Veerman can breakthrough with birdies


Main Bet: Johannes Veerman each-way @ 50/1

My memories are a little fuzzy, but I have actually played this week’s host course, Golf Costa Adeje, invited there by a bunch of ex-pats following the LET’s Tenerife Open back in 2011.

For the most part I recall a classic resort course that was wide from tee, but wild shots could be gobbled up by plantlife and ravines.

The most memorable section is from the second hole to the turn, a stretch that drops toward the ocean and then climbs back up again. These holes have to negotiate tricky pieces of land and the slightly funky nature of them might irritate a few players.

One of them is the par-4 fourth hole which plays a little like hitting a ball down an enormous staircase. That unusual feature is not immediately obvious from the tee, but it definitely is when you peer back from the green at the multiple terraces of fairway held up by old walls.

The card features a dizzy array of six par 3-s (only one of them above 189-yards in distance) and five par-5s, so, as last week, low scores should be expected.

“Should be expected” might be the understatement of the year – the course has hosted the European Tour just once before back in 2003 and the records tumbled: most first round scores under-par, most players under-par at the cut, lowest 36-hole cut. Mikko Ilonen alone made four eagles in just one circuit.

There was a six-way 54-hole lead that year and following the stories of those involved would make a great book: journeyman Soren Hansen, the unfulfilled Pablo Martin, Simon Khan (who enjoyed triupmh at Wentworth then endured the agony of injury), the ultimate funky island course specialist Santiago Luna, Ryder Cup star Paul Casey, and eventual winner (and unlikely one-time US Open contender) Kenneth Ferrie.

Gleaning much in the way of clues from those names ahead this week is, however, rather less straightforward.

I’ll stick to a strategy similar to last week (not least because it worked with Garrick Higgo): proven at island/resort golf and also favouring the unusual set-up of holes.

First up is Johannes Veerman, the 28-year-old American with a Dutch father who lived in England, the Philippines, Thailand, China and Malaysia, before studying medicine in the States.

Quite apart from his fantastically cosmopolitan background, Veerman has the two big factors in his favour.

First of all, in this field, no-one averages lower than he does on the par-5s over the last 12 months and he also ranks 10th for the par-3s.

What about going low on resort courses on islands? Well, Veerman didn’t win last autumn’s Cyprus Showdown, but his 262 total was bettered by nobody and only one winner in the last 50 on the European Tour has gone lower than that – Higgo last week.

Towards the end of last year he also finished eighth at the Dom Pedro Resort in the Portugal Masters and his time on the Asian Tour reinforces his ability to keep the pedal to the metal, twice finishing second in Thailand with totals of 260 and 263.

He missed the cut last week, but he hated the front nine par-4s and, even when performing badly, he played the six par-5s in 4-under.

It’s only three starts since he thrashed a third round 62 in Kenya and I also like that he ranks high for birdies in this field – he’ll need them.

Next Best: John Catlin each-way @ 40/1

I’m reminded this week of the way a trio of players won last year following a pattern of good week-okay week-prices drifts and they win again week.

It happened with Andy Sullivan (T4th-T41st-win at 20/1), Sam Horsfield (win-MC-win at 25/1) and John Catlin (win-T8th-win at 40/1).

Can Catlin really crop up that way yet again?! I think he has it in him.

He ranks seventh in the field for par-3s and also 15th for the par-5s.

He’s also a superb scrambler and it wouldn’t surprise me if saving par is sneaky important this week – there will be an absolute avalanche of birdies and eagles, no doubt, but the quirkiness of the course will at times force players into safety and he’s as solid as they come.

What about going low? Well, he’s even done that when he’s really needed to: a 65 to win on the Asian Tour, a 64 to win the Irish Open, a 65 two weeks ago to clinch the Austrian Open.

There’s something quite awkward-looking about Catlin’s swing and also unassuming about his demeanour.

It reminds me of Moneyball: I can imagine the old-timers hating his action and instead cooing over someone prettier.

I’m happy to go with the man who keeps recording Ws.

Connor Syme swinging.jpg

Final Bet: Connor Syme each-way @ 45/1

I’m rather surprised by the response to Connor Syme‘s effort last week.

In the first instance, he blasted middle rounds of 61-62, a magnificent spell of sustained par-breaking.

And in the second, I’m not sure his final round 68 was all that bad.

There was bound to be a certain amount of regression to mean going on after that 36-hole blitz and given that pressure he played pretty nicely. Indeed, he was bang in the hunt after making three consecutive birdies to start the back nine.

True, he made an absolute mess of the par-4 14th, scratching a quadruple bogey-8, but he didn’t entirely fall apart and can only be wiser for the experience.

Since the start of the 2020 season he’s made 28 starts, landed 12 top 25s, eight of them top 10s and I like that last week was a fourth time he’s headed into the final lap bang in-contention and, that one hole aside, it was easily his best effort. He’s learning.

It was also a second top five in three starts and he’s another with good par-5 and birdie stats.