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The sixth UK-hosted event of the DP World Tour season starts in Wales on Thursday, with footballing star Gareth Bale acting as tournament promoter. It remains to be seen how much time the American-based player actually spends at Celtic Manor, given his Los Angeles FC team are in action in the early hours of Thursday and Sunday, but Welsh golf fans should be out in force nonetheless.
British Masters champion Thorbjorn Olesen is teeing up, but Jordan Smith is either market leader or joint-favourite with every bookmaker. Smith is having a consistent year, posting eight top-20s and missing only one cut, but he is winless for more than five years and difficult to trust in contention.
Steve Palmer’s top tip
Callum Shinkwin 20-1
Strong drivers should dominate at Celtic Manor this week – this long, open, parkland track lends itself to players who can bully their ball off the tee – and Hertfordshire powerhouse Callum Shinkwin can approach the assignment with confidence.
Shinkwin has played in a DP World Tour event at this week’s venue three times and his results have been 11th, eighth and fourth. For two of those tournaments, he turned up in terrible form, yet still managed to get his name on the Celtic Manor leaderboard.
This time, the 29-year-old has arrived in great nick, with some bright recent performances behind him. He was 16th in the British Masters in May, 24th in the Irish Open a month ago, then 16th in the Cazoo Classic and seventh in the Hero Open on Sunday.
Shinkwin’s game is clearly in good order and a bold bid for a second DP World Tour title can be expected on Sunday. The former junior boxer won the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open in 2020, defeating Kalle Samooja with a birdie at the first playoff hole. Shinkwin was a playoff loser in the 2017 Scottish Open and has a great record in UK events.
Next best bet
Thomas Detry 18-1
The DP World Tour staged a one-off Celtic Classic on the Twenty Ten Course in 2020 and it almost went the way of Thomas Detry. The Belgian finished runner-up – a position he has filled five times on the DP World Tour.
Three of those second places have come in the UK and Detry, who lived in Cornwall for much of 2020, will be looking forward to his Celtic Manor return. His one Challenge Tour victory came in England – a 12-shot triumph in the 2016 Bridgestone Challenge – then he won the World Cup for Belgium in 2018.
In this week’s low-grade event at a layout which suits, Detry’s moment may finally have come with a 30th birthday looming in January. He was 15th in the BMW International at the end of June, then tenth in a high-class Scottish Open, before signing off with an eagle for 34th place in the Open at St Andrews.
Richard Mansell 40-1
Matti Schmid 33-1
Richard Mansell is one of the best drivers in the business and Celtic Manor is a great fit. The Staffordshire man hit his stride in the middle of this year, finishing eighth in the British Masters, ninth in the Dutch Open, third in the European Open, before coming through an Open Championship qualifier.
Mansell missed the cut on the mark in the Hero Open last week, but that was a useful weekend breather, freshening the maiden up for a course which suits him better. This flusher was 32nd on his Celtic Manor debut last year and can improve significantly on that this week.
Complete a four-pronged attack with Matti Schmid, who led the Barbasol Championship in the final round last month, before finishing eighth. A maiden PGA Tour title proved beyond the German at this stage of his career, but a DP World Tour breakthrough seems within his compass this week.
Schmid is a formidable ball-striker and he made his professional debut at Celtic Manor last year. A tie for 47th after a first-round 73 was a decent effort and he has risen more than 600 places in the world rankings since. The former amateur star seems a huge threat in this low grade.
Players to note
Hurly Long The German has form figures of 4-7-14 and carded a pair of 68s over the weekend at the Hero Open. A dangerous maiden.
Niklas Norgaard Moller The power-packed Dane should fall in love with Celtic Manor on his course debut and he has been lively this summer.
Celtic Manor course guide
Course Twenty Ten Course, Celtic Manor Resort, City of Newport, Wales Prize money €1.75m (€297,500 to the winner) Length 7,503 yards Par 71 – four par-fives; nine par-fours; five par-threes Field 144 The cut Top 65 and ties qualify for round three Highest-ranked players taking part (world ranking in brackets) Oliver Bekker (102), Jordan Smith (116), Marcus Helligkilde (137), Thorbjorn Olesen (150), Thomas Detry (152) Course records– 72 holes 262 Scott Strange (2008) 18 holes 62 Rhys Davies (2010)
Course winners taking part Gregory Bourdy, Nacho Elvira
When to bet By 8.10am on Thursday
When to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf red button from 2.30pm on Thursday
Last week – Hero Open 1 S Crocker (60-1), 2 E Pepperell (60-1), T3 D Law (45-1), A Otaegui (22-1), T5 J Dantorp (40-1), O Hundeboll (160-1), T7 S Kjeldsen (400-1), W Nienaber (66-1), C Shinkwin (33-1)
Course type Parkland
Course overview The Twenty Ten Course, named after hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup, opened in 2008. The Wales Open was staged on the track in the summer from 2008 to 2014, then from 2020 onwards, as well as the one-off 2020 Celtic Classic. This is a long, exposed layout with four par-fives, the first of which is a 610-yard beast (the second hole), and three of the five par-threes are around the 210-yard mark. Lakes run through the course and any wind can make this a serious test. Wide fairways encourage the big hitters to let loose, but six under par was enough for Thongchai Jaidee to triumph in the tough conditions of 2012
Story of last year Nacho Elvira claimed a maiden DP World Tour title after Justin Harding bogeyed the first extra hole of their playoff
Weather forecast Sunny and pleasant, with highs of 22C, and light to moderate breezes
Type of player suited to the challenge The open, rolling terrain of Celtic Manor can be daunting for players who lack distance off the tee. Sluggers carrying hot putters should go low under largely windless skies on this exposed resort track
Key attribute Power
Spotlight insight Two of the last four events at Celtic Manor have been won by a Frenchman
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