Aiken making the right noises
David John previews the BMW International Open and fancies South Africa's Thomas Aiken to go well at a big price.
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I wouldn't mind a pound for every time "hero" gets written in previews this week as Martin Kaymer returns to Germany for the BMW International Open in Cologne following his sensational triumph in the US Open at Pinehurst.
This is a true homecoming for two-time major champion as he grew up just 30km from the Gut Larchenhof venue and he has earned every right to soak up the adulation from his adoring public.
He is 8/1 joint-favourite with Henrik Stenson in a deep field this week and proved back in 2010 he has the temperament to string together the victories having bagged the USPGA followed by the KLM Open and then the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on consecutive starts.
I am pretty sure he was almost twice the price though on that occasion for his comeback at Hilversumsche plus he had taken a little more time off to recuperate but I still don't think that will stop him being an obvious pick for punters to smash into while he has the hot hand.
Stenson was fancied as a potential threat on the final day at Pinehurst but never really landed a blow as Kaymer cruised to the title. This is the Swede's time of year and his tremendous recent consistency suggests he is not far away from a victory.
But the player I like from the top three in the market is Sergio Garcia and I am going to put him up as a win-only bet.
Like Stenson, Garcia has delivered on just about every occasion he has played in 2014 and only a freak closing seven holes from Kevin Streelman at the Travelers Championship thwarted his opportunity to also start this tournament on the back of a victory.
I always think that it is important to try and get inside the head of Garcia and do a little bit of second-guessing as to his attitude at any given event. He began by saying at his post-round interview in Cromwell that he had played "quite well" and it was a "good week".
By the end of the discussion, he had upgraded that to a "very solid week" and with a further few days to reflect on his performance, I would be ready to speculate that Garcia is in pretty confident mood.
We know he spends the majority of his time in the USA, but I am always interested when he picks a stop-off on the European Tour as part of his schedule.
He saw off Mikko Ilonen earlier in the year in Qatar (that now looks very useful form) and with excellent results in both this event and on this course, it fits his profile of going back to a venue where he has enjoyed some level of success in the past.
He currently tops the PGA Tour's Scoring Average category (69.76) and while Kaymer and Stenson are clearly worthy rivals, their presence is likely to spur on Garcia to produce his best in what has the potential to be a memorable showdown if all three are in the mix on Sunday.
There certainly looks to be some mileage in the 100/1 about Thomas Aiken this week and I am going to give him an opportunity despite some iffy form in Germany.
Aiken generally tends to be at his best on home soil in South Africa or at each end of the season when the Tour follows the sun around the globe but he has won on continental Europe in the past having taken the Spanish Open title back in 2011.
He outlasted Oli Fisher this year after a play-off for the Africa Open and a recent top-10 at the BMW PGA Championship really caught my eye - certainly his reaction afterwards was interesting when he revealed that a slightly better week on the greens could have seen him with his hands on the trophy.
"I am excited about the rest of the year," he added and if he can reproduce what he showed at Wentworth then his three-figure quote will look pretty generous.
Four of the last nine winners of this tournament have been English and my last two picks are Chris Wood and Matthew Nixon.
The former seems to have pressed on from a blip in the spring which saw him miss four cuts on the spin with three top-10s from his last five outings.
Now is the time for him to convert that into a really big finish and even perhaps double his tally on the European Tour having won in Qatar in 2013.
He finished T3 at this course two years ago when slightly blown about with a final round 73 in testing conditions but Wood looks in good shape this time around in his bid to try and exact a measure of revenge.
Nixon is this week's wildcard selection at 250/1 having shown more than a glimmer of form at the NH Collections Open in Spain (T4) and again last week in Ireland (T14).
He got off to a good start here two years ago with rounds of 71-66 before fading somewhat over the weekend without being disgraced but did have the time to reveal that Gut Larchenhof "very much suits the way I play".
He also confirmed in April in Spain that he was playing really nicely and with good friend and former champion here Danny Willett going well at the moment, perhaps Nixon could be inspired to raise his game further still and ruffle a few feathers among the big guns.
- Posted at 1055 BST on 24/06/2014.