Ben Coley previews the English Trophy, which starts on Thursday morning, in our current Members Extra, which is now available to all readers.

Ben concluded 2021 with 700 points in profit following a profitable 2020, with two winners at 150/1 and many more besides ensuring it was another year to remember for his supporters.

His 2022 tally surpassed 500 points because to a fantastic summer that saw winners ranging from 25/1 to 200/1, two of which came on the Korn Ferry Tour, as well as 28/1 headline tip Cameron Smith in the Open Championship.

Now, he’ll be looking for first-round leader picks in tournaments besides than the DP World Tour and PGA Tour.

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Members Only Betting Tips

  • 2 points e.w. Ben Stow at 28/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
  • 2 points e.w. Jeong Weon Ko at 28/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
  • 1 point e.w. Nick Bachem at 80/1 (Unibet 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
  • 1 point e.w. Jonathan Thomson at 80/1 (OKBET 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
  • 1 point e.w. Mateusz Gradecki at 110/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

We’re down to the final Challenge Tour event of the regular season, so this week is all about the top 45 on the Road to Mallorca – all of whom will earn a chance at the Grand Final and, with it, the potential to secure promotion to the top flight.

The relocation to England before travelling to Spain has certainly changed things, and there may be some wind and rain in Oxfordshire when Frilford Heath steps up to host the English Trophy. Difficult circumstances in Cornwall limited scoring at the eccentric St Mellion, where players had to plot their route around the slopes and may well play their part again.

On the surface, Frilford Heath appears to be similar to St Mellion. This course is short and at times difficult, with one former course champion describing it to me as “very tight, not too long, generally fitting a straight hitter and a decent putter.” When you combine it with the October weather, another eight-under victory total starts to make sense.

However, another local expert told me that 25-under might be possible given fair conditions. Why? Because the fairways have been expanded and bunkers relocated, and the flat green complexes here lessen the blow for players with bad short-games. He mentioned that a Clutch event hosted on the Red Course this summer was won by a big-hitting member in 14-under – a score accomplished in just 36 holes.

Then there’s a treasure of amateur, Qualifying School, and EuroPro paperwork to study, much of it at the course they’ll be using this week. Wilco Nienaber wowed on-course spectators four years ago in the Brabazon Trophy until his attempt to drive yet another green lost him the victory, the South African leading by three with five holes to play.

Callum Shinkwin won the English Amateur here in 2013, the former already impressed with his skill off the tee, and Laurie Canter’s name appears on the list of those who led the scoring at first stage Qualifying School. All of this occurred prior to changes that appeared to have rendered the course more vulnerable to power.

Looking at the scoreboard, it’s evident that such guys will have opportunities. Late in the round, there are two driveable par-fours, though Nienaber also took a go at another two. All three par-fives are short, with the sixth being so short that some have expressed astonishment that it isn’t rated as a par-four for the week. Another reason to anticipate scoring will be low is the possibility of favorable lies due to damage to some of the courses, which may explain why the event was moved up on the calendar.

If this is the case, it signifies a huge shift in gear. It was striking how strange a course St Mellion proved to be last week, with even the short par-fives discouraging players from going for the green, and from Provence to that Swiss Challenge held in France, it’s been a run of strange events on quirky courses that have helped those who plot their way around.

As a result, I have to give another chance to BEN STOW, who was forced out of the betting despite fighting hard to finish 25th last week, when perhaps the pressure of playing at the course he represents was too much in the end.

Stow got off to a bad start, going five-over through four holes, making the cut appear improbable. He can be proud of the way he struggled at what, in retrospect, was a course that damaged what he does best.

At the Challenge Tour level, ranking players by strength is difficult due to a frustrating lack of statistics. However, we know from his sporadic outings on the DP World Tour that Stow, whose career has been plagued by injuries, possesses real power and smashes the ball to an incredibly high quality when on-song.

In retrospect, having that club removed from him at St Mellion made it a mistake to pursue the idea that his ties to the course would help, but from what I’ve gathered, he’ll find many more options here at Frilford Heath. He also knows the route well, having passed the first stage here as a teenager and later finishing second and ninth at EuroPro Q-School.

Set aside the sadness of playing himself out of the British Challenge in less than an hour of golf, and we have a guy with the potential to make the DP World Tour, and whose form since recovering from his last physical setback has been strong. Indeed, if not for a poor start last week, he could be arriving here with three top-10 finishes in a row.

Stow is currently 55th in the season-long standings and need a top-eight finish to have a chance of making the Grand Final, which would be a tremendous effort and, at the absolute least, secure a full schedule at this level in 2023. Let’s give him another chance.

Clement Sordet put up a similar performance and is enticing considering his strike rate and how well he’s played in England in particular, but my preference is for his youthful and skilled colleague, JEONG WEON KO.

Ko, a prolific amateur back home in France, sailed through the Alps Tour and had a solid start to life on the Challenge Tour in 2021, only to endure a drop in form that held him out of contention for DP World Tour membership as his season ended early.

His second crack started badly, however, but a return home for 18th place in the Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in July marked a turning point. Since then, Ko has barely missed a beat, finishing with five top-10 results in ten starts and just missing the cut once, in Provence, as he did a year ago.

Last week’s 11th place finish kept him in 19th place on the Road to Mallorca, and based on his recent form, he rates even higher, which means he’s now just one excellent performance away from a card with two events remaining.

It may happen this week, as he was solid throughout the British Challenge and now returns to Frilford Heath, where he played in the Brabazon Trophy and was the midway leader in 2018, finally finishing sixth.

Despite his small stature, he’s known for letting the ball fly, and a combination of familiarity and a shift to a more direct approach off the tee might see him contend.

Ruaidhri McGee has plenty of experience here and is the ‘bubble boy’ at 46th on the Road to Mallorca, but his withdrawal last week is cause for concern, and the fancy pricing on Adrien Saddier have largely vanished after he entered the race a week too late for us.

Neither is the type of golfer I’m searching for, therefore the net is cast broader to NICK BACHEM, an incredible player who has those extra yards in the locker and then some.

Bachem, like compatriot Freddy Schott, was on my radar at the start of the season, and while he’s had a few surprises, nine top-25 results have him within striking distance of a DP World Tour card at 21st in the standings.

He was runner-up to Schott in Denmark, third in a strong Limpopo Championship, and also placed in Scotland, so he’s done everything but win, and I thought he was a real eye-catcher last week when shooting 69-68 across the weekend to climb to seventh place from just inside the cut-line.

He’ll have to build on it, but he had some terrific things over a month in France prior, and each of these three courses would have disappointed him.

Frilford Heath may be much more to his liking, and as a frequent victor of low-scoring events on the Pro Golf Tour, he’ll appreciate the opportunity to attack.

So will JONATHAN THOMSON, who won the stroke play part of the English Amateur held here, finishing barely ahead of Jordan Smith.

Thomson later returned to Frilford Heath to complete the first stage in 2017, eventually earning DP World Tour membership, so it’s a track he remembers fondly and one that offers him hope of joining the top 45.

This monster of a man will need to finish in the top three to secure a ticket to Mallorca, but he’s good when his back is against the wall and has been playing well of late, enough to suggest that a better course might make all the difference.

Thomson, one of the circuit’s longest hitters, can open his shoulders here, and given the restrictive nature of recent venues, it’s easy to be optimistic about his efforts, having competed for the Indoor Golf Group Challenge, missed the cut on the number in Portugal, then finished eighth and 14th before finishing down the field last week.

That’s strong stuff from a guy whose finest form has come around this time of year, including a runner-up result on the main circuit. Hopefully, expectations about his power advantage are right, and if so, he can bludgeon his way into contention.

I’d endorse Aron Zemmer at the 1000/1 provided by bet365 if I thought it was a price readers could accept after he played some of the greatest golf in the field last weekend, finishing 11th for one of his highlight performances on the Challenge Tour.

Given that he finished mid-pack a week ago, the Italian certainly deserves a little more respect, despite his obvious shortcomings. I’m not surprised that Unibet has been considerably more careful in offering 200/1, a price at which Sebastien Gros would have to be the more interesting, having played some terrific things recently, especially at the first stage last week, and as a powerful hitter with DP World Tour form.

Jesper Kennegaard won the first stage here by five seconds in 2019, and he’s recently been on the DP World Tour. The fact that he finished 23rd behind Robert MacIntyre, Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, and others in Italy last month, and that he only nearly missed the cut in Spain last week, suggests he could outperform his odds after appearing set for full membership before a Grand Final collapse a year ago.

Again, bet365’s 175/1 is on the high side, but advising substantial standout prices that won’t persist isn’t going to benefit anyone, so I’ll go on to final selection MATEUSZ GRADECKI.

Winner of the aforementioned Limpopo Championship, where he defeated subsequent DP World Tour candidate Hennie du Plessis, the Pole has demonstrated that he is very than capable of joining Adrian Meronk at that level and is currently 18th.

He’d been on a downward spiral until last week, but seventh place was a really good effort, his five-under weekend among the best in the field, and shows he might have rediscovered his best form in time to meet his target for the year.

In addition to his win in South Africa, he lost a play-off in Germany, bogeying the final two holes after leading by two, and when you combine his season-long ranking with last week’s top 10, it’s tough to comprehend why three-figure prices are available.

Gradecki had lesser odds when he originally arrived at this level 18 months ago and has since properly found his feet. To my mind, he’s another who won’t have relished previous set-ups, so having signed off from Cornwall in good spirits, he has to be a bet at 80/1 and higher.

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