The European Tour returns to Germany this week for the BMW International Open and our man has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...
"Louis Oosthuizen must be mentally and physically drained after trading at odds-on before yet again coming up short in a major and he has an awful record here too that reads MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-35."
The European Tour heads to Germany this week for the 32nd edition of the BMW International Open.
Since 2011 the tournament has been alternating between two venues - the Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof and the Golfclub München Eichenried.
As there was no event due to the pandemic in 2020, I thought we might be off to the Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof this year, which last staged the event in 2018, but instead we're returning to the Golfclub München Eichenried, where Andrea Pavan beat Matthew Fitzpatrick in extra time two years ago.
Golfclub München Eichenried, Munich, Germany
Par 72, 7,284 yards
Stroke index in 2019 - 71.46
Designed by Kurt Rossknecht and opened in 1989, Golfclub München Eichenried is a flat, tree-lined course with greens that usually run quite slowly. There are water hazards on 10 holes and scoring here is generally low - although as the course has 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.
There were a number of changes to the course before the 2019 edition of the event here with the most significant change being the modification of all the greens. The course was lengthened but it didn't make an awful lot of difference. The winning score was just two strokes higher than it had been in 2017 and it averaged 71.46, compared to 71.67 two years earlier.
Here's a list of the course changes taken from the European Tour website prior to the 2019 edition.
• All greens: Surface removed, new foundation, new drainage, undulated.
• Putting Green: Expanded from 800 to 1,350 m², many new undulations and breaks.
• Total length: Increased from 6,614 to 6,660 metres.
• Hole 3: Lengthened from 409 to 411 metres, new tee, new spectator mound behind the green.
• Hole 5: New spectator mound behind the green.
• Hole 6: New fairway bunker in the drive landing zone.
• Hole 7: New spectator mound behind the green.
• Hole 9: New spectator mound at the drive landing zone and to the east of the green.
• Hole 10: New spectator mound behind the green.
• Holes 11/13: New spectator mound between the fairways.
• Hole 12: Far more undulated than the old green, new spectator mound behind the green.
• Hole 13: Far more undulated than the old green.
• Hole 14: New spectator mound next to the green.
• Hole 16: Far more undulated than the old green.
• Hole 17: Lengthened from 173 to 187 metres, new spectator mound behind the green.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 11:30 on Thursday
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Andrea Pavan -15 110.0109/1 (playoff)
2018 - Matt Wallace -10 44.043/1 (Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof)
2017 - Andres Romero -17 510.0509/1
2016 - Henrik Stenson -17 10.09/1 (Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof)
2015 - Pablo Larrazabal -17 60.059/1
What Will it Take to Win the BMW International Open?
The 2017 winner here, Argentina's Andres Romero, was a tournament invite so as he wasn't a member of the European Tour, no stats were produced for him but I've looked at the stats for the last edition played here and for the five previous course winners (with stats) so here are their average rankings for the six.
Driving Distance 37.16
Driving Accuracy 26.67
Greens In Regulation 15
Putting Average 27
Hitting it a long way used to be the secret to success here before the course matured and the trees grew but length is much less of a relevance here now. David Horsey was able to win here ranking just 68th for DD in 2010 and 21st is the highest any of the last six winners (excluding Romero) have ranked for DD (Nick Dougherty in 2009 and Pavan two years ago).
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 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.
The first and second two years ago ranked second and first for Greens In Regulation, Els ranked first for GIR in 2013 and two years earlier, Larrazabal had ranked second when he took the title but he won the second of his two titles (five years ago) ranking 32nd for GIR and Horsey ranked 34th so although it would be my idea of the best place to start statistically, it's clearly not a vital stat.
The 2009 winner, Dougherty, ranked second for Putting Average and Larrazabal ranked 10th a year later. On the next occasion the event was staged here, in 2013, the second and third had Putting Average rankings of second and fourth but the winner, Els, ranked 50th and the other three winners (excluding Romero) have ranked 27th, 35th and 38th so it's a confusing picture and I wouldn't get hung up on the stats at all.
Is There an Angle In?
This is a tricky event to evaluate but course form tends to stand up well here. Thomas Bjorn and Pablo Larrazabal have both won here twice and also finished placed and a number of others have multiple top-tens so anyone with previous is worthy of close inspection. Sergio Garcia has twice traded odds-on before eventually finishing second in both 2011 and 2017. Can he make it third time lucky this year?
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The last seven course winners were winning for the first time that season and being out of form hasn't been a barrier to success if the last two renewals are anything to go by.
Pavan's best finish in his 12 starts prior to his victory here in 2019 had yielded just one top-20 and he'd missed five cuts, and Romero's form in 2017 was appalling.
In five worldwide starts, 71 was the best round score he'd achieved and he'd missed every cut, Tose two both went off at huge prices but the previous five course winners 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, so again, it's a bit of a mixed back, although I certainly wouldn't put anyone backing a few oitsiders.
Course Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Andrea Pavan T8th, trailing by four 50.049/1
2018 - Staged at Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof
2017 - Andres Romero T4th, trailing by three 32.031/1
2016 - Staged at Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof
2015 - Pablo Larrazabal T5th, trailing by five 22.021/1
In the early days at this venue, the majority of winners got off to a fast start. Pavan led after round one last year, before falling off the pace and rallying on Sunday and Ernie Els won wire-to-wire in 2013 but they're the exceptions and not the rule nowadays.
Back in 2006, Henrik Stenson beat Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen in a playoff after the three had started the event with rounds of only 71, 70 and 73 respectively and with the exception of Ernie and Pavan, the closest to the front any winner has been after round one in the last ten events here, is tied 6th (Niclas Fasth in 2007 and Romero two years ago). Fitzpatrick was beaten in the playoff in 2019 having sat tied for 85th after round one so a slow start can definitely be overcome.
It's not an easy place to front run though and plenty of players have traded at a short price before flaking late on. In 2019 we saw four men trade at short odds without winning!
Martin Kaymer was matched at a low of 2.3211/8, Matt Wallace 2.01/1, Matthias Schwab 1.784/5 and the beaten playoff protagonist, Fitzpatrick, hit a low of 1.21/5!
Tied for the lead alongside Richard Bland, Sergio Garcia went into the final round as the odds-on favourite four years ago and despite a bogey at the first and a persistently cold putter the Spaniard still hit a low of 1.454/9 in-running but he wasn't the only one to trade at a short price and get beat. Thomas Detry was matched at just 2.1411/10 and Bland was matched at a low of 3.1511/5.
Henrik Stenson, who finished well to get second six 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 Bjorn 19 years ago.
It's hard to convert from the front here and we've seen winners come from as far as five strokes back but since 1997, no course winner had been outside the top eight places with a round to go. Romero, who trailed by three in fourth place four years ago, was a 32.031/1 chance with a round to go but after starting the final round with seven straight pars he was matched at a high of 190.0189/1! He finished the event with seven birdies in his last 11 holes so late drama here not just a possibility, it's a regular occurrence.
Ernie Els won here in 2013, a week after finishing fourth to Justin Rose in the US Open at Merion, Romero missed the cut at Erin Hills in 2017 before winning here and the week before Fitzpatrick reached the playoff in this event two years ago, he'd finished 12th at Pebble Beach so it's hard to gauge how much of a negative playing last week is. Or even whether it is a negative at all but the front three in the market all contended last week and they all look worth taking on.
Viktor Hovland was in fine form a month ago, finishing third in back-to-back events on the PGA Tour but he's gone off the boil of late, finishing 30th in the USPGA Championship and 47th in The Memorial Tournament before withdrawing last week with an eye injury.
He wouldn't be here if the eye is going to be an issue but the fact that he's never played here before is a concern and I'm more than happy to swerve him.
Louis Oosthuizen must be mentally and physically drained after trading at odds-on before yet again coming up short in a major (he's now finished second in six of them since winning the Open in 2010) and he has an awful record here too that reads MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-35.
Of the front three, Sergio Garcia is the only one worthy of consideration at the prices. He has a fine record here with figures reading 7-25-MC-2-7-2-MC and he finished nicely on Sunday at Torrey Pines with a three-under-par 68 to climb into a tie for 19th. He'll feel like this is an event that should be on the CV but I can leave him out at around 14.013/1.
I'm in full agreement with Matt Cooper, who makes John Catlin his headline pick and I like the look of two others at juicy prices too. Staring with another that Matt's plumped for...
Munich-born but American based 32-year-old, Stephan Jager, has failed to make the weekend in two previous attempts here but he's a different player since his second missed cut here in 2015.
Since then, he's won six times on the Korn Ferry Tour and having won in Florida in April, he now tops the KF Tour Standings having finished fifth, second, 53rd, second and 38th in his last five starts. That form stands up really well in this grade and anything over 50.049/1 looks huge.
And finally, the form of promising Dane, Rasmus Hojgaard, has fallen off of late but that's almost entirely due to a very cold putter. As highlighted earlier, it's possible to win here without putting brilliantly so I was happy to chance him again at a fair price.
And finally, away from the outright market, and over on the Sportsbook, given last week's disappointment and his dreadful course form, Louis Oosthuizen to miss the cut looks like a sporting price at 6.05/1.
I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter