Karlberg - probably the best player
Our David John likes the chances of Sweden's Rikard Karlberg this week at the NH Collection Open in Sotogrande.
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One of the by-products of the economic downturn in Europe has been the loss of a regular flow of events staged in Spain but all concerned must be delighted to be back in the country this week for the inaugural NH Collection Open.
The field is made up by players from both the European and Challenge Tours with the event staged at La Reserva de Sotogrande Club de Golf, traditionally one of the great areas for the game in Spain with Valderrama and San Roque both little more than a stone's throw away.
- 1pt e.w. Rikard Karlberg at 66/1 (Stan James, Spreadex, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - venture over from Asia worth noting on the back of two good recent efforts
- 1pt e.w. Gary Stal at 125/1 (Paddy Power, Spreadex, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - worth another shot after a solid performance in Morocco bar one horror hole
- 1pt e.w. Daniel Im at 150/1 (General, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - heading in the right direction and already boasts eyecatching form in Spain
- 1pt e.w. Sihwan Kim at 200/1 (General, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - less obvious pick but served his time on the Challenge Tour and potential to breakthrough
I must firstly thank recent dual Gecko Tour winner Jason Kelly - who plies his trade around here - for a quick heads-up on conditions this week.
The course measures just over 7,200 yards and is not too demanding from the tee. There is little rough to speak of at this time of the year but it will get the attention of the players if the wind blows to go with the firm and fast conditions.
Local player Alejandro Canizares is a good place to start and he is a bigger price than I expected at 18/1 to be honest. He and his father Jose Maria have played the course plenty so the recent Trophee Hassan II winner will certainly have a decent handle on what is going to be required this week.
So is that enough for him to go back-to-back? Canizares admitted that he had been playing dreadfully in the build up to dominating from the off in Morocco but a quick lesson and a putting hint turned things around in an instant.
The depth of field is weaker so there has to be every chance of him going close on home soil - it looks a case of catching lightning in a bottle once more, and that is not easy as he played some sublime stuff last time.
This is a trappy old event on a new course but I am going to give Gary Stal another crack at 125/1 following a solid stint in Morocco bar one hiccup.
We get a bit keen in this previewing game to ditch a player if they don't quite come up to muster but it may well pay to persevere with the talented Frenchman as he gradually gains experience at this level.
This is a beatable field - certainly one that Stal can make an impact in - and a return to Spain where he booked his European Tour card in Barcelona last November can also be considered a plus-point.
As for his hiccup in Morocco, Stal made the cut but carded a 10 on the fifth hole in round three. I did not see the incident but venture he had some problems with one or both ponds in front of the green.
But I really admire his fighting spirit as he carded a 30 on the back nine for an impressive 70 which was his best round of the event. There can be some tough lessons learned on the way to the winner's enclosure but Stal showed enough overall that week in what was his fourth straight solid performance.
Swede Rikard Karlberg is another interesting runner on a rare venture to Europe from his regular Asian Tour base.
There are no events over there for a couple of weeks so I guess Karlberg fancies his chances of putting his skills to use rather than sitting about and losing match-sharpness.
His form has been good since the start of the year with a second place at the King's Cup and then a third at the SAIL Open in India, a country where he particularly shows his best form.
Karlberg mentioned on his website that he will have to adjust to the different greens but, that said, the last time he was in the Malaga area back in 2011 he led the Open de Andalucia after two rounds (65-67) before going on to finish T11.
It is rather feast or famine with Karlberg but I rate his chance in this company at 66/1.
I would not be very surprised to see England's Paul Waring go well as he has a good record in this part of the world but at 28/1 he is on the short side in the betting.
So I would prefer to take a chance on New Jersey-born Daniel Im at 150/1 on the back of a string of eyecatching efforts on both European and Challenge Tours.
He has played five times on the main tour in the 2014 season and has made every cut. His last two outings saw him post T20 and T25 in the Africa Open and Morocco with his collective efforts good enough to be an impressive 15th in Scoring Average.
Im has some form in Spanish events on the Challenge Tour in Madrid and also on Tenerife and with the young Americans that have chosen to further their careers on this side of the Atlantic thriving, I'm tipping Im to be this week's potential Peter Uihlein, Brooks Koepka or John Hahn.
Both he and Sihwan Kim will be at less of a disadvantage with this being a new venue and the Korean has looked like a player on the verge of making a really positive impact judged on his results so far.
A good amateur and a product of the tough collegiate system in the USA at Stanford, Kim has been honing his craft on the Challenge Tour where he has built up some solid experience across the continent.
Kim qualified for the top table with a ninth place on their rankings in 2013 and although he has been a bit hit and miss, there have been genuinely encouraging signs of quality in Dubai and at the Africa Open.
This 200/1 selection certainly comes out of left field a bit but he may just be inspired to produce a breakthrough week by the dramatic comeback exploits of the Asian team at the EurAsia Cup and follow in the footsteps of compatriot Jin Jeong as a title-winner in Europe.