The DP World Tour heads to Germany this week for the 33rd edition of the BMW International Open.
Since 2011, and prior to the pandemic, the tournament alternated between two venues - the Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof and the Golfclub München Eichenried (the event's permanent home between 1997 to 2011).
This year we're returning to the Golfclub München Eichenried for the third renewal in-a-row.
Golfclub München Eichenried, Munich, Germany
Par 72, 7,284 yards
Stroke index in 2019 - 71.41
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 years but players would gladly take that now. Viktor Hovland won the title last year with a 19-under-par - beating home hero, Martin Kaymer by two strokes.
There were a number of changes to the course before the 2019 edition of the event 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. Last year it averaged 71.41.
Here's a list of the course changes taken from the DP World 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
2021 - Viktor Hovland -19 8.88/1
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 six previous course winners (with stats) so here are their average rankings for the seven.
Driving Distance 35
Driving Accuracy 25.57
Greens In Regulation 14.28
Putting Average 23.71
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 and I'd favour accuracy off the tee over power.
Hovland ranked 11th for Driving Distance last year but David Horsey was able to win here ranking just 68th for DD in 2010 and nine of the 11 players to finish tied fifth of better 12 months ago ranked 30th and higher for DD.
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 absolutely imperative. Hovland ranked 19th last year but Jorge Campillo in third ranked 49th.
The first and second three 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 (six 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 either. Hovland ranked 10th.
The 2009 winner, Nick 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 next three winners (excluding Romero) ranked 27th, 35th and 38th.
Putting was again a key stat 12 months ago as the front three ranked fourth, first and second for PA and the winner ranked first for Strokes Gained Putting. In the only other year we have SG figures, 2019, the winner, Pavan, ranked seventh for SGP.
The last three course winners have played the par fours better than anyone else and David Howell was the only player in the field to better the winner, Larrazabal, in 2016. He played them in -11 to the Spaniard's -10.
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?
Hovland went off favourite 12 months ago but he hadn't won in 2021 and the seven previous course winners were winning for the first time that season so being out of form hasn't been a barrier to success. And the two course winners before Hovland were woefully out of form.
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. Those 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 DP World 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 it's a bit of a mixed bag, although I certainly wouldn't put anyone backing a few outsiders.
Course Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2021 - Viktor Hovland - three strokes clear 1.292/7
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 and Hovland was never far away last year. He sat tied for 18th and four off the lead after round one but was up to second at halfway and clear with a round to go.
Pavan led after round one in 2019, 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 except for Ernie and Pavan, the closest to the front any winner has been after round one in the last 11 events here, is tied 6th (Niclas Fasth in 2007 and Romero four years ago). The brand-new US Open champ, Matt 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 and even though he won comfortably in the end, it wasn't plain sailing for Hovland last year and having drifted to 1.910/11 in-running on Sunday, he was fortunate that none of his closest pursuers played well and that his two-under-par 70 was easily enough.
Plenty of players have traded at a short price before flaking late on and 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!
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 five 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 is not just a possibility, it's a regular occurrence.
Having won the Memorial Tournament in style a fortnight ago, Billy Horschel did what he so often does at a major championship and missed the cut at last week's US Open.
For a player of Billy's talent his record in the majors is abysmal but his record on tree-lined tracks and on the DP World Tour is fairly good.
The world number 14 finished fourth at the 2019 BMW PGA Championship on his first visit to the Tour (outside of the majors) and after finishing down the field at the Scottish Open in July last year he returned to Wentworth in September to take the title.
He didn't set the world alight with his 26th in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship or at the DP World Tour Championship, where he finished 32nd but this track looks perfect for him and he's a very worthy favourite.
Liv golfers, Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia, are the next two in the market but they look opposable.
All the players that have signed up for the Liv Series disappointed at the US Open last week and until the dust settles on the new tour, swerving its participants could be the way to go (hypocrisy to follow below!).
Louis' record here is poor anyway and his course form figures read MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-35-42 so he looks like one to take on.
He was never at the races at Brookline last week and the 4.03/1 available for him to miss the cut again with the Sportsbook looks decent. Although he was a point bigger last year when finishing 42nd.
Sergio has finished runner-up here twice previously but his 12th at the Dubai Desert Classic way back in January is his last top-20 on any tour. He's missed three of his last five cuts and he's failed to make the weekend here on two of his last six visits so the 7/2 about him missing the cut isn't short.
I'm happy to back Horschel at 14.5 and I'm also happy to take a chance on course specialist and two-time winner, Pablo Larrazabal, even though he's signed up with LIV.
Pablo's looking to win his third event on the DP World Tour since March and 42.041/1 looks slightly generous given his course form that reads 61-MC-3-1-MC-1-14-67-17.
Billy Horschel @ 14.5
Pablo Larrazabal @ 42.041/1
I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter