The Rocco Forte Open 2017 Preview


Our golf scribe previews this weekend's European Tour event, the Rocco Forte Open.

The Rocco Forte Open looks to be the latest in a string of tournaments that the European Tour has resurrected from seasons past. This latest exercise in golfing necromancy sees a rebranding of the former Sicily Open, which had two editions in 2011 and 2012. With the BMW PGA Championship at a revamped Wentworth fast approaching, there is an unsurprisingly sub-par field in attendance this week. The total purse of this event represents about 15% of what is at stake at Wentworth, so it’s perhaps not surprising that this recent bit of nostalgic reworking has attracted such a poor field.

The Kyle Phillips designed Verdura course was the venue for the last Sicily Open played. It is a links style course that has a tendency to get tougher in windy conditions. Just one look at the 2012 leaderboard gives credence to this description. Olesen, Wood and Kjeldsen were the top three on that occasion. All three have shown great links proficiency and seem to indicate that links experience will count for a lot in this severely weakened field.

Matt Wallace’s victory last week at 50/1 just epitomises the schizophrenic and haphazard nature of speculating in these tournaments. Invariably, those players leading the field are far more arbitrarily selected than in a regular field event. While Hao tong Li leads the field here, it is Jordan Smith who pops out more prodigiously. But he hasn’t even played competitively in a month. So here’s to another week of fanciful speculation where the job really entails near-mystical powers.

The Rocco Forte Open | Thursday 18 May - Sunday 21 May | Verdura Golf and Spa Resort, Sicily

Past Winners (Formerly the Sicily Open)
2012: Thorbjorn Olesen (-15) | 2011: Raphael Jacquelin (-12)
To Win Outright
Haotong Li 18/1 | Jordan Smith 20/1 | James Morrison 25/1 | Phachara Khongwatmai 28/1 | Bradley Dredge 30/1

Value Bets
Matteo Manassero - To Win 33/1 & To Place 7/1
I’m always inclined to give a shout out to a member of the home contingent. Matteo has had some fairly dreadful lows over the course of the last few seasons. But he has slowly edged his way towards his best and has had some steady performances of late. Three of his last four starts have seen him finish T39 or better, including a top three in India. He also helped Italy to the semi-finals of the GolfSixes in England a few weeks back. He did miss the cut at this venue in 2012, but did crack the top three in the Italian Open the same year.

Lasse Jensen - To Win 80/1 & To Place 17/1
This is one of those ones that is predicated on the limited quality of the field (let’s be honest - they all are). The Danish player seems severely underestimated by the bookies this week. He missed the last two cuts in China, but prior to that, he had an amazing T3 finish in the high-quality Omega Dubai Desert Classic field. He also finished in a tie for 4th at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco. So he has shown the propensity to really compete with the top brass in mainland Europe and should be forgiven his Chinse odyssey.

Daniel Brooks - To Win 125/1 & To Place 25/1
Another turn towards the speculative sees me opting for the 30-year-old Englishman. He has always been in and out of form and only boasts one European victory to his name: he won the 36-hole Madeira Islands Open three years back. He finished 6th at the Trophee Hassan II, showing that there is a semblance of form here. But it is his impressive links history that has me wondering. He took eventual semi-finalist David Howell to the 19th hole in the 2015 Paul Lawrie Match Play, and just last year he knocked out links specialist and Ryder Cupper Chris Wood in the same tournament. He led through three rounds at the 2015 Scottish Open at Gullane, before being overhauled by some top opposition.

The Man to Beat
David Horsey - To Win 33/1 & To Place 7/1
With six professional wins to his name- four of those being on the European Tour- the journeyman Englishman seems to represent brilliant value in this eviscerated field. With a similar game to Soren Kjeldsen - who finished third here in the last incarnation of the event - Horsey could put himself into contention again - as he did two starts ago in the Indian Open. His links form is where the value lies. He’s twice been inside the top six at Hilversumche - a Kyle Phillips designed links course. He also finished T12th at the comparatively high-class British Masters last year.  He also shot a 64 at Kingsbarns in 2015. The final cherry on top is his form in Italy. He has four top ten finishes in nine visits, including a 5th place finish against a stronger field at the Italian Open in September.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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