Voted one of the best golf courses in the world, Valderrama has built its reputation on being one of the most challenging places a player can tee up a golf ball.

Blind tee-shots (aim at the tree), winding and oak-lined fairways, falling acorns and small, undulating greens, the Sotogrande track has a host of defences.

 

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2020 champion John Catlin looked battered and bruised as he fought off an equally war-torn Martin Kaymer, whilst subsequent U.S Open winner, Matt Fitzpatrick, positively revelled in grinding his way to a three-shot win over last week’s Spanish Open third, Min Woo Lee.

The 7000 yard course is clearly one to be careful on – and personally, it is the best event on the DP World Tour – but the bombers have had some success here, with Ryan Fox and Wilco Nienaber able to club down and use strength to work their way around.

With the weather set fair, the tough greens could be hard to hold, forcing scramblers to the fore, and giving justice to the nickname “The Augusta of Europe.”
Like Xander at the Zozo, Matt Fitzpatrick is a deserved favourite this week.

Clear on world rankings, Fitz’s game is perfectly suited to working his way around this tight track, and having shown up in scrambling and putting stats in far better quality fields, could easily ‘do a Rahm’ and win this easily when it counts.

Three of the last six winners have started at 80/1 or longer, so whilst the favourite is bound to be popular and in each-way doubles across the card, Martin Kaymer looked home when head-to-head against Catlin and failed. It’s not that hard to see someone just grind it out again.

Fabrizio Zanotti - Each-Way

Seven of the last 11 winners ranked in the top-20 for greens-in-regulation, meaning less pressure on the chipping to the often fast, tricky greens, so it makes prefect sense to start the card with Fabrizio Zanotti who ranks sixth in that discipline over the last three months.

In fact, the Paraguayan is finding it quite simple to seek the short stuff, leading the way for total accuracy, ranking sixth in driving accuracy, and top 12 for ball-striking and on the par-fours.

In-between missed weekends at St. Andrews (not his track) and in Italy, the 39-year-old finished top-20 yet again at Crans, Himmerland and Wentworth, all with their own individual nuances, and all with some link to recent contenders here.

Both Catlin and Fitzpatrick won here after missing the cut on debut, and Zanotti’s record reads far better – a bit like Graeme McDowell’s in 2010 – with four cuts from five, the best effort being last season’s fourth place when he improved every round.

This won’t be about birdie-chasing, so this two-time winner, who also contended in Malaysia, Portrush, Hilversum in his time, can stick around for much of the four days.

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Yannik Paul - Each-Way

28-year-old Yannik Paul can take revenge on the course for former German hero Martin Kaymer, who lost out narrowly to Catlin in the ultimate grind a couple of years ago.

Like the Hojgaards, Yannik and his twin brother, Jeremy, play on similar tours, last week finishing three shots apart at Club De Campo, and Yannik is proving by far the most consistent through this season.

 

After six top-10s on the Challenge Tour last season, Yannik finished with a one-shot defeat by Marcus Helligkilde at the season-ending Grand Final, and therefore qualifying for the top league.

A few weeks later, the former University of Colorado student finished top-10 in the rain-affected Joburg Open before top-10s at the ISPS Handa at the Infinitum course, Tarragona (Otaegui in second) and subsequently joint-runner-up at Soudal in Belgium (see Otaegui again, tied with Ryan Fox, with form around Valders).

Recent form is again encouraging, with a pair of eighth place finishes in his last three starts, in France and Spain again, whilst the missed cut that sits in-between the two was courtesy of an 81 in the horrendous conditions of a Friday at the Dunhill Links.

Rather like a pro golfer on the tee, don’t look at the nasty stuff, look at the positives, and 68 and 67 for two of the three rounds of the rotation in Scotland are perfectly acceptable, giving him a recent set of very acceptable results that include a top-20 at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

Yannik is improving all the time, has good tee-to-green figures, ranks 10th in greens and 33rd for scrambling over the last three months, and can land his fifth top-10 in Spain from eight starts.

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Adrian Otaegui - Each-Way

In a similar vein, Adrian Otaegui appears too big based on his modus operandi.

Considering driving accuracy, greens-in-reg and scrambling, the 29-year-old home player ranks in the top half-dozen of the field, yet can be backed nearer the 20th most likely.

Although winner of three tournaments, two of those were in match-play format, showing he has the bottle to win when head-to-head, and the win at the Scottish Championship came courtesy of book-ender rounds of 62 and 63. Having won at Fairmont, he has since made every weekend in Scotland, peaking with a third place at the same course, whilst his major amateur victory was in Kilmarnock.

Otaegui tends to repeat in places he does well in, such as Dubai, Ireland and Qatar, so his course form of four cuts from five that includes best finishes of 12th and 17th (sixth after three rounds) is encouraging enough.

I’m not certain that flirting as a rag in a trio of LIV events was of any use besides the money, but he returned from Boston to finish 13th at the shortened PGA at Wentworth, 25th in Italy after a slow start, and 13th in France. At all, he ranked highly in accuracy and scrambling. Perfect.

Take away the missed-cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links and he may be the best of the home contingent in an event that rewards Spanish players with Sergio Garcia winning three times, and three Spaniards finishing joint-runner-up behind Christian Bezuidenhout in 2019.

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Julien Brun - Top-10

Pick of the Frenchman’s efforts in 2022 have been 25th in Abu Dhabi (3rd at halfway), top-15 at Ras, Kenya and at the MyGolf Life Open, a closing eight place finish at The Belfry, and top-20s at Crans and Le Golf National, suggesting he can handle a bit of trickery.

Add in his efforts in Spain at one level down – 1/2/9/11/12/20 in eight starts – and it is just a matter of time before he rewards long-suffering backers with an each-way return. This week, I’ll play it a touch safer.

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Julien Brun - Top-20

5/1

Julien Brun has been much fancied for much of this season and whilst he hasn’t converted yet, is showing enough to think he can reward top-20 backers.

Whilst I wouldn’t usually go for someone with average driving figures, and certainly not around Valders, the three-time Challenge Tour winner somehow gets it to the short stuff and is currently ranking around 40th in the charts for the last 12 weeks. There is something there, and having drifted in the market over the last few weeks, why not take the chance at this idiosyncratic track?

Pick of the Frenchman’s efforts in 2022 have been 25th in Abu Dhabi (3rd at halfway), top-15 at Ras, Kenya and at the MyGolf Life Open, a closing eight place finish at The Belfry, and top-20s at Crans and Le Golf National, suggesting he can handle a bit of trickery.

Add in his efforts in Spain at one level down – 1/2/9/11/12/20 in eight starts – and it is just a matter of time before he rewards long-suffering backers with an each-way return. This week, I’ll play it a touch safer.

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Odds are correct at the time of posting

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