Open de Espana: A preview and best bets for this week's European Tour event in Spain
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 13/05/14 5:57pm
Water is in play at several holes on PGA Catalunya
Fresh from his third place in the Players Championship, Sergio Garcia is the star attraction at this week's Open de Espana.
Garcia returns home to contest the tournament he won way back in 2002 although this year he'll be aiming to delight his home Spanish fans at a different venue.
For the first time since 2009, the event will be played at PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona, the venue which has staged European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage since 2008.
Thomas Levet won there in 2009 while another Frenchman, Raphael Jacquelin, is the defending champion this week having won the title at Parador de El Saler.
PGA Catalunya Resort opened in 1999 and held this tournament in 2000 (won by England's Brian Davis) and again in 2009. It's a 7,172-yard par 72 and was designed by Neil Coles and Angel Gallardo. The undulating, tree-lined layout can present a test off the tee while water is in play on 3, 4, 5, 11 and 13.
The six winners since it first staged the final qualifying stage in 2008 comprise a Spaniard, four Englishmen and a Swede. Carlos Del Moral won it last November while prior to that there were wins for John Parry, David Dixon, Simon Wakefield and Simon Khan. Oskar Henningsson took victory in 2008.
The leading contenders - and Sky Bet odds
Sergio Garcia (5/1): Five of Sergio's 11 European Tour wins have come in Spain (this event in 2002, the Mallorca Classic in 2004, the Castello Masters in 2008 and 2011 and the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama in 2011). He's also finished runner-up a further five times on home soil while the 20-year-old Garcia was 12th at this venue when it staged this event in 2000. As for current form, he's finished third in two of his last three PGA Tour starts, the latest coming at Sawgrass last week where he was ranked 1st in the All-Around stats to show that all parts of his game are working well. No wonder he's the overwhelming favourite.
Sergio Garcia: The hot favourite
Francesco Molinari (14/1): The Italian has his mojo back and followed his fourth place in the China Open with a sixth in last week's Players Championship. He was 1st for Greens In Regulation in the former and 4th in the latter so Molinari is doing what he does best again. He's got a fantastic record in Spain and won the Open de Espana in 2012 thanks to a closing 65. Overall, his last 10 starts in Spain have produced a win, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth and a 10th while he was 12th on this course in the 2009 Open de Espana.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (22/1): Jimenez contested both previous Open de Espanas held here, finishing 31st in 2009 and missing the cut in 2000. He's also failed to make the weekend in the last two Spanish Opens which is a surprise. On the plus side, since turning 50 the cigar-chomping, red-wine loving Spanish bon viveur has married his Austrian girlfriend, finished a brilliant fourth in The Masters at Augusta and won the Greater Gwinnett Championship in Augusta on his Champions Tour debut. His aim now is to make the Ryder Cup.
Thomas Bjorn (25/1): Like his fellow veteran Jimenez, Bjorn had a fine Masters last month and went on to post his best ever Augusta finish of 8th. That would be enough to make him a contender this week but, intriguingly, he also boasts some excellent course form. This week's venue, PGA Catalunya, also staged the 1999 Sarazen World Open and the winner on that occasion was Bjorn (he shot 66-69-70-68 to win by two). Then, nine years later, he finished third in the Open de Espana there.
Alvaro Quiros (33/1): The big-hitting Spaniard won this event in a play-off in 2010 when it was held at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla. That was the fourth of his six European Tour wins which peaked and, unfortunately, came to a stop at the season-ending Dubai World Championship in 2011. It's been a struggle since then and he had to take a lengthy break for wrist surgery which saw the once World No 21 sink to 278 in the rankings at the end of 2013. However, there are some good signs in his game again in 2014 and he was third in the China Open on his last start.
It's easy to give the nod to Sergio this week and it probably depends on whether you like backing any golfer to win a tournament at 5/1.
Alvaro Quiros: Finding some good form again
It could look easy money; it could look a foolish waste if he isn't quite on it.
Overall, it may be worth passing and, instead, turning to his countryman Alvaro Quiros.
As noted above he's a proven winner and his latest form suggests another '1' is around the corner.
In his last three European Tour starts, he's finished third in China, 13th in Malaysia and fifth in the Joburg Open while, on this course in 2009, he was a decent tied 17th.
Take him at 33/1.
At the same price, fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello is also worth a punt.
RCB has been prominent for much of the year and has a fifth and an eighth in two of his last four European Tour starts. He was also fourth in Abu Dhabi and third in Qatar earlier this season.
Adding to the mix is his sixth place on this track in 2009 so everything points to a strong challenge.
Finally, Frenchmen have an excellent record on this course so why not try recent winner Alexander Levy.
The 23-year-old made the big breakthrough in last month's China Open and followed it up with a 24th in Singapore the following week.
He boasts some good form in Spain in Challenge Tour events and has happy memories of PGA Catalunya having come through Q-School there in 2012.
2pts e.w. Alvaro Quiros at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Rafa Cabrera-Bello at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Alexander Levy at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)