OKBET bagged more DP World Tour profits with 125/1 shot Zander Lombard last week, and he’s sweet on the favourite this time.
OKBET Golf betting tips: Andalucia Masters
- 5pts win Matthew Fitzpatrick at 13/2 (General)
- 1pt e.w. Richie Ramsay at 75/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
- 1pt e.w. Soren Kjeldsen at 150/1 (William Hill, Betfred 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
- 1pt e.w. Alejandro Canizares at 150/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
- 0.5pt e.w. Rikard Karlberg at 350/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
- 0.5pt e.w. Gonzalo F-Castano at 400/1 (BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
Perhaps it’s a nod to the legendary Real Club Valderrama’s history that this week’s Andalucia Masters is worth more than the Open de Espana, which Jon Rahm won in spectacular fashion on Sunday. In any case, it means a field with slightly less star quality but undeniably greater depth, as several Race to Dubai contenders join those with other priorities on a course steeped in history.
Valderrama hosted the Ryder Cup for the first time in continental Europe in 1997, and it irritated the hell out of the Americans – as well as some Europeans, though they were less willing to admit it. The course is unique among those on the circuit after a quarter-century and causes headaches not only for those who play it, but also for those who are involved in the sport in other ways.
On the one hand, this short, twisting, absurdly tight, and infuriatingly tricked-up layout does exactly what many would like it to do: punish misbehavior and suffocate golfers. If your main issue with the sport is that driver is a default setting that causes courses to become obsolete, then it should be for you. At Valderrama, driving can be a borderline masochistic pursuit.
But it’s difficult to deny that Valderrama’s method of swimming against the tide is unsatisfactory, penalizing good shots and going too far in the opposite direction at times. Whatever your personal preferences are, it’s not a universal solution, even if you might hear one or two players simplify things in that manner during this week’s tournament.
A compelling defense case
I enjoy it four days a year. Much more, and I’d despise it. And, while I doubt he’d go so far as to say it, I suspect defending champion MATTHEW FITZPATRICK feels the same way.
Here’s a player who once complained about the state of the game and how much its current trajectory harmed players like him, whose specialty was accuracy over power. Fitzpatrick was mocked when he claimed at the 2020 US Open that he could add distance if he really wanted to while trailing the eventual winner, but he’s since proven his doubters wrong.
Perhaps that’s when it hit you – why not go ahead and do it? So he did, and he went on to win the 2022 edition of the major, which is heavily favored by those with extra yards in their locker. Fitzpatrick has them now, without a doubt, making him one of the best and most well-rounded golfers in the game.
I think he’ll be fine scaling back here at Valderrama, where he was ecstatic with himself for last year’s display of poise, patience, grit, and class, which saw him win by three shots in six-under – the same score that propelled him to that fantastic US Open victory and demonstrated that he truly does improve when the going gets tough.
Fitzpatrick, who is defending his title, is by far the best player in the field and looks great value at anything up to 5/1. The fact that he has previously defended the European Masters bodes well, and he has also finished second when defending the DP World Tour Championship and the Nordea Masters, so there are no worries about any distractions or obligations that may arise.
Valderrama clearly fits, as it’s a course where he can show off his short game and where the variety of clubs required only adds to his advantage, with a missed cut on his debut here a red herring. He was dealing with some personal issues at the time and never raised a gallop, but he put that all behind him upon his long-awaited return.
Not only that, but it doesn’t bode well for the majority of his main rivals. Min Woo Lee is excellent around the green, which helps, but I’d like to see him do it again here before taking last year’s runner-up finish as gospel, as would Ryan Fox, who finished fourth, and I’ll be impressed if Rasmus Hojgaard can adapt to its demands so early in his career.
Robert MacIntyre is so aggressive that you worry it will backfire at some point, Thomas Detry relies heavily on the driver and flies in from Las Vegas, and Jordan Smith, Adrian Meronk, Antoine Rozner, and Callum Shinkwin are all far better suited to a course where they aren’t forced to club down off the tee and rein in their natural tendencies.
No doubt, one or two of those mentioned will overcome such concerns, but Fitzpatrick is the best suited to Valderrama, and that only adds to the advantage his class provides. Throw in a second-place finish to MacIntyre two starts ago and you have some very strong recent form, with the Dunhill Links only underlining it as he’s never been a factor there but played well alongside his mother.
He’ll be all business here, as he has another reason to end his breakthrough year on a high note: the Race to Dubai. Fitzpatrick is currently second to McIlroy and will close the gap to around 300 points if he wins this tournament. It’s a big goal because it’s one of the few things he hasn’t done yet, and this prolific DP World Tour winner might take some beating this week.
For prize money, roll the dice
With the main threats all addressed (Lee being the clear choice), players like Fabrizio Zanotti and Alex Bjork are uniquely suited to this challenge. Bjork placed for us last year at a high price but is now up there with Rozner, a superior player, and it’s difficult to get excited about Zanotti given that his game does have a glaring weakness and he holds no secrets at 39.
The odds beside the name of 2019 runner-up Adri Arnaus stand out – he was popular at 16/1 last week and is now three-times the price – but it’s not a course designed for him, and I’d be more interested in compatriots Jorge Campillo and Adrian Otaegui, despite the fact that neither has Arnaus’ ability.
That is the point of Valderrama: he is a game changer rather than a leveller. If this was how golf looked every week, the world rankings would look very different, or those currently dominating them would have had to demonstrate their talent by honing a different set of skills.
As a result, I’ll stick to a specific type, one that is fairways-first, capable of stacking greens hit, and, ideally, has a dazzling short game. That aspect of the game is difficult to predict and rarely decisive, but it has been here – both winners prior to Fitzpatrick hit fewer than 50% of the greens in regulation, missing in the region of 10 per round but consistently getting up and down.
That’s why GONZALO FERNANDEZ-CASTANO is one of two true fliers in a tournament that can produce some bizarre leaderboards.
This veteran Spaniard led the DP World Tour in strokes gained around the green in 2020, and it is still one of his strengths, along with his approach play. Off the tee, he struggles, but the rules are different here, and it’s far from guaranteed that the best drivers, like Smith and Shinkwin, can put that to good use.
If Fernandez-Castano can hit a few more fairways, he could surprise a few on a course where he’s missed 10 cuts in 12 and where he made the weekend last year despite starting 99th and climbing to 34th by the end of round two.
He’s been making weekends lately as well, and would’ve done so again last week if it hadn’t been for a three-putt on his final hole. Prior to that, he finished 34th in very good company in Italy, on a course where driver was crucial, and he also played well when on the fringes for a while in Crans.
This is in contrast to his form at this time last year, and with both Valderrama cuts coming by a single shot, he’s most at ease here. We’re most likely playing for positions, but he’s been a class act in his day and is worth a small bet to hit the frame at odds of 250/1 or higher.
Keeping with the Spaniards, this is ALEJANDRO CANIZARES’ home course, and he’s done well here, making the cut on all eight starts and finishing in the top 25 on five occasions.
Last year’s 25th place came after back-to-back missed cuts and was powered by his approach work, ranking fifth; in 2020, he arrived in poor form but ranked ninth in approaches and comfortably made the weekend.
This time, he’s finished 28th and 20th in his last two starts, thanks to that quality approach play that has always been a hallmark of his best golf. Canizares won the Dunhill Links and then finished seventh last week, where his short game kept him from finishing higher than 20th.
That aspect of his game comes and goes – along with his irons, it was what helped him finish seventh at Crans recently – but with his putter generally reliable and even his driving improving of late, he appears to be in the kind of shape required to play well in front of friends and family once more.
At 159th on the Race to Dubai, he needs to, and if he can hit as many fairways as he has the last two times, ranking eighth and 12th, we only need his strengths to shine to get him right in the mix. He is far from a surprise champion and appears to be a live runner for the home team.
Ramsay is preparing to return to form
Canizares’ Crans performance is one of several pieces of evidence that it’s a good guide to Valderrama, including two wins for Fitzpatrick, and former Swiss champ RICHIE RAMSAY can help the comparison once more.
To be fair to the Scot, he has already done that, finishing third behind Sergio Garcia on his debut here and adding 29th and 11th on his subsequent two visits. Since then, he’s missed both cuts by a single shot, and it’s worth noting that his ball-striking has been excellent in both cases.
This is also true in the present, despite a modest string of results since his emotional Hillside victory in July. Ramsay has played seven times since without cracking the top 40, which explains his price, but his game’s foundations remain strong, and he can return to his best here.
Ramsay is in the top ten in scrambling this season and was not far off last year, and rather than demonstrating his silky touch, these stats confirm that his long-game is so good that his misses are minor. When it comes to hitting these tiny greens, accuracy is crucial, and it hasn’t dipped since winning the Cazoo Classic.
Last week’s 71-71 for a missed cut isn’t a cause for concern, and my message is that if he putsts well, he’ll do well. At 66/1 or higher, it’s a risk worth taking, as Ramsay knows this is his best remaining chance to double up for the year.
Marcel Schneider, the impressive German who is still finding his feet, is the only other player I like at less than 100/1. He played well here in 2020, very early in his DP World Tour career, and has now fully established himself as a quality operator at this level, with 11 top-30 finishes in his last 17 starts.
Dane, the veteran, can perform well once more.
He has the ability to win, but this unusual course may just allow for a veteran winner in the form of SOREN KJELDSEN, who is preferred at twice the price.
Kjeldsen, like Canizares, has a spotless record at Valderrama, performing admirably in the majority of his 14 appearances, the highlight of which was undoubtedly his victory here in 2008. With two runners-up finishes and a fourth-place finish in 2016, we know it’s the best venue in Europe for him.
That makes it one of the few courses where I could see picking the veteran Dane, who hits it nowhere and appeared to be cruising towards retirement for a while as his talented son took over as the family’s best golfer.
Kjeldsen’s fire has returned in the last 18 months, especially this summer, when he finished seventh in the Hero Open and fifth in the BMW PGA Championship, where he shared the 54-hole lead with Viktor Hovland and outplayed his fellow Scandinavian for much of the final round.
He may have gone a little quiet since then, but Italy was far too long and he putted horribly, but he still made the cut. In France, he got off to a fast start before faltering but still hitting quality approaches, and then in the Dunhill Links, he shot 70 at the Old Course and 67 at Kingsbarns, missing the cut by one after being at Carnoustie on that dreadful Friday.
Overall, his form remains solid, and I like how his putting appeared to improve at St Andrews. That was the only reason I didn’t take him at slightly shorter odds in Paris, and his combination of driving accuracy (14th) and quality iron play (27th) makes him an ideal type for this even before considering his course history.
If he can putt well, Kjeldsen should be able to do what he did at Wentworth and compete with his younger rivals on a course where his years of experience will be invaluable.
Connor Syme is a player I like, and after another Scottish winner last week, this time on the Challenge Tour, he made the shortlist alongside Jazz Janewattananond, an eye-catching price for a player who can be electric around the greens and should, in theory, like Valderrama more than a poor debut in 2021 would suggest.
There are plenty of others you could give a chance here who would appeal almost nowhere else on the schedule, including Steven Brown and Ricardo Gouveia, but I’ll finish with RIKARD KARLBERG, who is available at a similarly astronomical price.
While the market has focused on how well Edoardo Molinari performed over the weekend, Karlberg wasn’t far behind with a pair of 66s to move into the top 20. It’s his second top-10 finish in six starts since I picked him in Northern Ireland, where he missed the cut due to a poor putting performance.
I mentioned the Swede’s improving results and positivity on social media at the time, and he’s continued to improve since. In fact, in his last five starts, he’s gained 18 strokes with his approaches from just 15 measured rounds, figures usually reserved for the circuit’s best iron players.
As a result, when he putted above average, he finished 15th and 17th; when he putted poorly, he struggled. That’s a nice profile for a player quoted at 400/1, and there are more positives to be found by digging beneath the surface, such as the fact that he finished 21st through 54 holes of a high-level Italian Open on a course too long for him and in deeper waters than these.
True, his form figures here (MC-74) don’t jump off the page, but it was only that putter that really hurt him on his most recent visit, and the one before that came at a terrible time because he’d only just returned from an 18-month absence. Valderrama, predictably, was unforgiving, but he was far from disgraced.
On the surface, Karlberg appears to be a good fit, not least because he’s twice won at the tight, fiddly, quirky, and not-for-everyone Delhi GC. That, combined with his clear preference for tree-lined courses, points to Valderrama being a good fit if he can find some fairways to bring out the best in his red-hot iron play, as well as a quality short-game.
On 10/10/22, at 1700 BST,
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