Steve takes a detailed look at this week's European Tour action from Germany, where he fancies a pair of Danes to contend...
"Thomas Bjorn is a very simple and straightforward selection. He’s hit form of late, finishing 4th at the Nordea Masters and runner-up at the Lyoness Open, where nobody putted better. He’s already a duel course and event winner and the fact he wasn’t in the field last week at Merion is a plus."
First staged in 1989, the BMW International Open this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. It's the only event of the year to be staged in Germany.
Golfclub München Eichenried, Munich, Germany
Par 72, 7,157 yards
Stroke index in 2011 - 71.4
The Golfclub München Eichenried hosted this event for 15 years in-a-row before last year, when for some reason the organisers decided to leave Munich, the home of BMW, and head for Cologne, and the Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof.
Designed by Kurt Rossknecht and opened in 1989, Golfclub München Eichenried is a flat, tree-lined course with greens that will run at around 11 on the stimpmeter. There are water hazards on 10 holes and scoring here is generally low - although as the course has matured and the trees have grown, it has lowered slightly. A 20 under-par score wouldn't be enough in the early days but players would take that now.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 10.30am on Thursday
Last Five Winners
2012 - Danny Willett -11 (playoff)
2011 - Pablo Larrazabal -16 (playoff)
2010 - David Horsey - 18
2009 - Nick Doherty -12
2008 - Martin Kaymer -15 (playoff)
What will it take to win the BMW International Open?
Nothing really stands out but I'd suggest driving accuracy as the most important stat. The 2011 winner, Pablo Larrazabal, ranked 2nd for fairways hit and the runner-up in 2010, Ross Fisher, ranked 1st. The winner, David Horsey, was tied 7th.
In the early days, with minimal rough, big-hitters enjoyed a lot of success (John Daly won in 2001) but I'd definitely side with accuracy over length now.
I noted after the 2011 renewal that one of my picks, George Coetzee, who I'd backed at a whopping 290.0289/1, had lost his chance of victory (finished 3rd) because he'd failed to hit enough fairways on the par fives. The longest of the long holes (18th) measures only 568 yards and so all are reachable in two but only from the short grass.
Is there an identikit winner?
I'm not entirely sure why, or even whether it's relevant but three of the last four winners have been English.
In the early days at this venue, the majority of winners got off to a fast start but that's not the case anymore. In 2006, Henrik Stenson beat Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen in a playoff after the three had started the event with rounds of 71, 70 and 73 respectfully and the closest to the front any winner has been after round one in the last seven years here, is tied 6th (Niclas Fasth in 2007).
It's not an easy place to front run and a number of players have traded at a short price before flaking late on. Retief Goosen traded at odds-on during round three in 2009 before hitting the buffers. Bradley Dredge couldn't convert a three-stroke lead a year later. In 2011, Stenson led at halfway but only finished tied 9th and Mark Foster quickly dropped away on Sunday, having led by two through 54-holes. Martin Kaymer did win from halfway in 2008, but only just! He led by six with a round to go but after a disappointing final round of 75, he beat Anders Hansen in a playoff.
This is definitely a tournament where you can take on the leaders. Other than Kaymer in 2008, the last person to convert a clear lead after three rounds was Thomas Bjorn 11 years ago!
After a hostile reception in the States following his altercation with Tiger Woods and his subsequent stupid chicken comment, Sergio Garcia will be delighted to be back home in Europe and he could go well. He was odds-on to win the event two years ago, before getting edged out by fellow Spaniard, Larrazabal, but the big question mark about Sergio, applies to all the market leaders...
Like Sergio, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer all played all four rounds at Merion last week and playing such a tough course under such stress could well have a detrimental effect on their performances this week. I'm not worried about the travel, they're all used to hopping around the globe with regularity, but I am concerned about mental fatigue.
As is so often the case at US Opens, a number of players criticized the toughness of the set-up and anyone that competed at the event from start to finish will surely be at a disadvantage to those the missed the cut and even more so, to those that didn't play there all.
Given the above, and given the in-running stats, even further above, I'm quite tempted to start the week by laying the market leaders and taking it from there - laying the leaders after each round, but I haven't done so yet. I have picked out three to side with though...
Thomas Bjorn is a very simple and straightforward selection. He's hit form of late, finishing 4th at the Nordea Masters, where he ranked 7th for putting, and runner-up at the Lyoness Open two weeks ago, where nobody putted better. He's already a duel course and event winner and the fact he wasn't in the field last week at Merion is a plus.
Fellow Dane, Morten Orum Madsen, did play at Merion but his tied 28th was such a good effort in his first major that the positivity he must be feeling should overcome the tiredness. I fancy Madsen his going the right way quickly and he looked worth risking a few pounds on at a big price, as did Maximilian Kieffer...
The young German impressed in Spain a few months ago when he was eventually beaten by Rafael Jacquelin in a playoff at the Open de Espana and he looked a bit big at 190.0189/1.