Similar to the BMW PGA Championship, at least this event was originally scheduled to take place on the European Tour this year and is held within a couple of weeks of the original date. But thereafter the similarity ends. As part of the Rolex Series of events since 2017, the Italian Open boasted 29 of the top-100 in the World Rankings last year. This year it is no longer part of the Rolex Series and there are only five players in the top-100 in the World Rankings.
They will play at a new course, which is not unusual for this event which has rotated across different Italian courses and will be played on the fourth different course in as many years. Generally, these courses have had similar layouts: parkland courses with tree-lined fairways and small greens. This week is very different.
Given the need to maintain a secure environment for players, caddies and those working at this event, this event is played at Chervo Golf Club which boasts a large hotel complex and four nine-hole courses. This week’s event will be played on two of those courses: The Solferino Course makes up the front nine and the Benaco makes up the back nine.
As can be expected from the above description, these courses are set up for golfing tourists and should not provide a particular challenge to Touring pros. The fairways are wide, there is little undulation and the greens are excellent and not challenging. The 18-hole ‘course’ is rather exposed, but given that the weather forecast is for calm weather, scoring should be low this week.
Here are a few angles that can be used this week.
Angles to consider:
1. Recent form matters this year
This has been a regular feature since the Tour re-start and with strong reasons. With the exception of Romain Langasque’s win in the Wales Open and Adrian Otaegui’s win last week, all winners since the Tour re-start at the Austrian Open had secured a top-15 finish within the previous three starts. Otaegui’s very impressive win last week brought an end to this angle’s run, but he had shown good form two months previously, finishing 2nd in the English Championship, 14th in the Celtic Classic and 17th in the Andalucia Masters. It was also a much weaker and much changed field compared to previous weeks, so there was reason to expect this angle to hold but not as firmly as previously this year. The field is again weaker and much changed this week.
2. Length off the tee will be an advantage
Given the wide fairways on this tourist resort, power off the tee should be a significant advantage. There are no par-4s under 400 yards and with water protecting the front of two of the four par-5s, there is another advantage for players who hit their tee shots a long way. However, it is not all about power on Kurt Rossknecht-designed courses. He is the architect for the Bad Griesbach Golf Club used for the European Tour in 2015 and 2016. The top-five on the leaderboard in those two years was full of players with power off the tee, but whose driving accuracy stats were not particularly poor. Similar splits between driving distance and driving accuracy can be found in the BMW International Open when hosted at Munchen Nord-Eichenried. Driving will be important, but not exclusively length.
The above angles have been used to create a shortlist from which the following players has been selected.
In terms of power off the tee, few can match Burmester who ranks 2nd in driving distance on the European Tour, but he can also back that up a very good short game – he ranks 2nd in strokes gained: putting on the European Tour. A typical combination of power and putting prowess, this should be profitable on courses that are not particularly challenging. And as with Otaegui last week, he does have form this summer, albeit last time at the Irish Open last month when 3rd after 54 holes.
Colsaerts is a far more rounded driver of the ball, ranking inside the top-35 for both driving distance and driving accuracy and thus ranking 6th in strokes gained: off the tee. He has shown glimpses of form in the last couple of months, including a top-10 finish in the English Championship, and he has more ability than almost all of this field. He was a winner of the European Tour, for the third time, only 12 months ago in the prestigious Open de France. He also finished in the top-15 in the 2016 European Open, the last time that a Kurt Rossknecht-designed course was used on the European Tour.
Heisele is another who is excellent off the tee, both in terms of power and control. He ranks 14th in strokes gained: off the tee on the European Tour this season. He hasn’t played as much in recent weeks as most players, but he still has two top-15 finishes in his last four starts and has been playing at a consistently high level this season which sees him rank 26th in scoring average on the European Tour. Against this week field, that is an impressive stat.
Quiros is another player who has power off the tee and is someone who has played well on Rossknecht-designed courses. He finished 3rd in the 2019 BMW International Open when ranking 4th for driving distance and 62nd for driving accuracy. He had been in fairly poor form until that event, but he also finished 2nd the following week at Valderrama to show that there is more to his game than power and he had similarly finished 3rd in the 2019 Dubai Desert Classic when seemingly out-of-form beforehand. On all three occasions, he ranked inside the top-10 for driving distance and outside the top-40 for driving accuracy. When his wayward drives are not punished, or he is consistently lucky, he can finish very high on the leaderboard despite having no apparent form. That bodes well for this week and this course.
Whitnell is not particularly good off the tee, by Tour standards, with his strongest European Tour stats being strokes gained: approach the green and strokes gained: putting. If this does turn into a putting contest, he could a player to take advantage given this skillset. And he does have the form to indicate that he is a potential winner. He finished 4th at the British Masters and more recently, he was within five shots of the lead with one round to play in the Portugal Masters. He slipped back to 24th on that occasion, but he was very impressive in staying in contention at the British Masters having been 2nd after 36 holes. He has won on the Challenge Tour – the 2019 KPMG Trophy – and has proven that he can challenge at this level.
1pt e.w. Dean Burmester 55/1 (Boyle Sports 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)
0.5pts e.w. Nicolas Colsaerts 66/1 (Boyle Sports 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)
0.5pts e.w. Sebastian Heisele 100/1 (Boyle Sports 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)
0.25pts e.w. Alvaro Quiros 200/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, Betway 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7)
0.25pts e.w. Dale Whitnell 175/1 (Boyle Sports 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)