Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog
A strong field has been enticed to Paris this week as some of the big names step up their preparation for this month’s Open Championship. Former world number one Luke Donald makes a rare start in France while American Matt Kuchar, who has won twice this year, is also in action.
Le Golf National is always a great test of golf and the 2018 Ryder Cup venue should provide plenty of drama. Measuring 7,331 yards, this demanding par 71 features plenty of water hazards which will challenge all aspects of the players’ game.
One golfer who has certainly flourished at this tough track is Ian Poulter. The confident Englishman has done everything but win this tournament and compiled an extremely consistent record here. Making all the cuts over the last decade, the Ryder Cup star has picked up four top tens, including twice finishing third. He contended again 12 months ago when he had to settle for fourth spot.
It has been a disappointing year for Poulter so far after struggling on the PGA Tour and flopping on his few European visits. But there are signs the Woburn ace is getting his game back on track. The 37-year-old showed some promise last month at the US Open where he finished tied for 21st and has made his last three cuts in America. No-one can doubt Poulter’s ability to get the job done on the European Tour, having picked up 12 wins, so take him to add another at 22/1 each way.
Matteo Manassero landed the biggest win of his fledgling career in May when he topped a world class field to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The Italian displayed his unflappable temperament, coupled with accuracy off the tee, and his tremendous short game to claim the victory. With four titles in the bag at the age of just 20, this is undoubtedly a future major champion in the making.
Manassero’s consistency this year has been mightily impressive with nothing worse than a tie for 23rd in his starts outside of the majors and World Golf Championships. On his last outing in Germany, he led the field in putts per green in regulation. Alongside his scrambling skills, where he sits eighth this season, the prodigious talent appears to have the ideal credentials for Le Golf National. In his three visits to the course, he has yet to finish outside the top 3o and has already posted rounds of 65 and 66. Take the confident Italian to win again at 25/1 each way.
Raphael Jacquelin has already enjoyed a memorable season after winning a marathon play-off at the Open de Espana back in April. The Frenchman had to withstand nine extra holes to edge out Max Kieffer and secure his fourth European Tour victory. His form since has been solid, if not spectacular, but encouragingly he led the field in putts per round on his way to a tie for 22nd in Ireland on Sunday.
The 39-year-old will be keen to perform in front of the French crowds this week, with three home winners here in the last nine years, and will have fond memories from 12 months ago. Jacquelin put in a sterling effort as he finished third and with success behind him this year could go very close. Scrambling is a key attribute around this tough examination and Jacquelin sits 13th in the rankings this season. Expect the experienced European to challenge for a second victory of the campaign at 50/1 each way.
Alejandro Canizares has found top gear recently and the Spaniard is threatening to add to his sole European Tour title. He came to our attention at Wentworth in May when he took a lead into the final round and finished just one shot outside the play-off. The 30-year-old also looked sharp last week at the Irish Open when he tied for tenth spot. Significantly he was second for putts per round which is an encouraging sign.
Canizares should have added to his sole victory at the 2006 Russian Open and could easily have already got his hands on this trophy. He only missed out three years ago when he was beaten in a play-off by Miguel Angel Jimenez. Canizares can also boast two other top 30 efforts at the venue, including 13th in 2009, so he looks worth taking a punt on at 80/1.
If you are looking for a big priced outsider then Simon Khan could be up to the task. The Englishman has a sink or swim record at this track with three top 12 finishes and as many missed cuts in the last seven years. You never quite know what form Khan is going to produce on any given week, but two top fives at the tournament in recent years demonstrate he is up to the challenge when on his game.
The 41-year-0ld Essex-based golfer nearly pulled off a huge upset again at Wentworth. Khan, who picked up his second European Tour title at the BMW PGA Championship three years ago, came agonisingly close earlier this season when pipped in a three-man play-off. But this performance proved his ability to repeat his form on favoured courses. With an Open spot still up for grabs, Khan knows a big week could give him a route to Muirfield and he looks excellent value at 150/1 each way.
Follow Simon’s bets on Twitter @watfordtipster