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Nic Ladds 2nd Jun 2009 - 8:02

Raphael to the manor born

Titanic hitting Ross Fisher has been handed the 12/1 favourites tag for this week's Celtic Manor Wales Open that gets underway on Thursday.

The Wentworth man has enjoyed a quality season so far banking well over a million euros and his 10th place finish here last year certainly hints at a strong showing.

This will be the second time the Twenty Ten course - venue for the forthcoming 2010 Ryder Cup - has been used for this event.

Australian Scott Strange 50/1 won the inaugural running on this long 7,378 yard, par 71 track that if last year's results are anything to go by clearly suits quality ball strikers.

If we drill down into last year's tournament stats we see that three of the top four finishers were actually rated very highly in the greens-in-regulation stats (GIR) - always a sound guide as to how well a player is hitting it.

Francesco Molinari 25/1 was the top GIR player (finished 4th overall), with Robert Karlsson non-runner 3rd GIR (finished 2nd overall) and Raphael Jacquelin 40/1 2nd GIR (3rd overall).

So let's keep that in mind when trying to root out this week's victor.

Frenchman Jacquelin clearly feels comfortable on a course that suits his attacking style and his second place finish in Italy in May hinted that he could be back in line for his first win since the 2007 BMW Asian Open in Shanghai.

Two Frenchmen, Thomas Levet and Christian Cevaer 80/1 have already won in 2009. Jacquelin is good enough to bring up the hat-trick. Take Jacquelin´s 40/1 and I wouldn't put you off his 17/5 for a top 10 finish either.

Given that this course hosts the 2010 Ryder Cup the sponsors must be bitterly disappointed over the lack of prominent players that will no doubt form the bedrock of the European team. No Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey or Henrik Stenson to name but three.

They surely have preparations for the US Open Championship at Bethpage Park later this month on their minds.

But every cloud has a silver lining and while the big cats are away it opens the door for some of the lesser lights at handsome prices.

It won't be long before Spain's Pablo Larrazabal 66/1 follows up from his debut European Tour win in France last year. He finished a tidy 15th here in 2008 and is another attacking type that will relish this test.

He's made his last five cuts without really catching the eye but could really do some damage if he gets into the mix with the big guns playing in the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

The final selection goes with 33/1 Thomas Bjorn. The Dane has hinted at a return to former glories this season with 6th and 3rd in Spain and Italy respectively.

Significantly he was 6th in GIR here last year and if he can just get that putter to warm up it would be no surprise to see this former Ryder Cupper make some noise at the top of the leader board.

William Hill will be betting in-play throught the four days.

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