Porsche European Open: Driving stats the key to unlocking victory

American Golfer Patrick Reed
Patrick Reed takes part in this week's Porsche European Open 2018
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A number of quality players have hotfooted from Carnoustie to Hamburg for this week's European Tour action but outsiders are on the menu for our man. Read his comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Charl Schwartzel and Pat Perez have all decided to play here before returning to the States after last week's Open Championship and it's a good job they have because it would be a decidedly weak field without them.

Tournament History

The first Porsche European Open was staged back in 1978, when Bobby Wadkins got the better of fellow American, Gill Morgan, and Scotland's Bernard Gallacher in a playoff at Walton Heath and the tournament was a nomadic ever-present on the European Tour until 2009 when it fell off the schedule.

It returned to the rota in 2015 and for the first two years it was played at the Beckenbauer Course in Bad Griesbach. The tournament stayed in Germany last time around but it switched to the Green Eagle Resort, just outside Hamburg, and we're back there again this time around.

Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Charl Schwartzel and Pat Perez have all decided to play here before returning to the States after last week's Open Championship and it's a good job they have because it would be a decidedly weak field without them.

Venue

The Porsche Nord Course, Green Eagle Golf Resort, Hamburg, Germany

Course Details

Par 72, 7,583 yards
Stroke Index in 2017 - 72.08

Formally known as the North Course, and now known as the Porsche Nord Course, this week's host track is extremely long at almost 7,600 yards. It's the longest used on the European Tour and it's reported to be one of the 10 longest worldwide.

In addition to last year's renewal, the Porsche Nord Course was used on the Challenge Tour in 2010 for the ECCO Tour Championship, which was won by the then amateur, Andreas Harto, in eight-under-par.

According to the European Tour website, the course had the highest slope rating (greens) last season and it's the most difficult golf course in Germany.

The Porsche Nord Course is a flat parkland course with fairly wide fairways but it has water in-play to varying degrees on almost every hole. The flyover below gives a good feel for the terrain.



Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 10:00 (UK time) on Thursday

Last Five Winners

2017 - Jordan Smith -13 (playoff)
2016 - Alex Levy -12 (playoff)
2015 - Thongchai Jaidee -19
2010 - 2014 No event
2009 - Christian Cevaer -7

What Will it Take to Win the Porsche European Open?

Rain in the lead up to last year's renewal saw the organisers reduce the yardages so length off the tee wasn't the huge advantage I thought it might but it was still advantageous.

The winner, Jordan Smith, ranked third for Driving Distance and the man he beat in the playoff, defending champion, Alex Levy, ranked 10th. And three of the first four home ranked inside the top-ten for Par Five Performance.

With a drier summer, I suspect they'll extend the yardage a bit more this time around so the Driving Distance stats may be of some use but it wasn't just a case of bashing it miles 12 months ago. The first three home ranked seventh, 14th and 18th for Driving Accuracy and Adrian Otaegui and Zander Lombard, who finished tied for fifth, ranked first and fifth for DA so the Strokes Gained off the Tee stats may be even more significant. And of course, Par 5 Scoring is a very logical stat to look at too. All the stats can be found here.

Is There an Angle In?

With little to go, I've taken a look at the last 12 winners on the European Tour in the week after the Open Championship to see if there are any clues there.

With the Olympics in the schedule in 2016, there wasn't a tournament in the week after the Open Championship and after a blank week, the Tour's elite players moved on to the US PGA Championship two weeks later, so I've disregarded 2016 but reading backwards, here are what the winners were up to the week before they won in-between 2005 and 2017.

2017 - Jordan Smith (European Masters) DNS in the Open (T54 in the Scottish Open previous start)
2015 - Danny Willett (European Masters) sixth in the Open
2014 - David Horsey (Russian Open) DNS in the Open (missed three previous cuts)*
2013 - Michael Hoey (Russian Open) DNS in the Open (missed cut previous start)*
2012 - Bernd Wiesberger (Lyoness Open) DNS in the Open (missed cut previous start)*
2011 - Alex Noren (Nordea Masters) MC in the Open and in his previous start *
2010 - Richard S Johnson (Nordea Masters) 74th in the Open
2009 - Ricardo Gonzalez (Nordea Masters) DNS in the Open (missed cut previous start)*
2008 - Mickael Lundberg (Russian Open) DNS in the Open (missed three previous cuts)*
2007 - Andres Romero (Deutsche Bank Players' Championship of Europe) sixth in the Open
2006 - Robert Karlsson (Deutsche Bank Players' Championship of Europe) 35th in the Open
2005 - Niclas Fasth (Deutsche Bank Players' Championship of Europe) MC in the Open

Only six of the 12 winners actually played in the Open. Niclas Fasth and Alex Noren were the only two to miss the cut and two of the four that made the weekend - Danny Willett and Andres Romero - contended in the Open so it's a fairly mixed bag.

Willett sat second at halfway before finishing tied for sixth at St Andrews three years ago and Romero had a great chance to win at this year's venue, Carnoustie, but he double-bogeyed 17 and bogeyed the last to miss out on the playoff by a stroke.

With the exception of last year's winner, who finished down the field in the Scottish Open, those that didn't play in the Open all missed cuts before they won. Interestingly, three of those that missed the cut before they won, Bernd Wiesberger, Noren (at the Open) and Richard S Johnson, all won in their homeland the week after the Open had been staged.

In-Play Tactics

We haven't got much to go on but for what it's worth, it looks like it may be a hard venue at which to win from off the pace.

In last year's renewal, only two players to finish inside the top-11 were outside the top-nine and ties at halfway. The winner had trailed by four in a tie for 33rd after round one but he was up to tied fourth and two back at hallway and he led with a round to go. Levy, who was beaten by Smith in extra time, was never outside the front four places. And it was a similar story on the only previous occasion the course was used in 2010...

The first three home were inside the top-ten all the way and never more than four strokes off the pace (Matthew Zions, who finished third, was four adrift with a round to go). The first and second sat one off the lead and tied for the lead after round one and they were tied for the lead with a round to go.

I'm not sure the course had much to do with it, but we witnessed all sorts of shenanigans 12 months ago.

Alex Levy had looked like making a successful title defence when he led by a stroke playing the final hole but he couldn't match Smith's birdie at the par five 18th and we were in to extra time. Smith failed to make birdie again and more than £17K was matched on Levy at [1.01] as he stood over a tiddler for the title but then this happened.


A shell-shocked Levy couldn't match Smith's birdie four at the second extra hole and the title went the way of the Englishman.

Market Leaders

I really fancied the US Masters winner, Patrick Reed, to perform well at the Open Championship and his putting and scrambling figures were more than decent but his iron play was ropey. He didn't exactly shine here 12 months ago either - finishing 19th - so I'm happy to leave him alone at a single-figure price.

Paul Casey failed to break par on any of the four days at Carnoustie and he finished the event down in 51st place but he's been in fine fettle this year. An off the pace win at the Valspar is the highlight but he's since finished fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship and he really should have won the Travelers Championship in his penultimate start. He's a stronger in-contention player on the European Tour but that defeat was just the latest in a lengthy list of tournaments he really should have won so I'm happy to swerve him too.

Bryson DeChambeau also has a PGA Tour title to his name this season - he won the Memorial Tournament last month and he's been in fine form all season. I'm happy enough to overlook his unimpressive 51st at Carnoustie last week but it's worth remembering that he pulled out of the John Deere Classic the week before with a shoulder injury so all in all, I'm happy to overlook him also.

Selections

None of the market leaders make any appeal so I've just thrown a few darts at some huge outsiders.

Julien Guerrier ranks highly for Strokes Gained of the Tee and for Par 5 Scoring so he looked a very logical pick at a triple-figure price but the one I like most at a big price is Richard McEvoy.

The Englishman led the event after round one last year, so we know the course suits his eye, and he arrives here this year after a facile win on the Challenge Tour on Sunday. He'll be feeling chipper about his wire-to-wire win in France on Sunday and he might just keep the momentum going.

The out of form German pair, Sebastian Heisele and Alexander Knappe, contended last year so I've chanced them at [250.0]. The big hitting Finn, Tapio Pulkkanen, has been chanced too, and Pedro Oriol looks like an interesting candidate at [300.0].

Selections:
Julien Guerrier @ [110.0]
Richard McEvoy @ [170.0]
Tapio Pulkkanen @ [250.0]
Sebastian Heisele @ [250.0]
Alexander Knappe @ [250.0]
Pedro Oriol @ [300.0]

I'll be back later with my RBC Canadian Open preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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