Hero Open: Prolific Van Tonder value to go in again

Golfer Daniel Van Tonder
Daniel Van Tonder - fancied to go well in Scotland

The European Tour returns to Scotland for a brand-new event with an old name this week - the Hero Open - and Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...

"I was more than happy to take 50.049/1 about the Kenya Savanah Classic winner, Daniel Van Tonder, who showed his liking for links golf when he sat tied for seventh at the halfway stage of the Open Championship."

Tournament History

There was a Hero Open on the European Tour schedule last year, but this isn't that event, and there was a tournament staged at the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews, but not this one.

Last year's Hero Open, staged at the Forest of Arden and won by Sam Horsfield, is officially the English Open, which was last staged in 2002, and that event, now known as the Cazoo Classic, is to be staged next week at the London Golf Club in Kent. Confusing isn't it.

This Hero Open is a brand-new tournament and it's to be staged at Fairmont St Andrews which hosted the now defunct and only once staged Scottish Championship which featured on the European Tour schedule in October last year.

Venue

The Torrance Course, Fairmont St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

Course Details

Par 72, 7,230 yards
Stroke Average at the Scottish Championship 70.83

Designed by Denis Griffiths, with the help of Sam Torrance and the late Gene Sarazen, the Torrance Course overlooks St Andrews Bay and the historic old town. With spectacular views across to the Angus coast and Carnoustie, the Torrance Course was constructed with many principles of links golf in mind, offering risk/reward opportunities at many holes.

Built as recently as 2001, and reconfigured some seven years later, the Torrance Course was used for the Scottish Senior Open between 2009 and 2014. Winning scores (over 54 holes) ranged from -4 to -17 - showing a typical wide variation for a wind-exposed set-up - and three Englishman won four editions there, with Barry Lane winning the title back-to-back in 2010 and 2011.

FAIRMONT 2021 2.jpg

Here's what Torrance said about the venue on the last occasion that it was used for the Scottish Senior Open.

"It's a fantastic links golf course with holes going in all sorts of different directions. The greens are out of this world and probably some of the best you'll get in Scotland.

"The 17th is the signature hole and by far, in my opinion, the best on the course. You have the sea and out of bounds down the right and a lot of rough down the left so the tee shot is very tough and then when you get to your second there is more nasty stuff to play over so it's a real test but a stunning golf hole."

The par three 17th was the second hardest hole on the course at the Scottish Championship- averaging 3.28 - but that goes to show just how easy the set up is.

Only seven holes averaged over-par in October and Adrian Otaegui took the title with a 24-under-par total.

For more on the course, please see the video below.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days - starting at 12:30 on Thursday

Swedish Form Could be the Key to Scottish Success

As always with a links tournament, previous links form is a huge plus, so the usual rules apply; look at form at the recent Scottish Open over the last ten years, the 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions of the Irish Open, the 2019 British Masters from Hillside Links, the Open Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for clues.

Links golf is unique and those events have all been staged on links courses but the best event to look to for clues is the Scandinavian Mixed, which was won by Jonathan Caldwell in June.

Matt Cooper has made Caldwell one of his three each-way picks and I can see why. As Matt highlights, Caldwell finished tied for seventh at this venue in October and the man he beat into second place in Sweden was the winner of the Scottish Championship here - Adrian Otaegui - who traded at a low of 1.444/9 before three-putting the 72nd hole in Sweden.

Draw Bias Looking Likely

An AM-PM draw looks highly likely to be beneficial this week. There's obviously still time for things to change but at present we look like witnessing a benign morning on day one with the wind picking up throughout the afternoon and a tricky day on Friday.

If the forecast is correct, having encountered the worst of the conditions on day one, Thursday's late starters will return to the course on Friday morning to be greeted by rain and light winds which will remain consistent throughout the day so an early-late draw looks advantageous.

In-Play Tactics

Although he was the only player under-par, and he won by five, Mark Davis trailed by five after the opening round of the Scottish Senior Open here in 2014 but he still sat second with a round to go, and every other winner of that event trailed by no more than two strokes at any stage.

All six Scottish Senior Open winners sat first or second with a round to go and the winner of the Scottish Championship last year, Otaegui, led after rounds one and two before slipping to third with a round to go. The runner-up, Matt Wallace, led by three with a round to go and he was inside the top-two places all week long.

In benign weather, it's very difficult to make up ground at a links venue and given the forecast and the way the tournaments have panned out here so far, it's highly likely that a fast start will be essential and concentrating on the leaders very early on makes sense. Whether they can convert is another matter though...

As highlighted in Monday's De-brief, many a player trades at odds-on before losing on the European Tour and that was certainly the case at this venue in October when Wallace lost his way having been matched at a low of 1.374/11 with a round to go.

Getting with the early pacesetters makes sense but be sure to lay some back on Sunday if they go odds-on.

Market Leaders

Last year's Scottish Championship favourite, Matt Wallace, performed well here back in October and I expect a similar showing for the favourite this week - Andy Sullivan.

Sullivan loves a low scoring birdie-fest, as he showed last summer when he pulverised the field in the English Championship at Hanbury Manor, beating the runner-up, Otaegui, by seven strokes with a phenomenally low score of 27-under-par, and he's a pretty decent links exponent too.

andy sullivan golfer june 2021.jpg

He's yet to win an event on a links track but he's come close several times (including second to Jon Rahm at the Irish Open two years ago) and he finished 26th at the Open last month.

Sullivan missed the cut at the ISPS Handa World Invitational last week but I can see him bouncing back nicely at a venue that looks far more suitable, although he has been assigned the more tricky PM-AM draw.

The second favourite, Masahiro Kawamura, has been in great form for quite some time now but he hasn't really convinced in contention and it's 30.029/1 bar the front two.

Selections

I had a small bet on Andy Sullivan at 21.020/1 before the draw was made and I'm happy to keep it, just in case the forecast doesn't transpire, but my other two selections are both staring the tournament tomorrow morning.

I thought 32.031/1 was fair for the only course winner in the field, Adrian Otaegui, and I was more than happy to take 50.049/1 about the Kenya Savanah Classic winner, Daniel Van Tonder, who showed his liking for links golf when he sat tied for seventh at the halfway stage of the Open Championship.

He fell away at the weekend and reacted to that effort with a missed cut in Wales the following week but he looks a fair price to bounce back here given he's looking for his sixth win in 24 starts.

Selections:
Andy Sullivan @ 21.020/1
Adrian Otaegui @ 32.031/1
Daniel Van Tonder @ 50.049/1

I'll be back shortly with my Barracuda Championship preview and the Find Me a 100 Winner column.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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