Andalucia Masters golf betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Ashley Chesters is just one of Ben Coley's tips for the Andalucia Masters
Ashley Chesters is just one of Ben Coley's tips for the Andalucia Masters

Ben Coley has six selections at massive prices for the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, where defending champion Sergio Garcia is a worthy favourite.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Ashley Chesters at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Ricardo Gouveia at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. David Drysdale at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Matteo Manassero at 175/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

0.5pt e.w. Raphael Jacquelin at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

0.5pt e.w. Matthew Baldwin at 300/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

Some will tell you that reaching the top 110 in the Race To Dubai and earning full playing rights for 2018 isn't all that important, that failing to reach the magic number does not equal the end of your career at this level, even in the short-term, and that people like me make too much of the scramble for cards which will again be a major part of the conversation in this week's Andalucia Masters.

Those involved in the drama, however, say otherwise. To a man, they will tell you that there's no pressure quite like that which is attached to the final regular event of the European Tour season if you're one of those on the outside looking in, or even among the small group who could be knocked from in to out should they fail to make the weekend and top up their points.

Last year, Daniel Brooks' herculean effort to finish third was surely the performance of the week, eclipsing Sergio Garcia's latest victory on home soil, and once more it's the scrap for precious points which intrigues me more than the conundrum at the head of the market: whether or not to back the favourite.

Still, we'd better try to cater for all so it's Garcia first. His record here at Valderrama, the European Tour's spiritual home, shows two wins in 13 starts. Perhaps more tellingly, those victories have come in recent years against weaker fields, although regardless of the opposition he's only once failed to make the top 10. Garcia loves this place, it's made for his game, and it will be a surprise if he's not in contention at some stage.

The home favourite was 5/1 last year and, in the absence of Jon Rahm, he'll start a little shorter for his title defence. As well he should. Not only is his record formidable, but the opposition is again weak and while backing a player at that sort of price isn't for everyone, I'll say this: he's better value than Shane Lowry at 12/1, and better value than both Lee Westwood and Soren Kjeldsen at 20/1.

Sergio Garcia is always the man to beat at Valderrama

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That trio are all winless since 2015 and make no appeal despite their obvious affection for the course, with Andrew Johnston and Padraig Harrington preferred of the market leaders - particularly the latter.

Harrington's record at the course isn't far off the standard of Garcia's, minus the wins, and of the top half a dozen in the market his recent form appears the most solid. He wasn't far off creeping into contention at Walton Heath and it's clear through a collection of top-10 finishes this autumn that the fire still burns, even with his nomination as next Ryder Cup captain expected to be confirmed in the near future.

Johnston won here on debut and did well to finish 23rd on his return some 18 months later, when grouped with Garcia and Lowry in what was just his second start after a nine-week break. The popular Englishman has played eight rounds at this iconic course and so far he's winning the battle, ending all of them inside the top 25 and six inside the top 10, so his chance appears strong.

In a nutshell, then, Garcia, Harrington and Johnston are the three men most likely and all are expected to play well, but I'm in no rush to back any of them at such a punishing golf course and will instead cast the net wider.

Ashley Chesters was among those who came here in need of something 12 months ago, and 12th place was just that - enough to secure his card thanks to the doomed Access List.

This straight-hitting Englishman remains best known for playing well in The Open as an amateur, but he's finding his feet on the European Tour now and can return to Valderrama safe in the knowledge that, at 88th in the Race To Dubai, his playing rights for next year are already secure.

While I've no doubt Chesters' effort here had something to do with his predicament, the primary factor in what was a seriously brave effort was the fact that his game is ideal for Valderrama. This is one of the tightest tracks on the circuit and Chesters, one of the best in this field at finding a fairway, is better able than most to stay out of trouble.

At 24th in greens in regulation this season (of those who've played 20 or more rounds), he's able to capitalise on his trademark accuracy from the tee and it's courses like this one which reward his style, more so than wide-open venues where he gains little or no ground on those with a more powerful, aggressive approach.

"I'm so glad it's over," he said here a year ago. "I couldn't have asked for much more from this year, really. From May onwards I've played pretty good, can't complain too much. It was probably actually worse than being in with a chance of winning because it's just not the nicest of feelings and I'm very, very pleased it's over."

Chesters' performance was all the more impressive given that he was at his best over the weekend, one of just three players in the field to break 70 in both rounds as he got to grips with the course, and I've no doubt he'll see this as an ideal place to push on and achieve another career goal.

Aaron Rai is a similar player with similar credentials, particularly if the putter warms up, but he's half the price and while the better long-term prospect, in the here and now it's Chesters who looks the better bet at around 100/1.

Next, I'll give Ricardo Gouveia the chance to atone for his exploits on Sunday last year.

Having put the Portuguese forward at a three-figure price, his progress all week was extremely pleasing as he sat inside the top seven after each of the first three rounds, demonstrating that the course is an ideal fit for his neat and tidy game.

However, Gouveia was among those fighting for their playing rights from 115th in the money list and that was clearly on his mind as he fell away to 23rd, a finishing position which hides so much of the good work he did under the most intense pressure.

A year on, and two top-10 finishes in three starts have seen him climb to 104th and a position from which he should be able to take care of business by Saturday morning, the hope being that having made the cut he can stick around and contend for his first European Tour title having won three times on the Challenge Tour.

Valderrama certainly looks a good venue for his breakthrough as he won a high-class pro-am here in 2016 at the expense of the classy Jorge Campillo, and Gouveia's long game is in better shape now than it was back in 2017.

A strong finish at Walton Heath on Sunday should have him in ideal shape and this talented 27-year-old could be the latest to confirm himself a specialist at a course which does produce its fair share, with anything upwards of 50/1 well worth taking.

Richie Ramsay is certainly in the course specialist category and he's on the outside looking in when it comes to Race To Dubai points, so the former US Amateur champion was very much on my mind for this after making the weekend at the British Masters.

However, along with Rai his course form has seen him priced up alongside players whose games are in much better shape overall and while I do believe we'll see several out-of-sorts types step up when they have to, all speculation has to be built into the odds.

With that in mind, I prefer four-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero.

The Italian is just ahead of Ramsay at 118th in the standings and fared the better of the two last week, a closing 68 enough for 22nd just down the road from his career highlight so far, victory in the BMW PGA Championship.

Returning to Spain could be seen as a positive, too, as he got off the mark in the Castello Masters and has also been second and seventh in just 13 visits to the country, with just one missed cut demonstrating that these older, often shorter continental courses play to his strengths.

Last year, Manassero entered the final round of this event in 12th only to join Gouveia in dropping down the leaderboard, which saw him just miss out on the top 110 - in turn adding weight to the argument that such failure need not mean a drop down to the Challenge Tour.

That'll be the case again whatever happens here, but there's no doubt Manassero will be keen to make up for what happened in 2017 and the course is a good one for him, having been 28th on debut as well.

In fact, in three visits he's twice ranked inside the top five for fairways and greens combined and with his putting having shown signs of encouragement lately, particularly at Walton Heath, that's enough to suggest he could go well at around the 150/1 mark.

Raphael Jacquelin is another who is close to full status at 112th and 250/1 strikes me as an extraordinarily generous price for one so obviously sweet on the layout.

In nine starts here, the Frenchman has made all nine cuts with seven top-30 finishes, a quite brilliant record for a player who has never been among the best on the circuit.

Three starts ago he finished seventh in Portugal, too, so it's not as if he's been hopeless lately and the veteran can call upon an excellent record in Spain regardless of the course, with two of his four European Tour titles earned here.

The latest of those came under the demanding conditions of El Saler at the Open de Espana and he's capable of grinding out a score at a course which rewards experience.

I am going with six this week, all to small stakes, with David Drysdale next on my list, despite last week's performance having been labelled 'shocking' by his wife and caddie, Vicky.

She's obviously in the best possible place to judge, but Drysdale did lead the field in fairways and greens so there should at least be some positives as he returns to Spain, where three of his top five career performances have been produced.

None of them were here, but Drysdale's course form of 26-28-34 certainly reads well enough and both Challenge Tour victories came on tricky courses, one in Spain and the other at El Prat, occasional home of the Open de Espana.

Drysdale has also come through Qualifying School in Spain on four occasions, including when third in 2006, and as with all of my selections is the sort of player who should be at his most effective on a tight, tree-lined course which demands accuracy.

The veteran Scot can take inspiration from the likes of Richard McEvoy and Paul Waring, both of whom finally got off the mark at this level earlier in the year, and plot his way to a place at 150/1.

Felipe Aguilar is another 40-something with half a chance. He was second back home in Chile last week having improved a little in Portugal before that, and I wouldn't be too concerned about the rigours of travel given that he's a veteran of countless Iron Man events.

A strong overall record in Spain is also in his favour and I can see him playing well, but Matthew Baldwin is preferred this time.

Four cuts made in five starts look to have come too late for the Englishman, who needs a top-two finish to survive, but he has definitely turned a corner with nine of his last 10 rounds 70 or better and 12th place in Denmark demonstrating that he's most effective on narrow, short courses.

His struggles here two years ago can be ignored - it was an abysmal, injury-plagued year in which he regularly struggled to break 80 - with focus instead on the fact that his sole Challenge Tour win came in Spain, with much of his best form elsewhere on golf courses which ask similar questions to those posed by Valderrama.

Baldwin was in a similar predicament when last holding a European Tour card and opened with a round of 64 in Portugal, where he also needed to go very close to wining to keep his card, and he can take encouragement from the way he started that event.

Indeed the first-round leader market could be the one for a player who has struggled to string four together in the past, but at 300/1 or so I'm willing to speculate that he can follow in Brooks' footsteps and produce the performance of his career.

Posted at 2025 BST on 15/10/18.

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