Porsche European Open: Ryder Cupper Pieters can justify favouritism, says The Punter

Thomas Pieters - the worthy favourite in Germany
Thomas Pieters - the worthy favourite in Germany

With just one week to go before the Ryder Cup, two of Darren Clarke's European Team head to Germany to hone their games further but can one of them head to the States with a win? Read what Steve thinks in his comprehensive preview here...


"The big hitting Belgian, Thomas Pieters, ranks highly for Scrambling (arguably the most important stat last year) and is in quite stunning form. He won the Czech Masters and the KLM Open back-to-back last year so winning two events in-a-row would be nothing new and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t figure."

Tournament History

The very first Porsche European Open was staged in 1978, when Bobby Wadkins got the better of fellow American, Gill Morgan, and Scotland's Bernard Gallacher in a playoff at Walton Heath.

The tournament was a nomadic ever-present on the European Tour until 2009 when it fell off the schedule until last year when it made a welcome return at this year's venue in Germany.

A reasonable field assembled 12 months ago but with the Ryder Cup now looming large on the horizon, with the exception of captain's picks, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters, most of the star names are off readying themselves for that and this year's renewals isn't quite as strong.


Venue

The Beckenbauer Course, Hartl Golf Resort Bad Griesbach, Bad Griesbach, Germany.


Course Details

Par 71, 7,188 yards
Stroke Average in 2015 - 70.45

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.

In addition to last year's renewal, the course was also used on the Challenge Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2105 for the Aegean Airlines Challenge Tour. Ricardo Gouveia won last year's edition by four strokes, with a 15-under-par total, and there were wins for Jake Roos in 2014, 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. The bentgrass greens weren't fast last year and I suspect they'll be slow enough this time around after rain has fallen quite heavily.




Matt Ford has posted the above photo on Twitter showing a somewhat soggy venue and Paul McDonnell, who is part of Justin Rose's management team, tweeted a photo last night (which has since been deleted) that showed parts of the course under water so it's going to be a tough week for the ground staff.

I'm told via Twitter, by the official Porsche European Open Twitter account administrator, that they've had "a lot of rain" and that they are "working to make the course ready for the championship."

With absolutely no information on the venue on the European Tour website yet again, I questioned the account administrator further and was also informed that the rough is up and that the yardage is similar to last year. That was all I was able to glean I'm afraid but I was also told that "there is a few surprises at this year's tournament but you have to wait". I'd like to say I was on tenterhooks but I'd be lying, I'm merely only ever so slightly intrigued.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2015 - Thongchai Jaidee -19
2010 - 2014 No event
2009 - Christian Cevaer -7
2008 - Ross Fisher -20
2007 - Colin Montgomerie -11
2006 - Stephen Dodd -9


What Will it Take to Win The Porsche European Open?

There were no stats produced for the three Challenge Tour events so all we have to analyse is last year's figures so here's the top-four and their stats.

1 Thongchai Jaidee -17 DD 38 DA35 GIR 17 SC1 PA 26
2 Graeme Storm -16 DD 17 DA1 GIR 1 SC3 PA 20
3 Pelle Edberg -14 DD 6 DA45 GIR 30 SC27 PA 1
4 Scott Hend -13 DD 3 DA41 GIR 56 SC2 PA 2

DD=Driving Distance
DA=Driving Accuracy
GIR=Greens In Regulation
SC=Scrambling
PA=Putting Average

It's a bit of a confusing picture and the winner, Thongchai Jaidee, other than ranking first for Scrambling, didn't do anything especially well.

Graeme Storm's stats were better than Jaidee's but both found plenty of greens and scrambled well and Pelle Edberg and Scott Hend finished third and fourth thanks to their big hitting off the tee and their excellent putting. Most notably, three of the front four home ranked first, second and third for Scrambling.


Is There an Angle In?

The course was damp last year after rain in the lead-up to the event and I think it'll be even softer this time around. In addition to big hitters Hend and Edberg making the top-four, Lucas Bjerregaard and Rikard Karlberg finished tied for fifth ranking fifth and eighth respectively for Driving Distance.

Wet conditions create damp fairways and that's always advantageous to the bigger hitters. Not only can the longer hitters hit it further but with no run on the fairways, provided they're not wildly inaccurate, their tee-shots won't run into the rough as often as they would when conditions are dry.


In-Play Tactics

Jaidee sat tied for 34th and four off the lead after round one last year and he was still four back and tied for 15th at halfway but he'd hit the front after three rounds.

The three course winners before Jaidee 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 4.44 12 months ago 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.


Market Leaders

Having finished fourth at the Olympics, second at the Czech Masters (when defending) and first at the Made In Denmark in his last three starts, Thomas Pieters, quite rightly, heads the market.

I was a little surprised to see him in the line-up given he makes his Ryder Cup debut next week but having had to withdraw at the KLM Open a fortnight ago, after a bad reaction to a bee sting, he probably feels that another tournament to sharpen him is in order.

The big hitting Belgian ranks highly for Scrambling (arguably the most important stat last year) and is in quite stunning form. He won the Czech Masters and the KLM Open back-to-back last year so winning two events in-a-row would be nothing new and I'll be surprised if he doesn't figure. One or two firms go as high as 10/1 and I'm surprised he's that big.

After Joost Luiten won the KLM Open a fortnight ago and Francesco Molinari the Italian Open last week, second favourite, Martin Kaymer is bidding to be the third to win in his homeland in three straight weeks.

He'll be aware of the emerging pattern and he's won in Germany before, at the BMW International Open in 2008, but I'm not so sure he's playing at his best right now. His 20th place in Italy last week was a bit disappointing and it's now more than two years since he last won.

But for a poor third round, Bernd Wiesberger, would have won the KLM Open last time out so he's certainly found some form and even though he missed the cut here last year he does have some course form.

He was tied for the lead after round one 12 months ago, after an opening seven-under-par 64, but he followed that with a five-over-par 76 to miss out on weekend employment by a stroke.

Wiesberger's a big hitter, a great scrambler, and last time out he putted brilliantly too and that's the secret to his chances this week. If his performance on the greens at the KLM wasn't a one-off he's sure to contend again and at 16/1 on the Sportsbook he's a very fair price in what's not a very strong field.


Selections

The last four winners on the European Tour have been fairly well-fancied before the off and with conditions to suit, I can see either Thomas Pieters or Bernd Wiesberger extending that run to five weeks.

There isn't much strength at the head of the market, below the first three in the betting, and I'm happy to kick the week off with two of the front three on side.


Selections:

Thomas Pieters @ 11.010/1
Bernd Wiesberger @ 16/1 on the Sportsbook


I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog after the first day here and at the Tour Championship, which I've previewed here.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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