Jon Rahm is a short-priced favourite to win his national title for a third time in-a-row but our man argues that he's not too short at around 9/4...
"With six wins from just 21 starts on the European Tour, the world number one has 29% strike-rate but that rises to 40% if you take out his five failed attempts to win the Open Championship."
The Open de España dates all the way back to 1912 and apart from 2017, when it was missing from the schedule, and last year, when it was lost to the pandemic, it's been a regular on the European Tour since its inception in 1972.
Jon Rahm has won the last two editions and the world number one is back in his homeland to try and rack up the treble.
Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Madrid
Par 71, 7112 yards
Stroke Average in 2019 70.67
The Club de Campo Villa de Madrid is a traditional inland course that sits 2,500 feet above sea level. It's a hilly course with sloping tree-lined fairways and well-bunkered, undulating greens.
Club de Campo Villa de Madrid was the venue two years and prior to that it was last seen on the European Tour back in 2008 when it hosted the first of four editions of the now defunct Madrid Masters, won by Charl Schwartzel. It was also the venue for the now defunct Open de Madrid between 2001 and 2005 and it also hosted this event in 1996, as well as the final edition of another now defunct event, the Turespaña Masters in 2000.
It's a short track and in benign conditions, it can succumb to some very low scores. Nobody bettered eight-under-par 63 in 2019 but Rahm reached 22-under-par for the week and Ivo Giner shot 60 here in round two of the Open de Madrid in 2005.
Our own Dave Tindall spoke to Spanish pro, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, prior to the event two years ago and he told Dave that the course has been lengthened a bit prior to the 2019 edition.
"The course is in great condition. They added some length to it. I would say 30 yards on the 1st and 2nd, 13 and 17 are longer as well. Does it play harder? I don't think so, given the changes in technology since 2008. The course is in great shape - a little soft as, in the summer, they have to put a lot of water on the fairways and greens. I think the scoring is going to be low, maybe similar to the last time here (-19). I think it's going to be a two-man race between Jon and Sergio." Gonzo also added. "Not too much rough".
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Last Five Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Tournament Cancelled
2019 - Jon Rahm -22 4.03/1
2018 - Jon Rahm -20 [5.0
2017 - No Tournament
2016 - Andrew Johnston +1 140.0139/1
2015 - James Morrison -10 500.0499/1
What Will it Take to Win the Open de España?
Here's the last nine course winners, together with their winning scores and whatever stats I could obtain.
2019 Open de Espana
Jon Rahm -22 DD: 1, DA: 3, GIR: 12, Scr: 3, PA: 1
2008 Madrid Masters
Charl Schwartzel -19 DD: 21, DA: 10, GIR: 2, Scr: 6, PA: 20
2005 Open de Madrid
Raphael Jacquelin -23 DD: 10, DA: 23, GIR: 34, Scr: 10, PA: 1
2004 Open de Madrid
Richard Sterne -18 DD: 2, DA: 61, GIR: 22, Scr: 14, PA: 5
2003 Open de Madrid
Ricardo Gonzalez -14 DD: 4, DA: 66, GIR: 10, Scr: n/a, PA: n/a
2002 Open de Madrid
Steen Tinning -19 DD: 60, DA: 1, GIR: 2, Scr: n/a, PA: n/a
2001 Open de Madrid
Retief Goosen -20 DD: 26, DA: 55, GIR: 1, Scr: n/a, PA: n/a
2000 Turespaña Masters
Padraig Harrington -17 DD: 13, DA: 94, GIR: 19, Scr: n/a, PA: n/a
1996 Open de España
Padraig Harrington -16 No Stats
DD = Diving Distance
DA = Driving Accuracy
GIR = Greens In Regulation
Scr = Scrambling
PA = Putting Average
Jon Rahm did everything well two years ago and it's no surprise to see that he won by five strokes. He hit it further than anyone else off the tee and only three players in the field were straighter but JB Hansen finished tied for fourth ranking 42nd for Driving Distance and Adri Arnaus finished alongside the Dane ranking only 33rd for Driving Accuracy. Arnaus ranked number one for Greens In Regulation and the man in second, Rafa Cabrera-Bello topped the Scrambling stats for the week.
Looking at all the other winners, some winners have been long off the tee and others accurate so I'd ignore the driving stats and Greens in Regulation and Scrambling look more important than either of the driving metrics.
Is There an Angle In?
The 2019 result is as good a guide as any given course form used to stand up really well here.
Padraig Harrington won here twice, and he was second behind Ricardo Gonzalez in 2003 before Gonzalez finished second to Charl Schwartzel in 2008. Rafael Jacquelin was fourth the year before he won here, Retief Goosen has course form figures reading 11-1-7, Brian Davis finished third in 2001 and second in 2002 and Paul Lawrie played here six times and finished inside the top-six three times.
Given Rahm hadn't any experience of the track before he waltzed home two years ago, he may well take some stopping this time around.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Although Jon Rahm is bidding to win the event for a third time in-a-row this week, Spaniards don't have a terrific record in the event and since Seve won his third and final Open de España way back in 1995, only four Spaniards have taken the title and they've all been straight out of the top-drawer. In addition to Rahm, Sergio Garcia won it in 2002, Alvaro Quiros in 2010 and Miguel Angel Jimenez's 21st final European Tour title came in this tournament in 2014. If you've picked out a couple of low-profile Spaniards, previous results suggest you better think again.
An Englishman has won two of the last four renewals and British and Irish players have a decent record in this event but three South Africans have won at this venue.
Retief Goosen was the 9/1 favourite when he won here in 2001 but Charl Schwartzel wasn't particularly well-fancied in 2008 and the four winners in-between those two all went off at triple-figure prices.
Jon Rahm was inside the top-four places all week in 2019 and the two course winners before him were both within two of the lead after round one and in front after rounds two and three. And Padraig Harrington was never headed after 36 holes in both 1996 and 2000. The majority of course winner have been up with the pace from the halfway stage but Gonzalez and Richard Sterne trailed by six after round one when they won and Gonzalez trailed by 11 at halfway and by six with a round to go, so a slow start has been overcome here.
The first three holes all averaged over-par in 2019 but holes four to 11, with the exception of the par four seventh, which averaged 4.11 two years ago, offered up good opportunities to score. The par three 12th was the hardest hole on the course and the par four 13th ranked as the third hardest.
Is Rahm too short?
Jon Rahm was a very strong 4/1 favourite when winning the event in 2018 and he was a 3/1 chance two years ago. He's even shorter this time around but there's nothing to suggest he's too short.
With six wins from just 21 starts on the European Tour, the world number one has a 29% strike-rate but that rises to 40% if you take out his five failed attempts to win the Open Championship.
Add in the fact that he's been in terrific form all summer and that he has a great record of winning the same events or at the same venues, and it's impossible to make a case for taking him on. Even at 3.259/4 there's a case to be made for backing him.
In addition to winning this event twice previously, he's also won the Irish Open twice, the DP World Tour Championship twice and his victory at the US Open this summer was at Torrey Pines, where he got off the mark on the PGA Tour in the Farmers Insurance Open back in 2017.
With no Sergio Garcia in the field this time, who was a 6/1 chance in 2019, and with a Ryder Cup-weary Bernd Wiesberger the most likely challenger playing the course for a first time, Rahm is impossible to oppose. He won here in a canter two years ago when he wasn't even familiar with the venue so he's almost certain to contend again.
I managed to get a tiny bet matched on Jon Rahm at 4.216/5 yesterday morning and I'm on at average of just under 3/1 so I'm just going to leave it at that for now.
I've got one I've got my eye on for the Find Me a 100 Winner column, but he needs to drift a bit to be a selection. Other than that, I just can't see any value in backing against the world number one this week.
Jon Rahm @ an average of 3.9
I'll be back later with my Shriners Hospitals for Children Open preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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