BMW International Open: Strong field set for Munich birdie-fest

Pablo Larrazabal – a two time winner at Golfclub München Eichenried
Pablo Larrazabal – a two time winner at Golfclub München Eichenried

We've got a strong line-up for this week's European Tour action in Germany so read Steve's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

"Brandon Stone is particularly interesting as he finished last week’s US Open ranking seventh for Putting Average and first for Total Putts."

Tournament History

The BMW International Open was first staged in 1989 and this will be the 29th edition.


Venue

Golfclub München Eichenried, Munich, Germany


Course Details

Par 72, 7,157 yards
Stroke index in 2015 - 71.06

The Golfclub München Eichenried hosted this event for 15 years in-a-row from 1997 to 2011 before the organisers decided to leave Munich, the home of BMW, and head for Cologne and he Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof for the 2012 edition. The tournament has been alternating between the two venues ever since so you can ignore form from 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Designed by Kurt Rossknecht and opened in 1989, Golfclub München Eichenried is a flat, tree-lined course with greens that usually run quite slowly, between 10 and 12 on the stimpmeter. There are water hazards on 10 holes and scoring here is generally low - although as the course's matured and the trees have grown, it has lowered slightly. A 20 under-par score wouldn't be enough in the early days but players would gladly take that now.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 10:30 UK and Ireland time.


Last Six Winners

2016 - Henrik Stenson -17 (Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof)
2015 - Pablo Larrazabal -17
2014 - Fabrizio Zanotti -19 (Playoff - Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof)
2013 - Ernie Els -18
2012 - Danny Willett -11 (Playoff - Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof)
2011 - Pablo Larrazabal -16 (Playoff)


What Will it Take to Win the BMW International Open?

I've looked at the stats for the last five course winners and I can't say it's helped much. Here are their average rankings.

Driving Distance 40.4
Driving Accuracy 23.6
Greens In Regulation 17.8
Total Putts 30.2
Scrambling 16.2

Hitting it a long way used to be the secret to success here before the course matured and the trees grew but length is irrelevant now. David Horsey was able to win here ranking just 68th for DD in 2010 and 21st is the highest any of the five has ranked for DD (Nick Dougherty in 2009).

Horsey ranked seventh for Driving Accuracy and the runner-up that year, Ross Fisher, topped the DA stats and a year later, Pablo Larrazabal won the title for the first time ranking second for DA so there's evidence to suggest being straight off the tee is a big plus but Ernie Els only ranked 49th for D.A when he won here in 2013 so keeping it straight off the tee hole-after-hole isn't imperative.

Els ranked first for Greens In Regulation and two years earlier, Larrazabal had ranked second but he won the second of his two titles (two years ago) ranking 32nd for GIR and Horsey ranked 34th so again, that's hardly a key stat either.

Dougherty and Horsey ranked sixth and fifth for Total Putts but Larrazabal in 2011 and Els in 2013 ranked 54th and 68th so it's a confusing picture and I wouldn't get hung up on the stats at all.

All of the last five winners were winning for the first time that season but all had bits and pieces of form and they'd all finished at least fourth in a European Tour event earlier in the season. Larrazabal had finished third at the Trophée Hassan II three months before his win here in 2015 but the other four had been placed more recently and within six weeks.


Is There an Angle In?

This is a tricky event to evaluate but with the weather forecast suggesting we'll get a tiny bit of rain in the lead up and some again on Friday, and with little wind to worry about, apart from a bit on Friday, the course should again be receptive to low scoring and so those that enjoy a low scoring birdie-fest should go well.

Course form tends to stand up really well here. Thomas Bjorn and Larrazabal have both won here twice and finished placed and a number of others have multiple top-tens so anyone with previous is worthy of close inspection.


Was Playing Erin Hills a Negative?

It's always hard to gauge or even guess how players will respond to a gruelling week at a major. On one hand they could be shattered after concentrating hard for four days and travelling back from the States but on the other, this course will feel very easy and very short after Erin Hills.

After years of trying to work out whether it's a good or bad thing to have been competing in a major the week before I've come to the conclusion that it's impossible to say but Ernie Els didn't see it as a negative. He won this event in 2013 a week after finishing fourth in the US Open at Merion and that was anything but an easy major.


In-Play Tactics

In the early days at this venue, the majority of winners got off to a fast start and Ernie won wire-to-wire in 2013 but the he's the exception and not the rule nowadays.

In 2006, Henrik Stenson beat Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen in a playoff after the three had started the event with rounds of 71, 70 and 73 respectively and with the exception of Ernie, the closest to the front any winner has been after round one in the last eight events here, is tied 6th (Niclas Fasth in 2007).

It's not an easy place to front run and a number of players have traded at a short price before flaking late on. Henrik Stenson, who finished well to get second two years ago, having dropped outside the top-ten after rounds two and three, started the tournament well and he was matched at just 3.412/5 very early on. Halfway leader, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who eventually finished tied for 11th, hit a low of around 2.56/4 and James Morrison, who began round four with a two-stroke lead, finished the week alongside Cabrera-Bello having been matched at as low as 1.68/13!

Looking a little further back, Goosen traded at odds-on during round three in 2009 before hitting the buffers. Bradley Dredge couldn't convert a three-stroke lead a year later. In 2011 Stenson led at halfway but only finished tied 9th and Mark Foster quickly dropped away on Sunday, having led by two through 54-holes. Martin Kaymer did win from halfway in 2008, but only just! He led by six with a round to go but after a disappointing final round of 75, he beat Anders Hansen in a playoff.

This is definitely a tournament where you can take on the leaders. Ernie may have won from the front but he was tied at the top after 54 holes in 2013) and other than Kaymer in 2008, the last person to convert a clear lead after three rounds here was Thomas Bjorn 15 years ago.


Market Leaders

This is strong event with a number of quality players in the line-up that all have strong claims, starting with the favourite, Sergio Garcia.

The US Masters winner has held his form quite nicely since his victory at Augusta and I can see him contending on his first foray back to his home continent since that historic win. His form figures since read a solid enough 30-20-12-21, all in strong events, and with course form figures reading 7-25-MC-2-7, he's the rightful favourite. Garcia lost the 2011 edition in a playoff to his compatriot, Larrazabal, at the fifth extra hole so it's a title he perhaps feels he should have already won.

Defending champion, Henrik Stenson, has already won the title twice. Once here, in 2006, and again last year at Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof and he should arguably have won it at least three times. As mentioned above, he's been right in the thick of it here at least twice before without winning so this really is a track that suits but Stenson isn't playing well. He was third at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last month but that's very much the only decent effort in three months and his missed cut at Erin Hills last week was his fifth in eight starts.

Bernd Wiesberger is in fair form and he was fourth here in 2013 so his chance is very obvious but whether his odds represent value given how infrequently he wins is debatable. He won the Shenzhen International in April but that was his first victory in two years and just his second in five so it's hard to make a case for him at 16.015/1.

Which Tommy Fleetwood we get this week after his brilliant fourth at Erin Hills is anyone's guess really but if Ernie can do it I'm quite sure Tommy can. His form after wins and strong performances have been poor this year though and I suspect we might get a dip.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello is another in fine fettle with course form but how many times does he give up a golden chance to win? He's notoriously poor in-contention and he's worth swerving in the win market for that reason alone before the off. He's one to keep an eye on in-running though. He once shot 60 to win in Austria, is clearly better suited to chasing than front-running, and this is a course were off the pace winners do spring up.


Selections

This is really strong, high-class European Tour event and I'm looking forward to it but from a betting perspective, I've found it very hard to get an angle in or to come up with a strong fancy so stakes are tiny before the off but I have backed five...

Pablo Larrazabal is impossible to ignore given his course record so I've had a very small bet on him and all my others are high up on the Birdie Average rankings over the last six months.

George Coetzee and Dean Burmester both average 4.7 per round - a record nobody else can surpass - and Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Brandon Stone rank seventh and 14th respectively.

Burmester is playing here for the first time so whether he takes to the place is unknown but Coetzee was third here on his only appearance in 2011, Aphibarnrat finished fourth in his only effort in 2015 and Stone was 10th back in 2011 on his only attempt.

Stone is particularly interesting as he finished last week's US Open ranking seventh for Putting Average and first for Total Putts.


Selections:
Pablo Larrazabal @ 30.029/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat @ 44.043/1
George Coetzee @ 46.045/1
Brandon Stone @ 65.064/1
Dean Burmester @ 70.069/1


I'll be back later with my Travelers Championship preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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