We've got a Saturday start and a shorter event to evaluate this week as the European Tour heads to Germany for the Porsche European Open...
“It was impossible not to be impressed by Wiesberger’s demolition job in Denmark and he made seven birdies in eight holes here two years ago when firing 64 in round four to finish fifth.”
The Porsche European Open was first 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 it's been played in Germany ever since. The first two editions were played at the Beckenbauer Course in Bad Griesbach but it switched to the Green Eagle Resort, just outside Hamburg in 2017 and we're back there again this time around for the fourth time after a year off. The Porsche European Open was one of those lost to the pandemic last year.
The tournament was staged in July in 2018 and September in 2019 so it's moved around a bit on the schedule. Having been staged a week after the Open Championship three years ago, the likes of Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Charl Schwartzel and Pat Perez all played in the event before returning to the States and Reed and Casey, who returned in 2019, were joined by Xander Schauffele and Matt Kuchar two years ago but the field won't be anywhere near as strong this time around.
With the UK being put on Germany's 'red list', the tournament has been reduced to a 54-hole event over three days and it doesn't start until Saturday.
The Porsche Nord Course, Green Eagle Golf Resort, Hamburg, Germany
Par 72, 7,544 yards
Stroke Index in 2019 - 73.11
Formally known as the North Course, and now known as the Porsche Nord Course, this week's host track is extremely long, measuring in excess of 7,800 yards but as it did in 2019, it will play to 'only' 7,544 yards again this time around (compared to 7,583 in 2018) but with as many as four teeing areas on each hole, there's plenty of flexibility with regards to set up and we're in the dark to a certain extent.
In addition to the last three renewals of this event, the Porsche Nord Course was also 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.
It's reputed to be one of the ten longest courses in the world and it's described as the most difficult golf course in Germany.
The Porsche Nord Course is a flat parkland course with wide fairways but it has water in-play to varying degrees on almost every hole. The greens are laid to a mixture of Bentgrass and Poa Annua and they're large with big undulations.
The flyover below gives a good feel for the terrain and I've looked at the layout in more detail in the In-Play Tactics section below.
Live on Sky Sports all three days, starting at 13:00 (UK time) on Saturday
Last Five Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Paul Casey -14 10.09/1
2018 - Richard McEvoy -11 170.0169/1
2017 - Jordan Smith -13 (playoff) 48.047/1
2016 - Alex Levy -12 (playoff) 46.045/1 (Bad Griesbach)
2015 - Thongchai Jaidee -19 60.059/1 (Bad Griesbach)
What Will it Take to Win the Porsche European Open?
Green Eagle is monstrously long with five par fives but the 2018 stats suggested it was far from a bomber's paradise and the 2019 result confirmed it.
The 2018 winner, Richard McEvoy, ranked 62nd for DD and the two men to finish alongside John Allen in second, Christofer Blomstrand and Renato Paratore, ranked 50th and 58th.
The 2019 winner, Paul Casey, ranked 12th for Driving Distance but the next four on the leaderboard only ranked 23rd, 31st, 48th and 19th and Driving Accuracy appears far more important than distance. The first five home two years ago ranked eighth, fourth, tenth, 17th and second for D.A. Yes, it's a long course on paper but they fiddle with the yardage during the tournament so don't get obsessed by the reputation.
The top three in the Greens In Regulation rankings two years ago finished fifth, first and second and Romain Wattel, who finished sixth, ranked fifth for GIR. There's water in-play all over the track so trouble awaits and finding fairways is key.
Caution Advised Before the Off?
With four different teeing options on every hole, it's really difficult to know how the course will be set up this week. It's extremely long on paper and length was beneficial in 2017, when the course played soft, but that hasn't been the case in the two latest renewals.
Players won't arrive at the venue until Friday so that may disadvantage those playing here for the first time and playing three rounds instead of four is an added unwanted complication.
It's not unusual to see an event reduced to 54 holes because of the weather but I can't recall another European Tour event being reduced to three rounds in advance of the start. A fast start is going to be vital on Saturday and having only 54 holes to play instead of 72 offers up the potential for a strange result.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Paul Casey solo 3rd - trailing by one 3.1511/5
2018 - Richard McEvoy - tied for the lead 7.87/1
2017 - Jordan Smith - led by two 3.1511/5
2016 - Alex Levy - led by four 1.422/5 (Bad Griesbach)
2015 - Thongchai Jaidee - led by one 4.47/2 (Bad Griesbach)
In four previous events here, every winner was within four of the lead after the opening round and the three winners of this event were all inside the top-four at halfway. Harto sat tied for seventh at halfway in the 2010 ECCO Tour Championship here on the Challenge Tour but he only tailed by two.
The first three course winners were all leading with a round to go and Casey only trailed by a stroke in 2019 so it really does look like a fast start will be imperative this week but we've witnessed plenty of drama here...
Alex Levy had looked like making a successful title defence when he led by a stroke playing the final hole in 2017 but he couldn't match Jordan Smith's birdie at the par five 18th and the event went in to extra time. Smith failed to make birdie again and more than £17K was matched on Levy at 1.011/100 as he stood over a tiddler for the title but then this happened.
? The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 30, 2017
We're going back down 18! pic.twitter.com/cFtb4AJ4KI
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.
Bryson DeChambeau, who was tied for the lead with a round to go, completely capitulated in 2018. His price dipped to 1.232/9 when he led by a stroke with four to play but he lost the plot completely after that and eventually finished tied for 13th and although he eventually got the job done, Paul Casey had a little wobble in 2019, before holing a 35 footer on the 16th hole on Sunday to settle the nerves.
With water in play on all but one hole, this is a track that creates drama and taking the leaders on if they go long odds-on on Monday may pay dividends.
The defending champ, Paul Casey, looks short enough at first glance but he does well when he drops back on to the European Tour and he clearly loves the venue.
In addition to winning here two years ago, he traded at a low of just 2.186/5 when finishing seventh on debut in 2018 so it's hard to envisage him not contending for a third time given he arrives on the back of a fourth-placed finish in the USPGA Championship.
Abraham Ancer is an interesting entrant but the 30-year-old Mexican can hardly be described as prolific given he's won just two titles to date - the 2015 Nova Scotia Open on the Web.com Tour and the Australian Open in 2018.
The world number 17 adds a bit of class but he's yet to win on the PGA Tour and others are most definitely preferred.
Although winning back-to-back tournaments is hard and unusual, last week's winner, Bernd Wiesberger, is worth chancing modestly at 17.016/1 in this grade on a course he's shown a liking to. It was impossible not to be impressed by his demolition job in Denmark and he made seven birdies in eight holes here two years ago when firing 64 in round four to finish fifth.
Having the event reduced to just three rounds my be in his favour if he gets off to a decent start and I was happy to chance him modestly at 17.016/1.
In addition to Wiesberger, my only other selection before the off is American, Kurt Kitayama, who caught the eye last week when finishing eighth.
The big-hitting Californian has a great touch around the greens and if it's set-up to favour the longer hitters a bit more this time around I'd expect him to contend. I though 50.049/1 was fair.
I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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