for the lead with five others last year and he was the only player to trade at odds-on but that's unusual on the DP World Tour and especially so here.

Like McKibbin, the first three course winners were all leading with a round to go and Casey only trailed by a stroke in 2019 but we still witnessed plenty of carnage in the market and the two winners before McKibbin came from miles back to win.

Alex Levy had looked like making a successful title defence when he led by a stroke playing the final hole in 2017 but he couldn't match Jordan Smith's birdie at the par five 18th and the event went into extra time. Smith failed to make birdie again and more than £17K was matched on Levy at 1.011/100 as he stood over a tiddler for the title but then this happened.

A shell-shocked Levy couldn't match Smith's birdie four at the second extra hole and the title went the way of the Englishman and Bryson DeChambeau, who was tied for the lead with a round to go, completely capitulated here in 2018.

His price dipped to 1.232/9 when he led by a stroke with four to play but he lost the plot completely after that and eventually finished tied for 13th and although he eventually got the job done, Paul Casey had a little wobble in 2019, before holing a 35-footer on the 16th hole on Sunday to settle the nerves.

It was an open looking affair after three rounds three years ago with eight largely inexperienced pros within two of the lead. It was 5/16.00 the field and the winner, Marcus Armitage, who had trailed by four, was the only player to trade at odds-on.

He was the first off-the-pace winner witnessed at the venue, but we didn't have to wait long for the second.

Samooja began the final round trailing the 54-hole leader, Victor Perez, who was matched at a low of 1.814/5, by seven strokes two years ago but he finished up winning quite comfortably in the end (by two) after a quite remarkable bogey-free eight-under-par 64 in round four.

It'll be quite a surprise if we get another winner from quite that far back but with water in play on all but one hole, this is a track that creates drama and taking the leaders on if they go odds-on on Sunday may pay dividends yet again.


Market Leaders

Rasmus Hojgaard narrowly heads what is a wide-open market, but he makes no appeal.

Hojgaard has finished 55th, 51st and 59th in his last three visits to Green Eagle and he arrives in Germany in poor form having withdrawn from the Indian Open after shooting 79 in round one, missed the cut alongside his brother at the Zurich Classic, and having finished 68th at the US PGA Championship.

The defending champ, Tom McKibbin, and the 2017 winner, Jordan Smith, are vying for second favouritism and neither looks close to a value price at less than 30.029/1.

McKibbin has finished inside the top-ten in three of his last six starts but defending is never easy.

Smith clearly loves the venue given he has course form figures reading 1-64-MC-11-10-6 but he's very hard to get across the line and his 71st last week in Belgium was a poor performance.

Bernd Wiesberger missed the cut here on debut (2010) but he's since finished fifth (2019) and 40th (2021) and it's definitely somewhere he can win.

The Austrian has been playing nicely from tee-to-green but putting poorly and he arrives in fair form with three top-30 finishes in-a-row but whether he's decent price at 30.029/1 is debatable.

Given he has a great tee-to-green game, that he finished third here in 2022 and that he finished a respectable 13th last week in Belgium, England's Richard Mansell was at the top of my shortlist when I first looked at the event.

Maidens have a great record here so the fact that he's yet to win on the DP World Tour couldn't be viewed as a negative, but I was hoping for far bigger than the 32.031/1 he trades at.


Selection

Having been wet in the lead up, on paper, Green Eagle is going to play long but we've thought that before here and they've fiddled with the yardages.

Given the stats at previous renewals, I'd rather favour tee-to-green excellence over length and the recent China Open winner, Adrian Otaegui, ticks that box emphatically.

Although his five DP World Tour wins have been spread out over an eight-year period, and he's never won more than once in the same calendar year, I thought Otaegui was well worth chancing at a big price.

Adrian Otaegui.jpg

He has a very similar skillset to Mansell, so it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Spaniard to be trading at twice the Englishman's price when he's looking to win for a sixth time and Mansell is yet to win.

Matt Cooper makes a very interesting observation about the link between this event in his each-way column and form in China so that's another plus and the Spaniard was fifth here on debut back in 2017.

His 18th place two years ago is his best finish subsequently but his Driving Accuracy, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Greens In Regulation numbers have been excellent of late and I can see him contending again at what is a very juicy price.


Now read my Canadian Open preview here


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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