The European Tour is situated just south of Lake Garda this week for the Italian Open and our man has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...
"Paisley’s arguably the best putter in the field this week and he really caught the eye when fourth in Scotland out of the blue last week"
The Italian Open was first staged way back in 1925 and the tournament has been a permanent fixture on the European Tour ever since its inception in 1972.
Having been a part of the Rolex Series since its inception in 2017, the Italian Open was the fifth of eight Rolex events last year but the Series has been reduced to just four events this year and this is one of the four to lose its Rolex status.
The Italian Open is largely a nomadic event and this year it takes in the Chervò Golf Club in Brescia for the first time.
Chervò Golf Club, San Vigilio di Pozzolengo, Brescia , Italy
Par 72, 7,434 yards
There are four nine-hole courses at the Chervò Golf Club. The S Martino (White Course), the Sofferino (Yellow Course), the Benaco (Red Course) and the Pozzolengo (the Executive Course). The course website describes the venue as having a 27-Hole Championship Course and a nine hole Executive Course.
The course used this week is a combination of the Sofferino and the Benaco. The slightly shorter Sofferino makes up the front nine and the Benaco makes up the back nine. Both nines are par 36s with two par three and two par fives.
Designed by Kurt Rossknecht and opened as recently as 2008, all the courses are parkland resort courses with very little undulation and wide fairways.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 11:30 on Thursday
Last Five Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2019 - Bernd Wiesberger -16 55.054/1
2018 - Thorbjorn Olesen -22 130.0129/1
2017 - Tyrrell Hatton -21 20.019/1
2016 - Francesco Molinari -22 30.029/1
2015 - Rikard Karlberg -19 (playoff) 80.079/1
What Will it Take to Win the Italian Open?
The European Tour has done a brilliant job of rehashing the schedule during the pandemic but their number one priority is to pick venues that have the facilities to cater for the field and all the associated staff.
As a result, we're frequently visiting courses that we've not seen before, mainly because they have hotels large enough to accommodate everyone. It's been quite refreshing to see different courses but from a betting perspective it makes things much trickier.
As per usual, there's absolutely nothing on the European Tour website about the course so it's been a case of watching videos and reading reviews to get a feel for this week's track and as you'd expect from a venue that's set up for the tourist trade, it can't possibly be described as a tough test.
With barely a breath of wind and very little rain forecast throughout the week, it's safe to assume that the pros are going to go low and as a result the tournament is bound to develop into something of a putting contest.
As always when putting is likely to be the key to success, picking the winner before the off is very hard - take last week in the States for example. Jason Kokrak is a brilliant player tee-to-green but he's pretty hopeless on the greens and that's what usually holds him back. He ended last season ranked outside the top-150 for Strokes Gained Putting but something clicked at Shadow Creek and he ranked first for SGP for the week.
It's a painstaking task to check all the recent results for a sudden improvement in putting but the clues were there with Kokrak. He'd ranked 17th for SGP at the BMW Championship and eight at the US Open.
Is There an Angle In?
In addition to this venue, Rossknecht also designed Bad Griesbach which was used for the Porsche European Open in both 2015 and 2016 and for the Paul Lawrie Match Play a year later.
He was also responsible for München Eichenried which has been the venue for the BMW International Open on many occasions.
München Eichenried is a tree-lined track and this one looks far more open but a look at the results there and at Bad Griesbach may well be a worthwhile exercise.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Francesco Molinari's victory four years ago was his second in the tournament. He took the title ten years earlier at Castello Tolcinasco and previous winners deserve serious consideration. In addition to Molinari, Ian Poulter, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Hennie Otto have all won the event twice this century and all four have won at different venues.
Inexplicably, four different fairly low-ranking Swedes have won the title in the last 20 years and two other Swedes were placed behind Rikard Karlberg five years ago.
The English tend to do well here and an Englishman has finished first or second or both in nine of the last 12 renewals.
If it does transpire to be a low-scoring birdie-fest, making ground up during the tournament should be tough and it may make sense to concentrate on the leaders from early on but obviously, with no prior knowledge of the venue, we're very much in the dark.
Matt Wallace heads the market again, as he did last week in Scotland, and he looks a very fair price at 13.012/1 given he's no bigger than 10/1 on the High Street.
A one-under-par 71 on Sunday wasn't good enough to get the job done last week but it's worth bearing in mind that the winner, Adrian Otaegui, came from off the pace with a nine-under-par 63 to catch him and despite how poorly he played in round four, he was still a couple clear of Aaron Rai in third.
Wallace was third in the BMW International Open around München Eichenried last year when defending the title, having won the event at Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof in 2018, so he has form at another track designed by Rossknecht and I just wonder what price he'd have been had he won last week?
I suspect he'd have been trading at a single-figure price and if he putts as well as he did last week he's almost certain to contend.
It's now more than six years since Martin Kaymer won for the last time and it's five years since he threw this title away with three bogeys in five after the turn on Sunday. He rallied to get into a playoff with Rikard Karlberg but that's an indication of how long his in-contention woes have been going on and I'm happy to swerve him at the price.
After finishing 14th in the Scottish Open and second at the BMW-PGA Championship, improving Frenchman, Victor Perez isn't easy to dismiss and if last week's week off hasn't stopped his momentum, he's likely to figure.
Defending champ, Bernd Wiesberger, isn't really firing and Lee Westwood might be ready for a break. He's finished inside the top-20 in each of the last three weeks so he's been in fair form but I just wonder if he can keep rolling after three tough weeks.
I've had a small saver on Matt Wallace, who just looks a bit too big at 13.012/1 and I've also followed Matt Cooper in on David Horsey. He's outlined his credentials perfectly in his each-way column and last up for me is another Englishman - Chris Paisley.
Paisley's arguably the best putter in the field this week and he really caught the eye when fourth in Scotland out of the blue last week. He was third in this event back in 2016 and he also has form at München Eichenried, having finished third there back in 2015.
I'll be back later with my ZOZO Championship preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
Matt Wallace @ 13.012/1
David Horsey @ 60.059/1
Chris Paisley @ 65.064/1
New on Betting.Betfair – Betslip
You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site