We're off to Italy on the European Tour this week for the Open D'Italia. The venue's not been used for ages but Steve Rawlings has still found a few angles in. Read The Punter's comprehensive preview here...
“Olesen is having a very odd season and could easily miss the cut but he looks worth chancing at a big price given he’s contended a couple of times, he plays well in Italy and that the course might just suit his eye.”
The Open D'Italia was first staged way back in 1925 and it's been an ever present on the European Tour since its inception in 1972. This will be the 72nd edition of the event.
Golf Club Milano, Parco Reale di Monza, Milan
Par 72, 7,159 yards
Having opened in 1928, the Golf Club Milano has hosted the Open D'Italia on six previous occasions - in 1951, 1952, 1956, 1981, 1984 and 1990, when Sky Sports' Richard Boxall won his one and only European Tour event. It was also used for the Parco di Monza Challenge on the Challenge Tour in 2006 when Spain's Alvaro Salto won with a 13-under-par total.
The flyover linked below gives a good feel for the course and it looks fairly tight with small greens. I've listed the last three results here but the course has been lengthened since 1990.
1981 Open D'Italia
Jose Maria Canizares -8 (Playoff)
Bobby Clampett -8
Bernard Langer -6
Tony Jacklin -4
1984 Open D'Italia
Sandy Lyle -11
Bobby Clampett -7
David Feherty -6
Vance Heafner -5
1990 Open D'Italia
Richard Boxall -21
Jose Maria Olazabal -16
Eduardo Romero -13
John Bland -11
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday
Last Five Winners
2014 - Hennie Otto -20
2013 - Julien Quesne -12
2012 - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano -24
2011 - Robert Rock -21
2010 - Fredrik Andersson-Hed -16
What Will it Take to Win The Open D'Italia?
It's never easy when a venue is new or used for the first time in ages but given straight hitting local, Marco Crespi, describes the course as tight it's safe to assume there's not much room off the tee so a look at the latest Driving Accuracy stats on the European Tour looks a great place to start.
Mathew Fitzpatrick, Kristoffer Broberg, Eduardo De La Riva and David Drysdale are in the line-up and they all rank inside the top-five for DA over the last three months. The greens look small too so with greens inevitably being missed, great scramblers could shine.
Is There an Angle In?
Past Italian Open winners are well worth close consideration - regardless of where their previous victory was recorded. Hennie Otto was just the latest to win the title at two different venues. Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Ian Poulter and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano have all also achieved the feat.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The last six winners have come from South Africa, France, Spain, England, Sweden, and Argentina 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 34 years since Massimo Mannelli took the title in 1980, we've seen an Englishman win on seven occasions, success for Scotland five times and Spain four, Northern Ireland and Sweden thrice and Argentina, South Africa, 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.
It might be a bit daft to analyse results from so long ago, especially given the course will have changed somewhat since, but I couldn't help but notice that Jose Maria Canizares and Richard Boxall won wire-to wire, that Sandy Lyle trailed by just one stroke after round one before leading all the way thereafter and that Salto, on the Challenge Tour in 2006, was in front after round one, trailed by a stroke at halfway, and led all the way thereafter. If those results have any relevance, concentrating on the leaders from very early on looks the way to go.
Out of form home favourite and 2006 winner, Francesco Molinari, heads the market but he looks far too short to me. Given he's ranked inside the top-ten for DA in seven of his last eight starts (seven of which were on the PGA Tour) he's highly likely to take to the new venue but he's far from prolific and very poor in-the-mix and I couldn't dream of backing him so short.
The market is struggling to split Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer but I'd favour the latter. Willett won the European Masters three starts ago but was never competitive in the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational or the USPGA Championship after that success and he's been off the track for a month. He's played in Italy just once - missing the cut at the Sicilian Open in 2011.
Kaymer was a bit of a disappointment at the KLM Open last week, starting slowly, never quite getting to the leaders and finishing tamely but he'd been in reasonable form stateside prior to that effort and it could prove to be a nice pipe-opener back on European soil. This will be his third appearance in the event having finished 14th in 2007 and fifth in 2012.
Open de France winner, Bernd Wiesberger, has gone off the boil since and like Willett, hasn't played since the USPGA Championship. The Austrian is a regular in Italy but his sixth placed finish 12 months ago is the best he's mustered and he's hard to fancy at just 16.015/1.
Towards the head of the market, I quite liked Matthew Fitzpatrick, who is going to be a star in the very near future, but I can't take 25/1 about someone that is still yet to win in what's quite a competitive heat so I'm going with just two outsiders before the off - Thorbjorn Olesen and Pelle Edberg.
Olesen is having a very odd season and could easily miss the cut but he looks worth chancing at a big price given he's contended a couple of times, he plays well in Italy and that the course might just suit his eye.
The Dane lost a playoff to George Coetzee at the Mauritius Open in May and he finished fifth in his penultimate start in the Czech Republic. He missed the cut last week but given the disappointment at the Czech Masters (sat third with a round to go but shot 74 on Sunday) that wasn't a surprise.
He's played in Italy eight times in total and he's won once (the 2011 Sicilian Open) and finished runner-up twice (the 2010 Tuscany Open on the Challenge Tour and the 2011 Open D'Italia) and he's also won on another tree-lined venue, having claimed last year's Perth International at the eucalyptus-framed Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
Pelle Edberg has similar form to Olesen in that he too has been placed a couple of times this year and even more recently that the Dane. Edberg finished fourth behind Willett at the end of July in Switzerland and he finished runner-up at the Czech Masters just two weeks ago. I thought he looked over-priced given those two recent efforts and he's my each-way pick.
Thorbjorn Olesen @ an average of 110.0109/1
Pelle Edberg @ 150/1 each-way (Sportsbook)
The top players are in action on the PGA Tour as the FedEx Cup race gets serious - here is my preview of the BMW Championship.
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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