The European Tour visits the 2023 Ryder Cup venue this week for the Italian Open and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...
"He’s in a fine run of form at the moment, landing tied sixth at the Hero Open and tied fourth last week in the European Masters."
Main Bet: Matthew Jordan 1pt each-way @ 70/1
This week's visit to the host of the 2023 Ryder Cup - Marco Simone GC in Rome - prompts rather fond memories of a peculiar trip for yours truly.
Back in May 2016, the Italian Golf Federation invited me to the Challenge Tour's Montecchia Open to learn more about the preparations and the set-up for the then-distant clash.
As a celebration of the Italian way of life, it was an undoubted triumph.
I kicked off with 24 hours in Venice, was wined and dined to excess, felt consistently under-dressed among a host of astoundingly glamorous people, and chatted merrily to Giacomo Crosa, an Italian sporting legend who regaled me with stories about competing in the 1968 Olympic high jump (specifically his bewilderment when his old friend Dick Fosbury "jumped like something we had never seen, he was remarkable, we have no clue he do this thing, he fool us all, it was magnificent!").
But as a reconnaissance mission it was downright disastrous, as my every attempt to discover anything about arrangements for the big match were somewhat akin to fishing for sardines with bare hands covered in butter.
As the trip neared its end, I was increasingly aware that I would need to write something to justify the lavish hospitality and yet my pursuit of information continued to be rebuffed with repeated wafts of many elegant hands.
A chat in the afternoon became one at dinner, then after dinner, then in the bar, then in the morning, then at lunch, then after lunch, and so on.
"I need something to write about," I cried to the lady organising the shindig, with more than a hint of desperation. She smiled gloriously, shrugged insouciantly, and whispered throatily: "You need to live la dolce vita!"
All of which is an extremely long-winded way of saying that I am not only intrigued to see what progress has been made in the last five years, I am downright fascinated. Because a third of me wonders if that Bacchanalian feast has ever actually ended, another third suspects The Belfry is on speed dial, and the final third of me really wants my Anglo-Saxon circumspection to be brushed aside by the revelation that the Italians found a way to get the job done in spectacular fashion (as well as having a good time in the process).
What do we know of the track? It's a modern design, sweeping across the hills outside Rome, boasting views of the dome of St Peter's Basilica.
Back in 1994 it hosted the Italian Open, won by Eduardo Romero, but the Jim Fazio-David Mezzacane original design has been transformed in order to accommodate the Ryder Cup.
The team behind those changes is European Golf Design who completed the most recent renovation of Wentworth's West Course - the one that has calmed the criticism after the meddling that preceded it.
They have also re-designed Le Golf National, Green Eagles, Crans, The London GC, Forest of Arden and Royal Lytham among others so they have quite a track record, but I'm not sure it helps us much.
(Note: their original designs would be another matter entirely - Paul Casey has an absurdly good record on them.)
First selection is England's Matthew Jordan.
The 25-year-old who plays out of Royal Liverpool should have really good vibes returning to Italy, scene of his first win at professional level in the 2019 Italian Challenge Open.
He's in a fine run of form at the moment, landing tied sixth at the Hero Open and tied fourth last week in the European Masters.
All of this comes after he laced together three consecutive top 20s in late June and early July, and he also made the cut in the Cazoo Classic in-between those recent top 10s.
Dig deeper and his stats are good: top 20 for Strokes Gaines Tee to Green in his last three starts, top 21 for all three in Approach, top 20 for Tee to Green. He also putted nicely enough in the Hero Open and also in the Irish Open.
He's coming to terms with the task of contending at this level, three back after 54 holes at the Hero Open, one back last week: big learning experiences and he can kick on this week.
Next Best: Alex Levy 1pt each-way @ 80/1
The last time Alex Levy made seven cuts in a row he was fancied as an outsider to make the European Ryder Cup squad on his home soil in Paris three years ago.
Alas, the fact that he was asked so many questions about it seemed to faze him and it didn't help that he changed his swing and started work on his putting.
So many alterations and so many hopes - all dashed.
This time around he has no hope of getting picked by Captain Harrington, but it's nice to see some reliability in his game and I'm not sure it's been fully appreciated by the books yet.
That run started with him just making the weekend, then he threw in good scores, he sniffed around the top 10, pounced for a tied second at the London GC in the Cazoo Classic, and was only four back with 18 holes to play last week in Crans.
For a man who had missed five cuts in seven starts there (and finished outside the top 50 another time) that was a very decent effort.
He's putted well the last two weeks and his SG Approach numbers are getting better.
Final bet: Jorge Campillo 0.5pt each-way @ 125/1
A final small punt on Spain's Jorge Campillo who, like Levy, outperformed his previous efforts up in the Alps.
And, once again, it was a remarkable improvement.
In Campillo's seven previous starts he'd missed five cuts and never made a top 40 - then last Saturday night he was tied third.
He closed with a 75 for T32nd, but he was T21st in his previous start at the Cazoo Classic and it's only a few weeks since he was tied third at the BMW International Open.
Sunday's round has granted us extra value with him. If he can get into contention in Crans, Campillo can perform well again on a less fiddly course that will suit him better.
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts
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