While all eyes might be on the likes of defending champion Alex Noren, rejuvenated Scot Paul Lawrie and Ryder Cup Captains past and present in Colin Montgomerie and José María Olazábal ahead of the ISPS Handa Wales Open, europeantour.com takes a look at five other contenders to keep an eye out for this week at The Celtic Manor Resort.
After being restricted to just ten European Tour appearances between 2010-2011 because of a longstanding back injury, South Africa’s Richard Sterne looks to be rediscovering some of the form that has yielded five European Tour victories – the last of which was a double-header on home soil at the 2009 South African Open Championship and the following week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship. A former winner of the Wales Open at Celtic Manor in 2007 – albeit on the Roman Road course as The Twenty Ten was being revamped – Sterne already has two top ten finishes this year, most notably last week in the form of a sixth place finish in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, so he will be coming to Celtic Manor with plenty of confidence.
Another South African coming into the week in a wholly positive frame of mind is 25 year old George Coetzee. The World Number 69 has made four top seven finishes in 11 starts in 2012, while a joint best of the day six under par 66 on Sunday at Wentworth propelled him into a tie for 21st in the BMW PGA Championship. Also had the timely boost of gaining one of 11 places on offer for the US Open Championship in the International Sectional Qualifying at Walton Heath on Monday after shooting rounds of 66 and 71, so his game looks to be in good shape. Finished 26th in The 2011 Race to Dubai in a season littered with near misses (second in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles plus four other third place finishes) so the Pretorian looks likely to break his European Tour duck at some point and it could well be this week on The Twenty Ten Course.
Probably one of the most consistent performers on The European Tour. As well as having won his third European Tour title at the Reale Seguros Open de España earlier this month, Francesco Molinari has only finished outside the top 20 once in ten events in 2012, amassing four top ten finishes overall. In his last three appearances he has finished tied sixth, first and tied seventh, in last week’s BMW PGA Championship, while he has plenty of good vibes to feed off this week at Celtic Manor, the scene of the dramatic Ryder Cup victory in 2010, in which he and his elder brother Edoardo featured prominently for Europe.
A tied second place finish at last year’s Wales Open, two shots shy of winner Alex Noren, was one of five top three finishes for Anders Hansen last season as the Dane finished the season as the highest ranked player in The 2011 Race to Dubai not to have registered a win. While not having been quite as consistent in 2012 – at least not to the same remarkable level as last year – Hansen has still placed in the top 30 in six of his eight appearances so far so will be on the hunt for a fourth European Tour victory, and a first for three years, this week in Wales.
Another man having a sterling season on The European Tour, Germany’s Marcel Siem has placed in the top 12 in five of his ten appearances so far this season, including narrowly missing out on the Avantha Masters title in India, where he finished tied second, two shots behind winner Jbe Kruger the week after finishing fourth in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Currently 16th in this year’s Race to Dubai, Siem finished in a tie for seventh in last week’s BMW PGA Championship, helped in part by his first career hole-in-one on the second in the final round on the West Course at Wentworth. Could this be the week he finds his second European Tour title, and his first in eight years?