After a break of six years, the European Open returns to the European Tour schedule at a brand new venue in Germany. Read The Punter's take on the tournament here...
“My most confident selection is the BMW - PGA champion, Byeong Hun An, who won only last week in Korea in what was quite a competitive contest. He’s been in fair form all year – although his putting hasn’t been brilliant – and he’s also seen the course before, having finished 12th here in 2013. I thought the 33/1 on offer yesterday was well worth taking and I’d like to think he’ll be there or thereabouts come Sunday.”
The Porsche European Open was first staged in 1978 and last staged in 2009, when Christian Cevaer won at the London Club in Kent. Formally a prestigious tournament, based in England, Ireland, and on one occasion, Scotland, the European Open makes a welcome return to the schedule and the field is fairly strong with the likes of Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan coming over from the PGA Tour.
This is the first time that Porsche has ever sponsored a golf event.
The Beckenbauer Course, Hartl Golf Resort Bad Griesbach, Bad Griesbach, Germany
Par 71, 7,188 yards
The Bernard Langer-designed Beckenbauer Course is one of six at the Hartl Golf Resort, Bad Griesbach, set on completely flat land adjacent to the river Rott.
The course has been used on the Challenge Tour in each of the last three years for what's now called the Aegean Airlines Challenge Tour. Rising Portuguese star, Ricardo Gouveia, won this year's edition in July by four strokes with a 15-under-par total and there were wins for Jake Roos last year, with a score of 13-under-par, and for Andrea Pavan in 2013, when he got the better of fellow Italian, Marco Crespi, by a stroke, with a winning total of 19-under-par.
Water comes in to play to some degree throughout with the river Rott bordering some of the holes on the back nine. There are many mature trees on the course, providing more of a pleasing visual than a stern test and the bentgrass greens ran slowly back in July at around 10.5 on the stimpmeter.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.
Last Five Winners
2009 - Christian Cevaer -7
2008 - Ross Fisher -20
2007 - Colin Montgomerie -11
2006 - Stephen Dodd -9
2005 - Kenneth Ferrie -3
What Will it Take to Win The Porsche European Open?
We don't have any stats to analyse from the three editions of the Aegean Airlines event so I've looked to see whether there's been a bias with regards to where the contenders have scored best but that doesn't help either. Gouveia played the par 3s particularly well in July whereas others that have contended here have fared best on the long holes. It looks like a fairly easy course though and the forecast suggests rain leading up to the event so we could be in for an out-and-out birdie-fest which should favour the more aggressive players.
Is There an Angle In?
We really don't have much to go on this week so it may make sense just to side with those in form. Players with solid current form have been contending week after week on the European Tour just lately and I can see that happening again here.
The three course winners have all won in differing fashions. Pavan trailed by five strokes after round one before rounds of 67 and 66 saw him lead by one with a round to go. Roos was three off the lead and tied for seventh after day one before sharing the lead through rounds two and three, and Gouveia opened up with a 63 to lead by two before dropping out of the lead after rounds two and three. He trailed by two after day three but went on to win by four.
If you're planning to trade in running, the finish is quite tough and the par four finishing hole in particular is one to be wary of. It averaged 4.61 back in July so a bogey will be far more likely than a birdie by the leaders as they finish up the event. If it transpires that two players are tied and that one has finished and the other still has the 18th to play, I'd strongly favour the one in the house and I'd wager the market won't correctly reflect that.
Austria's Bernd Wiesberger is the understandable favourite and I can easily see him contending but I'd just be a bit concerned about his putting. He tweeted this after his final round of 72 in Italy on Sunday which saw him slip down to 14th.
"One day to forget... Another try next Week but the Putter will have to warm up quickly!"
His putting hasn't been great for a while now which is a shame because the rest of his game looks good. Like all players, Bernd could very easily find something this week and start rolling them in but until he does, I'm going to give him a miss.
Charl Schwartzel's PGA Tour season came to an abrupt end when he missed the cut at The Barclays last month but he'd been in decent nick before that, finishing third at the Wyndham Championship behind Davis Love III.
The 2011 Masters champion finished seventh in this year's US Open so he clearly has the class to outshine the opposition this week but it's creeping up to two years since he last won anywhere and the last time he had a really good chance to win, at the South African Open in January, he completely blew it - playing the final five holes in four-over-par - before losing a playoff to Andy Sullivan.
Hunter Mahan is very much the surprise entrant in the field but I wonder how hard he'll compete and whether this is merely a break in Europe to overcome the disappointment of FedEx Cup elimination?
Mahan was the only man to have played every playoff event and he was the only man to have played in every Tour Championship (previewed here) since the series began in 2007 but his tied 32nd in the BMW Championship last week wasn't enough to keep the streak alive and he's bound to have Georgia on his mind.
Although we've very little to go on this week, I didn't have any problem in finding players I thought looked like value and I've ended up backing seven!
First up, and probably my most confident selection, is the BMW - PGA champion, Byeong Hun An, who won only last week in Korea in what was quite a competitive contest. He's been in fair form all year - although his putting hasn't been brilliant - and he's also seen the course before, having finished 12th here in 2013. I thought the 33/1 on offer yesterday was well worth taking and I'd like to think he'll be there or thereabouts come Sunday.
I took a chance on Mikko Ilonen on the each-way column a fortnight ago at the KLM Open and given he shot rounds of 64 and 62, I felt somewhat aggrieved that he didn't place but two accompanying 71s prevented that. He spoke there about being injury-free for the first time this year so maybe we can see an upturn in the Finn's fortunes now and this course might just suit his aggressive style of play.
David Lipsky has been steadily improving over the last couple of months and his tied third in Italy on Sunday could set him up nicely for an even better performance here.
Someone that isn't in the greatest of form is Alexander Levy but given we could get a rain-softened birdie-fest this week, which would be right up his street; I thought he too was worth throwing a few pounds at. After that I've gone for three really big outsiders for tiny stakes in Pelle Edberg, who seems to either contend all week long or play damn right terribly, and the two course winners in the field, Roos and Pavan.
Byeong Hun An @ 33/1 (Sportsbook)
Mikko Ilonen @ 75.074/1
David Lipsky @ 75.074/1
Alexander Levy @ 80.079/1
Pelle Edberg @ 260.0259/1
Jake Roos @ 340.0339/1
Andrea Pavan @ 350.0349/1
I'll be back on Friday with the In-play Blog.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter