Fran the man for Europe
Ben Coley previews the Seve Trophy and expects Francesco Molinari to star for Continental Europe.
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Team golf is back this week as USA take on the International side in the Presidents Cup, while Continental Europe face Great Britain and Ireland for the Seve Trophy.
I wrote last week how the Seve Trophy fails to inspire me, a comment made with absolutely no disrespect to the man after which it's named.
- 2pts Francesco Molinari to top score overall at 14/1 (bet365, Stan James) - good record in the event, returned to form last time
- 1pt Thomas Bjorn to top score overall at 14/1 (BetVictor, Ladbrokes) - in great nick and has a score to settle
- 1pt Scott Jamieson to top score for GB and Ireland at 14/1 (Paddy Power) - enjoyed his debut here and game looks in shape
But a lack of inspiration from a spectator perspective isn't an issue if there's a bet worth having, so I've had a good look at the event and have arrived at the conclusion that the prices - 8/13 Europe, 6/4 GB and Ireland - are correct.
I think Continental Europe, led by Jose Maria Olazabal, have a stronger line-up.
As well as the captain of Europe's successful Ryder Cup team from last year, they've two players who were involved as players and both returned to form in the Italian Open last time. Francesco Molinari is a World Cup winner to whom team golf is very important, and Nicolas Colsaerts is a Volvo World Match Play champion who relished his Ryder Cup debut.
Britain and Ireland have only Paul Lawrie from Medinah, and he's not been at his best this year. Their star man would look to be Paul Casey, the only other player to have been involved in a Ryder Cup and a match play specialist in his own right who will be expected to lead by example.
Of course, Britain and Ireland are defending the title they won two years ago, but the absence of stalwarts Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter looks significant and despite having won six renewals on the spin, they have to be underdogs.
The format of the competition means that every player is guaranteed at least three games. This means that top points scorer markets are competitive, and that's the best place to go for value.
For Britain and Ireland, Chris Wood makes some appeal given an excellent debut in the event four years ago and a superb putting performance in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last time.
Wood has spoken of how important he considers team golf and there's every reason to expect he'll play well, I just don't believe 13/2 offers outstanding value and I'm happy to let him win if he must.
Instead, I'm having a small bet on Scott Jamieson at 14/1.
Like Wood, Jamieson has played in the event once and, again like Wood, he played very well.
Arriving in poor form two years ago, he paired up with Ross Fisher for the most resounding victory of the week on day one, adding another point alongside Lee Westwood before holding off the tenacious Pablo Larrazabal to win what was at the time a vital point in the singles.
This time around, he's got the combination of Seve Trophy experience and a first European Tour title behind him. Jamieson has also rediscovered his form of late, finishing 23rd and 17th in his last two starts, and will be thoroughly looking forward to a return to France.
"I've been playing really well over the last month," he said last week, and a look through the quotes from 2011 shows that he really enjoyed being part of a team. It's also worth noting that he gets to play for a Scottish captain this time around, and I'm hopeful that a good start will see Sam Torrance give him four or five matches.
I can certainly see him pairing up with either the experienced Lawrie or fellow Scots Marc Warren or Stephen Gallacher, and at 14/1 he looks value to build on an excellent debut for a team which lacks pedigree in this type of event.
Given that I fancy Europe to edge this, it makes sense to side with someone from Olazabal's side in the top overall scorer market and Francesco Molinari catches my eye.
It's not been an outstanding year for Francesco but he'll be relishing a return to team golf having secured the half-point which gave Europe outright victory in last year's Ryder Cup, albeit in slightly peculiar circumstances.
As touched upon previously, Molinari has a fine bank of team golf experience having been part of two winning Ryder Cup sides as well as combining with absent brother Edoardo to win the 2009 World Cup.
He's an outstanding partner in four-ball golf, which makes up the first two days of play, on account of the best tee-to-green game of all 24 players involved in the event.
Ideally, he'll be paired with Matteo Manassero in an Italian combination which would be extremely hard to beat, with Franceco's ball-striking and Manassero's short-game likely to open up plenty of opportunities.
Molinari has won both his singles matches in this competition resoundingly and has a 5-3-1 record overall, which when combined with his other team golf exploits makes him the strongest European player and overpriced at 14/1.
Despite a relatively modest overall record in the event, I'm compelled to have a saver on Thomas Bjorn.
There are few men as competitive as Bjorn and he arrives here having made 22 birdies and just two bogeys to win the Omega European Masters, where his putting was outstanding throughout.
Bjorn was a non-playing captain when Europe lost here in 2009 but he showed some decent signs of a liking for the layout when taking two and a half points as a player in 2011, including a singles victory over Westwood.
Granted a decent start he looks certain to feature in four or five matches for his friend Olazabal, and given his generally excellent season capped by a deserved title last time he looks value at 14/1.