NH Collection Open: A preview and best bets for this week's European Tour event
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 01/04/14 4:06pm
A new venue awaits as the European Tour hits Spain this week for the inaugural NH Collection Open.
La Reserva de Sotogrande Club de Golf is situated on the doorstep of the iconic Valderrama Golf Club, which became famous for hosting the season-ending Volvo Masters as well as the 1997 Ryder Cup.
This week's event is a dual-ranking tournament counting towards both the European Tour's Race To Dubai as well as the European Challenge Tour and has attracted a decent field of proven victors.
Sky Bet's market is headed by recent winner Alejandro Canizares, who has local connections with this event, while fellow two-time European Tour winners David Horsey and Bernd Wiesberger are joint second favourites.
The Cabell Robinson-designed La Reserva de Sotogrande Club de Golf is a 7,234-yard par 72 with the standard four par fives. Alejandro Canizares, who won in Morocco last month, knows it well and told europeantour.com: "I practice there with my father. It is a longish course, fairly generous off the tee with quite a few elevation changes and undulating greens. Some holes are long: the sixth, for instance, is a three-wood par three. Wind is a big factor, and it can really toughen up the course."
Rain in the build-up to the event and also on day one (if the forecast is correct) may take some sting out of the course and make it play longer. Some more welcome Spanish sunshine should appear on the weekend with temperatures around the 20 degree mark.
Tom Lewis played this course as an amateur and is a big fan, admitting the layout "suits me".
Like many youngsters he struggles for consistency but an eighth place in Morocco last time, when he closed with a 65, suggests he may have his eye in and can shine this week.
Lewis won in Portugal on just his third pro start and his good record on links courses suggests he's well set to cope with wind, which is often a factor on this course.
Take the Englishman at 33s.
Lucas Bjerregaard could be an interesting runner at the same price.
The big-hitting Dane is sixth in Driving Distance this year (309.4 yards) and has recent form figures of 9-2-21-11-15.
His last two visits to Spain saw him shoot rounds of 67-74-67-66 to finish 14th in a Challenge Tour event back in June and also make it through Q-School in November.
Beyond that, it may well be worth siding with Alejandro Canizares to cash in on his boosted confidence and local knowledge.
As well as his win in Morocco he was also tied fifth in Qatar while he's often shown up strongly on his home turf.
In his last four starts on Spanish soil, Canizares can boast a second place in the Open de Espana and a seventh in the Andalucia Masters.
Go back a few more years to 2010 and he had a second and a third in Spanish events in the space of a few weeks.
1pt e.w. Tom Lewis at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Lucas Bjerregaard at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2.5pts e.w. Alejandro Canizares at 14/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)