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European Tour: The Italian Open 2016 Preview
Our golf scribe gives his best bets and tips for this week's European Tour event, the Italian Open.
Last week’s KLM Open ultimately provided some grand entertainment. Joost Luiten saw off a spirted challenge from Wiesberger, shooting a fabulous 63 to claim his second KLM Open. The tournament had a bit of everything. Scott Hend looked odds on to take it, until a capitulation saw him flounder in a manner reminiscent of fellow Aussie Greg Norman in his countless Major travails. The tour takes us to Italy this week for a tournament that dates back to the origins of the European tour.
James Peter Gannon’s Golf Club Milano plays host to the Italian Open for the 8th time. Last season was the first time that the venue hosted the event in 24 years. Rikard Karlberg won a thrilling playoff victory over European juggernaut Martin Kaymer. The German Ryder Cup wildcard pick is the betting favourite at 14-1 and should be there or thereabouts this week. With the Ryder Cup looming, the US PGA tour coming to a close and the Race to Dubai nearing its climax, the fields are starting to deepen.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Danny Willet will be keen to impress while Lee Westwood joins fellow wildcard Martin Kaymer. Ryder Cup debutants are invading Milan this week. Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood join Willet and Cabrera-Bello. There is a strong Italian contingent as well, with former champion Francisco Molinari and Matteo Mannaserro looking to galvanize the partisan proud. One should also not discount 2015 European rookie of the year Byeong Hun An. At a golf course that sits alongside the iconic cathedral of racing Monza, the viewer can only hope that the spirit of that high-octane arena will be transmuted to the Golf Club Milano this weekend.
If Karlberg is to defend his title, he will become the first man to defend the title since the tournament’s inception in 1972.
The Italian Open | 15 September - 18 September 2016 | Golf Club Milano
2015: Rikard Karlberg (-19)* won in playoff | 2014: Hennie Otto (-20) | 2013: Julien Quesne (-12) | 2012: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (-24) | 2011: Robert Rock (-21)
Martin Kaymer (14-1), Byeong Hun An (18-1), Danny Willet (20-1), Joost Luiten (22-1), Lee Westwood (22-1)
Alejandro Canizares (Win 66/1 & Place 14/1)
This is really quite a speculative one. I quite fancied the Spaniard for the KLM but ultimately couldn’t quite reconcile his form with my gut instinct.After a strong tie for 4th at The Dutch, I feel quietly confident that the elegant Spaniard can make a strong showing this week. If he is able to keep his short blade compliant, the smooth swinging Canizares is truly a player to watch. He had a tie for 5th in Aberdeen recently until a late capitulation saw him drop to a tie for 24th at the Omega Masters. Despite being only ranked 56th in the Race to Dubai, I have a strong belief that this guy has what it takes to be a Ryder Cup player someday. Considering the strength of the field, perhaps a win is a bit of stretch, but at 14-1 to place, you could definitely make a less prudent wager this weekend.
Chris Wood (Win 66/1 & Place 14/1)
I flinched when I saw these odds. At 66/1 to win, Chris Wood seems to be extremely undervalued this week. He currently sits 7th in the Race to Dubai and has managed to quietly secure a spot in the Ryder Cup vaudeville. The BMW PGA Champion has been slightly underwhelming in recent weeks, but that’s oft to be expected in the wake of Ryder Cup qualification. His solid, no-nonsense approach could suit this course with its greens tightly protected by penalizing bunkers. He is currently the world’s 30th ranked player, making 55-1 for a win an absolute steal in my books.
Simon Khan (Win 225/1 & Place 49/1)
In honour of my David Drysdale pick last week - which ultimately pied me in the face somewhat - I am going to throw another ‘Hail Mary’ pass this week and have a sneak peek at journeyman Simon Khan. The enigmatic Khan has been blighted by injury in 2014 and 2015, which can possibly explain his rather pedestrian start to the season. But Khan has been nothing if not mercurial in his career. And it seems as if he has found some form. He was in with a shout at The Dutch until his putter deserted him in the final stretch. He still ended in a respectable tie for 10th. There have been hints of him finding his former form of late, with a tie for 15th at the BMW as well as a tie for 17th in Aberdeen. At 49/1 to place, this could be an intriguing venture.
The One to Watch
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Win 22/1 To Place 4/1)
With such a strong field lining up this week, it’s hard to identify one to go all the way. But the excellent Spaniard is my guy to watch. He hasn’t been in terrific form in the last few weeks as his bid for the Tour Championship decelerated in the last stages. But few can doubt that the huge driving Bello has the game to go all the way. Danny Willet has imploded on several occasions while Kaymer hasn’t quite got it together consistently. Kaymer will be a factor after playing so well here this year, I just have a feeling about Bello this week, especially if his game clicks into gear.