For the first time since November, the European Tour returns to it's home continent for the Austrian Golf Open and Steve's here with the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start...
"From a course correlation perspective, the Dutch, which hosted the KLM Open between 2016 and 2018, looks like a very obvious link. In just three renewals, four Diamond Course winners have finished first or second at the Dutch."
The Austrian Golf Open was first staged in 1990 when Bernhard Langer beat Lanny Wadkins in a playoff but after just seven editions the tournament was relegated to the Challenge Tour. The event was flagging, and it wasn't even played in 2000 but then along came Austrian golfing legend, Markus Brier, whose popularity revitalised the tournament.
Brier won the event twice, in 2002 and 2004, and it was elevated back up to the European Tour in 2006 when Brier managed to win it for a third and final time.
Staged at the Diamond Country Club since 2010, the event saw its name changed to the Lyoness Open in 2012 when another Austrian, Bernd Wiesberger, took the title and the format and name changed again in 2018 when Finland's Mikko Korhonen won the speeded up version, called the Shot Clock Masters.
The field was decidedly weak under the new format and the event fell off the schedule altogether in 2019 but it returned last July to restart the European Tour after a hiatus of more than four months due to the pandemic.
There was no TV coverage, and it was co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour last year but the field was still fairly strong and the experienced Marc Warren took the title.
This the earliest in the year that the tournament has been staged so conditions will be quite different to those experienced at the last renewal.
Diamond Golf Course, Atzenbrugg, Austria
Par 72 - 7,458 yards
Stroke Index in 2020 - 72.42
The Jeremy Pern designed Diamond Course opened in 2002.
The fairways are fairly flat and quite exposed, and the small greens usually run at around 11.5. Water is in-play on nine of the 18 holes.
This will be the 11th time that the Diamond Course has hosted the event. Prior to the 2014 renewal the course was lengthened and the two nines were switched.
The course opens very gently with a short par five, which ranked as the easiest hole on the course in July - averaging just 4.61. That's followed by a 200 yard plus par three to an island green, a straightforward par four, and the fourth is another scorable par five which averaged 4.71 last year.
Assuming the set-up hasn't changed, the middle section is tough, with the hardest five holes all encountered between holes eight and 14. Holes eight, nine and 11 were the three hardest on the track last year.
Once through the tricky par three 14th, the field face back-to-back par fives at 15 and 16, offering up a chance to score and the par three finishing hole is fairly straightforward.
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Price
2020 - Marc Warren -13 110.0109/1
2018 - Mikko Korhonen -16 23.022/1
2017 - Dylan Frittelli -12 46.045/1
2016 - Ashun Wu -13 200.0199/1
2015 - Chris Wood -15 15.014/1
2014 - Mikael Lundberg -12 (playoff) 400.0399/1
What Will it Take to Win the Austrian Open?
Unfortunately, but understandably, other than the scoring data, there were no stats produced at last year's renewals so we no look a bit further back for clues...
Bernd Wiesberger hit the ball further than anyone else off the tee when he won here in 2012 but hitting it miles off the tee is certainly not crucial. The 2018 winner, Korhonen, ranked 16th for Driving Distance, the 2017 winner, Dylan Frittelli, ranked 13th and the 2016 winner, Ashun Wu, ranked a respectable 19th but the two winners before him ranked only 61st and 51st for DD. The average DD ranking of the nine course winners before Warren is 26.3 whereas the average Driving Accuracy ranking is 15.3.
Korhonen ranked third for DA three years ago and no winner has ranked any worse than 24th so accuracy appears of more importance than power off the tee.
The 2014 winner, Mikael Lundberg, ranked 20th for Greens In Regulation and that's the worst any winner has ranked for that stat. Korhonen ranked fourth and he was the sixth winner, in just nine editions, to rank inside the top-eight for GIR so that's a key stat.
Joost Luiten only ranked 31st for Scrambling but none of the other winners have ranked any worse than 11th. Korhonen scrambled better than anyone else in 2018, Frittelli ranked third in 2017 and the first four home in 2016 ranked sixth, second, fourth and fifth for Scrambling so hitting plenty of greens and getting it up-and-down when you do miss one is the key to success around here. Although a good performance with the putter always helps and five of the first nine winners have had a Putting Average ranking of sixth or better. Korhonen only ranked 27th three years ago.
This is a tough enough course that tests every part of a player's game and the best indicator is probably Par 4 Scoring given the top ranked player on the par fours has placed in nine of the ten renewals. The odd man out is Felix Mory who finished tied for 18th last year.
Is There an Angle In?
From a course correlation perspective, the Dutch, which hosted the KLM Open between 2016 and 2018, looks like a very obvious link. In just three renewals, four Diamond Course winners have finished first or second at the Dutch.
The 2013 winner here, Joost Luiten, won at the Dutch in 2016, beating the 2014 Austrian Open winner, Bernd Wiesberger, and the 2016 winner here, Ashun Wu, beat the 2017 winner, Chris Wood, at the Dutch in 2018.
Matt Cooper has also highlighted possible correlations between the Diamon Club and Paris National and two courses in China - Topwin and Genzon - in his each-way column here.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Marc Warren, the winner last year, and the first seven winners of this event at this venue had all previously won at least once on the European Tour but the two winners before Warren were winning for the first time. It may pay to stick to the more experienced players and steer clear of the maidens though. Dylan Frittelli has since gone on to win on the PGA Tour and Korhonen has also won again since - at the Volvo China Open in 2019.
Odds wise, Warren was matched at high of 160.0159/1 before the off, the 2016 winner, Ashun Wu, was matched at a high 220.0219/1 and the 2014 winner, Mikel Lundberg, was matched at in excess of 500.0499/1 so I wouldn't put anyone off a rank outsider.
Despite looking for his first success at the age of 37, Korhonen was a 22/1 shot, Chris Wood was a well-backed 14/1 second-favourite in-between those two long-shots and the other six course winner's SPs ranged between around 25/1 and 66/1.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 - Marc Warren - tied for the lead 5.95/1
2018 - Mikko Korhonen led by five strokes 1.42/5
2017 - Dylan Frittelli trailed by two strokes 6.411/2
2016 - Ashun Wu trailed by a stroke 7.26/1
2015 - Chris Wood -15 trailed by five 11.521/2
2014 - Mikael Lundberg -12 (playoff) trailed by six 160.0159/1
Warren was always on the premises, tied for second after rounds one and two and tied for the lead with a round to go and as you'll see above, Korhonen was five clear with a round to go. The two winners before Kohonen were within two strokes of the lead after 54 holes but we've seen winners come from four, five and even six strokes adrift with a round to go and Korhonen was only the second third round leader to convert here. Joost Luiten, in 2013, was three shots clear with a round to go but it's a tough place to lead.
Prior to Korhonen's facile success in 2018, three men traded at odds-on in round four in each of the previous four editions, so it's been a great place to lay the contenders on Sunday.
If you trading in-running, do bear in mind the easy start, the tough stretch of holes in the middle and the back-to-back par fives detailed above.
Despite still being in search of his first European Tour win, and despite playing poorly almost every time he gets a chance to do so, Belgium's Thomas Detry heads the market yet again.
He's a fantastic talent and he may well fall over the line sooner rather than later but he's a short enough price and the same can be said of the second favourite, Austria's Matthias Schwab. Like Detry, Schwab is also yet to win and he's been as equally unimpressive when in-contention too.
Having missed the cut on debut in 2017, Dertry was eighth here in July so he has far less course experience than Schwab who's playing here for the seventh time having produced form figures reading 32-45-MC-14-43-12. His 32nd placed finish ten years ago is arguably his best performance given he was a 16-year-old amateur at the time.
Recent Kenya Open winner, Justin Harding, and the out of form Dane, Rasmus Hojgaard, are next up in the betting and both are playing here for the first time.
Hojgaard looks to have tremendous potential and he's a tempting price at 26.025/1 and I'm happy to leave him out before the start.
I've had a small bet on in-form Englishman, Sam Horsfield, who's drifted to a backable price, despite this being his first appearance at the track, and I've also thrown a few pounds at Japan's Masahiro Kawamura, who should be inspired by Hideki Matsuyama's win at Augusta, and the 2016 winner, Ashun Wu.
Like Horsfield, Kawamura is playing here for the first time but he was in fair form when last sighted, finishing 14th in Kenya. Wu hasn't played for a few months but on his last two starts, he finished ninth in the Dubai Desert Classic and 33rd at the Saudi International.
I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter