Steve takes a look at this week's European Tour action from Italy where the home contingency will be looking to improve on their poor record...
"David Horsey has a good record on short tree-lined courses, was runner-up in this event in 2010 and shot the best round of the day on Sunday here last year. He isn’t the greatest in-the-mix but he’s a big enough price at 80.079/1 to take a small chance on here."
First staged way back in 1925, the Open D'Italia is a well established event and it's been an ever present on the European Tour since it began in 1972. This year, it's the final counting event towards the Ryder Cup and once the event is finished Paul McGinley will name his wildcards for Gleneagles.
Golf Club Torino, Turin, Italy
Par 72, 7208 yards
Stroke Index in 2013 - 71.96
After four years at Royal Park I Roveri, the event returned here to Golf Club Torino 12 months ago. In addition to last year, the venue was also used for this event in 1999, and twice on the Challenge Tour.
The 2008 Piermonte Open was staged here and at Royal Park I Roveri, with the latter hosting the event over the weekend, so that form isn't so relevant, but 12 months later, Golf Club Torino was the sole venue for the 2009 edition of the now defunct Piermonte Open.
Canadian-born Scot, Dean Robertson, won his one and only title here with a 17 under-par total back in 1999, Padraig Harrington finished runner-up and Mats Lanner smashed the course record with a 10 under-par 62 on day one before slipping down the field to finish tied for 47th.
Designed by John Morrison (an associate of Harry Colt) and remodelled by Canadian architect, Graham Cooke, in the 1990s, Golf Club Torino is the home course of the Molinari brothers. Edoardo put all his course knowledge to good use back in 2009 when he won the Piermonte Open by four shots, with an 18 under-par total, and he'll be looking forward to returning having missed this event through injury last year. Francesco finished tied for 16th.
It's an undulating, tree-lined course with water in play on a number of holes but for a really good description of the course, here's a piece the Molinari brothers put together before last year's renewal.
Live on Sky Sports all four days - 10:30 and 14:30 on Thursday and Friday, 12:00 on Saturday and Sunday
Last Five Winners
2013 - Julien Quesne -12
2012 - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano -24
2011 - Robert Rock -21
2010 - Fredrik Andersson-Hed -16
2009 - Daniel Vancsik -21
What Will it Take to Win The Italian Open?
Neither driving distance nor driving accuracy appeared crucial last year - Julien Quesne ranked 21st for distance and 64th for accuracy. Only three of the top-13 ranked inside the top-ten for DD and just two players in the top-15 ranked inside the top-ten for DA.
Sharpness on and around the greens was the secret to Quesne's success as was his performance on the par 4s. In fact, the first three home, Quesne, David Higgins and Steve Webster, ranked first, second and fourth for par 4 scoring for the week so that's the stat I've looked at ahead of the event.
Is There an Angle In?
In the past I've always looked for a solid bank of form in Italy. The event has moved between venues but several players have played well here regardless of the course used. Players like Webster, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Padraig Harrington and David Horsey, to name just four, have played well here before and Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Ian Poulter and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano have all won this event twice at different venues.
I wouldn't put too much faith in it though as it doesn't work year in and year out - last year's winner, Quesne, had never recorded a top-10 in Italy and had missed nine of 16 cuts here, including at this course in 2008 - although, he had finished 20th here in 2009.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The last six winners have come from France, Spain, England, Sweden, Argentina and South Africa so predicting where the winner might come from is next to impossible but it may well be a safe bet that he doesn't come from Italy.
In the 33 years since Massimo Mannelli took the title in 1980, we've seen an English win on seven occasions, success for Scotland five times and Spain four, Northern Ireland and Sweden thrice and Argentina, France and Germany twice, but we've witnessed just one home success - Francesco Molinari in 2006.
It's never easy to win your national title and those stats certainly back that up here.
Edoardo Molinari won here wire-to-wire but Quesne crept into the event and pounced on day four. After an opening round of 70, he sat tied for 24th and was still tied ninth and four off the lead on Sunday morning but with the eight players above him all failing to better 71 and even finish in the top-three, the Frenchman was able to win by one with a round of 67. Higgins and Webster, who had also begun the final round in a tie for ninth, finished tied for second.
That sort of finish is pretty typical of the European Tour where nerves are often a factor. The experienced Marcus Fraser had led with a round to go, closely followed by Ryder Cuppers, Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari but the nerves even got to them. Trading the leaders on a Sunday in Europe often results in a very healthy profit and if last year is anything to go by, this could be an ideal opportunity to adopt such tactics again.
Hole 16 was the second hardest and the 17th was the toughest last year so if someone does a Quesne again this year and posts a score, before the last few groups get to the last three holes they could easily hang on.
The 2006 winner, Francesco Molinari, is the man to beat according to the market but he looks a dreadful price to me at just 12.5. He isn't in the best of form, is notoriously poor in-contention and flopped here 12 months ago, having led at halfway. He could improve the record of the home contingency should he win the event for the second time in nine years but he certainly isn't value to do so.
Stephen Gallacher can still make the European Ryder Cup team should he finish first or second this week but it's a big ask. He battled valiantly last week to finish seventh at the Czech Masters but his form has been largely regressive of late and he's not for me either.
Marc Warren became the latest winner to take the following week off, having missed the Czech Masters after winning the Made In Denmark. I never quite get the logic of that decision myself. As Rory McIlroy has recently demonstrated, it's better to attempt to ride the wave of momentum than to just let it crash into the shore?
Anyway, he's back here and if his form holds he's bound to contend but I'd wager a week off to celebrate has had a detrimental effect and I'm happy to leave him out also.
Course winner, Edoardo Molinari, has come in for some support this week and I can see why. I'd much rather back him than his brother at half the price but emulating him is a huge ask and he's not quite big enough for me at less than 30.029/1.
With a bad wrist injury that required surgery and a change in coach from Denis Pugh to Sean Foley, Edoardo has had an interrupted career of late but the fact remains that he hasn't won for four years. Add that to the pressure he'll be under and that the Italian record in the event is so woeful and I can't take the plunge at the price.
In contrast to the Deutsche Bank Championship (previewed here), where I could have easily backed half a dozen or more, I really did struggle to find a wager here and I've finished up backing just one selection, David Horsey.
The avid Manchester United fan hasn't exactly built on his win in the Russian Open last month, with a 39th at the Made In Denmark and a missed cut in the Czech Republic but he could be a spot of value here.
He has a good record on short tree-lined courses, was runner-up in this event in 2010 and shot the best round of the day on Sunday here last year, with an impressive bogey-free six-under-par 66. He isn't the greatest in-the-mix but he's a big enough price at 80.079/1 to take a small chance on here.
David Horsey @ 80.079/1
I'll be back later on in the week with the In-Play Blog.
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