Spanish Open betting preview and tips by Ben Coley

Last Updated April 11 2018, 21:29Golf
Sam Horsfield celebrates
Sam Horsfield celebrates

Ben Coley has five fancies for the Open de Espana, headed by top young talent Sam Horsfield.

Recommended bets

2pts e.w. Sam Horsfield at 60/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

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

1pt e.w. Lorenzo Gagli at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Nacho Elvira at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Matthias Schwab at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record


The Open de Espana makes its return to the European Tour after being left off the schedule in 2017, which means Andrew Johnston defends the title he won at Valderrama two years ago.

While Valderrama is a tight, twisting golf course considered by many to be the spiritual home of the European Tour, the event now switches to the capital and Centro Nacional de Golf and you don't need to be a great linguist to work out what that means.

As such, Jon Rahm's name at the top of the entry list stands out. Rahm is a class above each and every member of this field and he honed his skills at the national centre for two years before heading to study in Arizona. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rahm has won in the desert, on the links and by the sea, and there's no reason this undulating, exposed golf course won't play to his strengths. While his familiarity with the venue might not really count for all that much, his latent ability certainly does and he'll win this doing handsprings if in the form he showed at Augusta last week.

Crucially, Rahm left the Masters delighted to have had his first taste of contention at the very highest level, rather than frustrated - as he appeared to be on the course - at an opportunity missed. Ultimately he was never quite near enough to feel like this one slipped through his fingers and he's hard to oppose here, even at 4/1.

That being said, this is the shortest price he's ever been sent off and by some distance and it leaves no room for doubt. If Rahm is tired, or simply has one bad day in four, that could be that and I'm almost always happy to let any player in any field pass at the price.

Working out what type of player will be suited to the course isn't easy, but the two winners here - Charl Schwartzel in 2007, Ross McGowan in 2009 - are both fine ball-strikers who showed as much during their victories, each ranking second for greens in regulation.

McGowan shot a brilliant round of 60 on his way to a 25-under-par total in October, whereas Schwartzel's spring victory came in a more modest 16-under, but on both occasions, greens were much easier to hit than is usually the case. Schwartzel's renewal of this event was hit hard by rain, while McGowan's success in the Madrid Masters saw fourth-placed Alex Noren hit a remarkable 67 of 72 greens for the week.

This is basically decade-old form and a small sample size, too, but it does help make the case for a player I think is massively overpriced - Sam Horsfield.

Here we have potentially the biggest talent in the field other than Rahm, one who is in the early stages of his professional career but, already, has contended for titles. Horsfield has been fourth in the World Super 6 and second in the Tshwane Open, pushing the favourite all the way in the latter, and can do the same here.

While those two efforts are encouraging, Horsfield's 14th place in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last time is one of the strongest lines of form in the event. He finished alongside Rickie Fowler and just ahead of Jason Day in an event won by Rory McIlroy, and he did so thanks to a world-class display of ball-striking.

Having led the all-around in each of those top-five finishes on the European Tour, Horsfield has produced three displays this year which would make him a massive factor here. Alongside them have been some decidedly less impressive ones and therein lies the risk, because a 21-year-old rookie can't be expected to offer consistency.

What Horsfield does offer is the ability to win at this level very soon and his unbridled potential is worth siding with now back in Spain, scene of his runaway eight-shot victory at Qualifying School last year - a fine achievement in an event which tends to go with players of far greater experience.

Throw in the fact that this will be his first start since mentor Ian Poulter won in Houston, and there's a lot to like about Horsfield, the standout bet in this event by a mile.

Sam Horsfield is three shots ahead with a round to go
Sam Horsfield on his way to Q School success

Given the unknowns attached to the course, which most in the field have not played competitively, I want to take a speculative approach, largely based on potential, so Marcus Kinhult is next on the list.

This young Swede enjoyed a brilliant amateur career, during which he contended for the Nordea Masters when standing shoulder-to-shoulder with professionals, and he's gradually beginning to showcase his talents at this level after equipment and fitness issues stunted his progress.

Already this year, he's contended for the Qatar Masters when finishing third, a performance which came on the back of finishes of 12th and 16th, and I find it fairly easy to forgive a couple of subsequent missed cuts - particularly the latter, which came on a crazy golf course in India.

While the European Tour's pre-Masters break could be a negative for the likes of Pablo Larrazabal, who was at the top of his game before it, for Kinhult it should have provided an opportunity to take stock with the brunt of the hard work done in terms of keeping hold of his card for 2019.

The next goal is to win, and Spain is a fine place to complete the mission given that he bagged top-six finishes in all four visits to the country last year, including in Madrid, with a combined scoring average of 68.

Kinhult is another who has come through Qualifying School, in his case at PGA Catalunya, and if he's back in the form he showed in January and February then I see no reason he can't get right in the mix at 100/1.

Going back to that break, it provided Lorenzo Gagli with the opportunity to drop down to Challenge Tour level for the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open, and what a decision that was as he secured his first notable victory.

Gagli carded four sub-70 rounds at Muthaiga, one of just two players in the field to do so at a devilishly difficult course, and led the field in bogey avoidance on his way to a play-off success.

Obviously, this rates a step back up in class but there's encouragement to be found in his previous European Tour efforts, as he led the field in greens hit in Qatar and ranked seventh in the same category in South Africa, producing the sort of quality ball-striking which then helped deliver a breakout performance in Kenya.

Combine that with the fact that Gagli's best European Tour performance came when he finished runner-up in the Madrid Masters, and that his last visit to Spain resulted in another top-five finish in Madrid, and there's plenty to like.

Gagli is on offer at 150/1 with a number of firms and that looks too big, as does the 125/1 offered about his good friend Nacho Elvira.

This 31-year-old hasn't been in the best of form so far in 2018, but as with Kinhult, the break might've helped and prior to it, he at least arrested a run of missed cuts with a pair of top-40 finishes.

At his best, Elvira is a big-hitting talent who finds a lot of greens and it's that which makes him interesting on home soil, especially as he was cheered on by friends and family when securing his second Challenge Tour victory here in Madrid a couple of years ago.

Three of his four wins at that level came under exceptionally low-scoring conditions, which I expect to see again this week, and unlike some of his compatriots the former Texas A&M man has shown an ability to perform under the unique pressure of a home game.

Adrian Otaegui is the other home hope worth considering at 66/1, as he was in good form (12-10) when last seen, striking the ball particularly well, and looks to be closing in on a first stroke play success having landed the Paul Lawrie Match Play last summer.

Angel Hidalgo Portillo is one to watch for the future, Sweden's Jens Dantorp looks a solid top-20 option and Thomas Aiken is interesting for a number of reasons including the success of South Africans in Spain, but my final selection is Matthias Schwab.

As with Horsfield and Kinhult, Schwab is an enormous talent who is delivering in the here and now, producing a ball-striking masterclass for his first European Tour top-10 in India before adding fourth place in Kenya.

He led the field in greens hit in the former and given how strong a pointer the long-game has been at this course, he's too tempting to ignore at a general 150/1. In time, he'll prove more than capable of winning events like this and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we saw evidence of that as early as Sunday.

Posted at 1020 BST on 10/04/18.

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