GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Celtic Classic this week.
The English Swing continues onto Wales this week for a double-header at the absolutely gorgeous Celtic Manor Twenty Ten course. This week's test measures 7,354 yards as a par 71 and has been on the circuit before, hosting the Wales Open between 2008 and 2014. It also played host to the 2010 Ryder Cup.
It should be a much sterner test than the recent birdie fests we've been watching lately. This course is a long, flat and exposed deck with water on several holes whilst others bring a very linksy feel. Perhaps it is an all-round test but I'm going to prioritise solid ball-strikers who have a decent short game. There are five par-3s, so that's also something to consider.
Le Golf National is an apt comparison with multiple players winning across both venues. They all have a recurring theme that's in line in what's I've just mentioned above – just take Alex Noren and Graeme McDowell as your examples alongside players like Joost Luiten, Bernd Wiesberger and Nicolas Colsaerts. All very strong iron players.
Alexander Bjork (40/1 Coral) returns to action for the first time since landing us decent place money at the Hero Open and he could well follow that up with a win here this weekend.
Much of the reasons then count now and despite being half the price this time, it's fully justified. He's had two top-10s at LGN, including a third, and he played the track beautifully. He's a perfect fit this week.
I simply can't ignore Brandon Stone (50/1 William Hill) after his display at Arden Forest. No one was beating Andy Sullivan who romped to a humongous victory, but the South African's showing gave us a hint at him being back to his best.
This field is rather weak overall yet Stone has won three times on the ET in 134 appearances, which is very, very good going. He's a supreme ball-striker who has contended at LGN. He's won in Scotland too so maybe the conditions can correlate there. If he's on his game, then he's a perfect fit for Celtic Manor.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson (60/1 SkyBet) is worth a chance having shown glimpses of being back to his best in his past two outings. Those being back-to-back top 15 finishes.
Donaldson is a Ryder Cup winner and former world top-25 player who has had trouble in recent years with injuries but there are signs those are well behind him now. He's got a phenomenal short game, which bodes well for this week and his previous experiences around here as well as in France provides further encouragement that he could contend once more.
I like Connor Syme's (80/1 William Hill) chances this week. The strongest aspect of his game is his iron play where he ranks 5th on tour for GIR and he can be trusted to putt consistently, which is going to be a bonus come Sunday, I'm sure.
Celtic Manor could be the place where he puts it all together having gone close a few times now. Last week's T19 gives us extra reason to back him at these odds, especially as he opened the week with a lowly 65.
My favourite longshot this week is Joel Sjoholm at a whopping (200/1 Betfair). The Swede has been quite underrated this season because he only has a second at the Alfred Dunhill to show for it. Last week he missed the cut despite ranking ninth for SG: Approach.
He's played this track before a long time ago, twice in fact, and both times he's snagged a top ten. He can score on par-3s and has a very good short game, it just needs to all come together. Maybe it can at a place he's gone well at before. 200/1 is very big.