The European Tour moves from Switzerland to Italy and to the 2023 Ryder Cup venue. Read Steve's comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
"Scotland’s Calum Hill, who topped the Strokes Gained Putting stats last week in Switzerland, just two weeks after winning his first European Tour event at the Cazoo Classic, is impossible to ignore with current form figures reading 4-1-7."
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.
The Italian Open is largely a nomadic event and this year we visit the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, the 2023 Ryder Cup venue, just outside Rome.
Marco Simone GC, Rome, Italy
Par 71, 7,268 yards
As per usual, other than the card, the European Tour website has no info about the course whatsoever, but Andy Swales has done a bit of digging here.
As Andy highlights, Eduardo Romero won this event here way back in 1994, six years after the Jim Fazio and David Mezzacane designed parkland layout opened, with a 16-under-par total, but I have absolutely no recollection of the tournament and I suspect the course is very different now anyway.
With doglegged holes going both right and left, it should provide a fair test. Marco Simone GC is the venue for the Ryder Cup in two year's time.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:30 on Thursday
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Ross McGowan 1000.0
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?
It's always tough when we visit a new venue and there's nothing about the course to suggest any particular type of player will be advantaged so with very little wind forecast, I suspect the tournament may develop into a bit of a putting contest again.
Last year's renewal was also played on a parkland course with little to no wind and Ross McGowan's victory was almost entirely down to a hot putter.
The Englishman rankled 57th for Driving Distance, 45th for Driving Accuracy and only 59th for Greens In Regulation but he ranked second for Strokes Gained Putting and the players with the highest Putting Average Ranking on the week, Jonathan Caldwell, Nicolas Colsaerts and McGowan, finished fifth, second, and first.
As McGowan demonstrated last year when finding form from nowhere, predicting who might putt well from one week to the next is almost impossible but for what it's worth, here are the Strokes Gained Putting Stats for the European Tour.
Having won twice earlier in the season before winning on the PGA Tour at the Palmetto Championship, Garrick Higgo tops the standings and having been eliminated from the FedEx Cup playoffs, he's in the line-up this week but he's gone a bit cold with the flatstick of late.
Is there an Identikit Winner?
Francesco Molinari's victory five 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 six years ago.
The English tend to do well here and an Englishman has finished first or second or first and second in ten of the last 13 renewals.
This has been a decent event for outsiders of late too. The 2016 and 2017 winners, Molinari and Tyrrell Hatton, were fairly obvious candidates and Bernd Wiesberger was only a 55.054/1 chance two years ago, but every other winner over the last 12 years or so has been very hard to spot with last year's champ, Ross McGowan, was the hardest.
His one and only previous European Tour win had been 11 years earlier in Madrid and he arrived in Italy woefully out of form and trading at 1000.0.
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.
Romero sat tied for 11th after round one here back in 1994 but his 67 in round two was the third best round of the day and he was in the thick of it all the way after that.
We're obviously completely in the dark re hole averages before the off but if you intend to trade over the weekend, familiarising yourself with the hole averages makes sense. It could transpire that a section of the course is particularly hard or easy and the market may not factor that in properly.
Matthew Fitzpatrick heads the market, but he arrives in Italy after a missed cut at the Northern trust two weeks ago and with broken clubs!
I'm far from convinced either factor will hinder him greatly and he has to be respected but his second placed finish in the Scottish Open back in July is his best effort for some time.
England's Tommy Fleetwood is a short price at 20.019/1 given he's spent all summer failing to better his 14th place finish at the Wells Fargo back in May and that he hasn't won for two years. He's also far from reliable in-contention and far better from off the pace so he's very easy to dismiss but I can't say the same about the 2019 winner, Bernd Wiesberger.
I'd backed Wiesberger in the Omega European Masters a number of times before finally realising his scrambling just wasn't good enough around the fiddly mountain layout so he'll be really kicking himself for not getting over the line on Sunday given his short game was on point.
The big Austrian, who was matched at just 1.121/8 (see De-brief here), before he messed up the 72nd hole to hand the title to Rasmus Hojgaard, actually topped the Scrambling stats for the week so given that's often one of his very few weaknesses, if he can lift himself after the disappointment, he could go well.
Scotland's Calum Hill, who topped the Strokes Gained Putting stats last week in Switzerland, just two weeks after winning his first European Tour event at the Cazoo Classic, is impossible to ignore with current form figures reading 4-1-7.
I thought he was fractionally too big at 46.045/1 given he's no bigger than 33/1 on the High Street but given how little we know about the venue and how good an event this is for outsiders, I'm going to be extra cautious before the off.
I'll have a couple of outsiders (at least) in the Find Me a 100 Winner column tomorrow but Hill's my only bet so far.
Calum Hill @ 46.045/1
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