Steve takes a look back at last week's Wales Open and a look forward to the next four stroke play events on the European Tour, where he's picked out a player to follow at each event...
“Bernd Wiesberger has taken a few weeks to shrug off his disappointing finish at the USPGA Championship but if his six-under par back-nine yesterday is anything to go by, his Valhalla hangover is starting to clear.”
Despite a very shaky start, an awful drive on the final hole and an all round unconvincing level par final round, Joost Luiten held on to win the Wales Open at Celtic Manor. The Dutchman was the pre-event favourite and was odds-on to win before the final round but his two stroke lead soon disappeared and it looked as though we might get a very exciting final round.
At one stage, six players were tied for the lead but with his challengers all falling away, after he'd recorded back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12, he never really looked like getting beat.
It hasn't been a good week but it hasn't been an expensive one. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I'd gotten with the winner at halfway but it's easy to say that now.
I wrote in the In-Play Blog that I thought he was the value at that stage but knowing that I was going to the Manchester City - Chelsea game yesterday, I didn't want to get too involved so I've no regrets really.
My modest wager on Gregory Havret, struck yesterday before the final round, looked like it might prove worthwhile briefly as he hit the front after he'd birdied the 3rd hole and was matched at a low of 5.14/1 but a double-bogey on the 5th soon put the skids under his challenge and although he briefly rallied after that, he finished particularly poorly.
What Have We Learned For Next Year?
There's never much to guide us statistically here but greens in regulation would be the most important stat. Luiten ranked fourth for the week for greens hit but another stat to consider is par 4 scoring. Luiten was the fourth winner since 2008, since the Twenty Ten course was first used, to rank first for par 4 scoring.
Johnnie Walker Championship winners, Tommy Fleetwood, Edoardo Molinari, Gregory Havret and Marc Warren all got in to contention this week and another JWC winner, Thomas Bjorn, who plays in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles this week, even said Celtic Manor resembled the Scottish track prior to last week's event.
"It's always good coming here, I'm coming back to a golf course that I enjoy playing golf on, and there are a lot of similarities between the golf course we play here and the golf course we play next week."
The Twenty Ten course isn't everyone's cup of tea and it's worth noting that Jamie Donaldson said afterwards that it didn't fit his eye, so his fourth place finish must be seen as very encouraging ahead of the Ryder Cup and he's perhaps one to swerve here going forward.
Luiten had already finished placed here a couple of times and it may well make sense to stick with those that have already shown a liking to the place.
Players To Follow
I'm a bit peeved that Luiten has won as I had him in mind for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in a fortnight's time. I'm not saying he can't win back-to-back events but victory here won't make him any more likely to succeed in Scotland but it will force his price right down.
Another player that might be worth highlighting for the event is the bang in-form Tommy Fleetwood, who finished tied for 5th in the event in 2011, in what was one of his first appearances on the European Tour. He came to life at this time of year twelve months ago when he won the Johnnie Walker Championship so in addition to his proven event form he has winning form in Scotland at this time of the year.
The European Tour moves on to the Portugal Masters the week after the Johnnie Walker and the one who I have in mind for that tournament is Bernd Wiesberger. He had missed three straight cuts at Celtic Manor so his tied 12th yesterday was a considerable improvement. The big Austrian has taken a few weeks to shrug off his disappointing finish at the USPGA Championship but if his six-under par back-nine yesterday is anything to go by, his Valhalla hangover is starting to clear.
He traded odds-on at the Portugal Masters in 2011 so Oceånico Victoria is clearly a venue that suits him and if he has a half decent week at the Johnnie Walker Championship he could be well worth getting with in Portugal.
The European Tour takes in the Volvo World Match Play at the London Club after it's stop off in Portugal and after that it moves on to Hong Kong and Australia. Richie Ramsay is a player I'll be very interested in if he travels to the Hong Kong. He's in very good form at present and he'll be far better suited to the fiddly Fanling course than he is to Celtic Manor and his tied 17th there was a very encouraging performance.
And finally, Australia's Nathan Holman, who burst onto the scene at the Talisker Masters last November, when he found himself tied for the lead and alongside Adam Scott at halfway, might be one to consider for the Perth International at the end of October, if this week's tied 17th in Wales is anything to go by.
I won't be back now until next Monday when I'll be taking a look back at the Ryder Cup, which I've previewed here.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter