With the FedEx Cup drawing to a hasty conclusion, we’re starting to see a touch more glamour in these European Tour events, and this week's Italian Open is no different.
2021 European Tour
Marco Simone GC, Rome, Italy
With the FedEx Cup drawing to a hasty conclusion, we’re starting to see a touch more glamour in these European Tour events. Rasmus Hojgaard showed tremendous fortitude to hold off the power duo of Henrik Stenson and Bernd Wiesberger last week. It will be interesting to see how the Dane fares this week with a real injection of quality in the field. Obviously, Ryder Cup permutations are going to be at the fore this week. Many players will be looking for some last-gasp points to attain automatic consideration. Could Bernd Wiesberger rue that disastrous double bogey on the final hole last week? It may come down to fractions as Wiesberger looks to displace McIlroy in the European points list (the Northern Irishman would obviously still qualify courtesy of his world points form). Furthermore, the likes of Guido Migliozzi and Rasmus Hojgaard will be hoping to once again turn Harrington’s head this week.
The European Tour moves from Switzerland to Rome for the Italian Open. This is actually one of the oldest events in European golf, dating back all the way to 1925. It’s been a permanent fixture on the European Tour since its inception in 1972. Sponsored by DS Automobiles, this year’s edition will take place at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club (this has traditionally been a nomadic event). The course has special significance since it will host the 2023 edition of the Ryder Cup. Not only will this week feature players gunning for selection in this year’s Ryder Cup, many prospective Ryder Cup players will be hoping to gain some experience at the course that will host the 2023 showpiece event.
Designed by Jim Fazio and David Meccazane, this course was opened in 1989 and five years later played host to the national open. That event was won by Eduardo Romero and remains the only European Tour event hosted by Marco Simone. There isn’t much to really go on in terms of this parkland layout. It has undergone an extensive overhaul with match-play golf in mind. I would imagine that they have increased the number of risk-reward holes. This could lead to some fascinating golf with Ryder Cup points up for grabs. I can envisage a low-scoring affair with little or no wind forecast this week. This could turn out to be a putting contest come Sunday.
It’s slightly strange to see both Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick leading the markets this week (obviously it’s a reflection on the relative quality of the European Tour). They have both been far below par in recent weeks and Fitzpatrick will be arriving in Rome with a broken 5 wood! Seriously, I just think that’s there’s value elsewhere this week. Guido Migliozzi is an exciting talent who I think could force Harrington’s hand this week. He hits the ball a mile (which will always come in handy on those American behemoths). Local hero Francisco Molinari has virtually played himself out of Ryder Cup contention due to a combination of poor form and injuries. Surely his historic combination with Fleetwood is something that shouldn’t be downplayed. Bernd Wiesberger will look for a solid performance to underline his Ryder Cup potential.
2020: Ross McGowan (-20)
2019: Bernd Wiesberger (-16)
2018: Thorbjorn Olesen (-22)
2017: Tyrell Hatton (-21)
2016: Francesco Molinari (-22)
To Win Outright:
Matt Fitzpatrick 14/1 | Tommy Fleetwood 16/1 | Bernd Wiesberger 20/1 | Guido Migliozzi 25/1 | Rasmus Hojgaard 30/1
Calum Hill- To Win 33/1 | To Place 7/1
Hill is surely impossible to ignore given his recent results. The Scot has been magnificent in recent weeks, with form figures of 4-1-7. He actually topped the Strokes Gained Putting stats in Switzerland last week (that could prove to be a vital harbinger of success his week). His price has obviously been inflated by the arrival of some European Tour heavyweights. But I think I would rather opt for form this week.
Min Woo Lee- To Win 55/1 | To Place 12/1
Already a two-time winner on the tour, this powerful Australian has all the ingredients to become genuinely world class over the next few years. He knows how to beat a strong field, holding off Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry en route to victory at the Scottish Open. Lee admitted that he was too exhausted after that victory in Scotland to properly compete over the next few events. He had three decent rounds out of four last week at Crans. But Crans is really a course that eliminates his greatest weapon: length. He should find Marco Simone far less claustrophobic.
The Man to Beat- Guido Migliozzi- To Win (25/1), To Place (11/2)
Migliozzi is my pick this week. He is exactly the sort of power-based player that Padraig Harrington will need (think Thomas Pieters at Hazeltine). This year he has taken his game to a whole new level. He has runner-up finishes at The Qatar Masters, British Masters and Made in Himmerland events. More crucially, he was exceptional in the US Open at Torrey Pines. He finished in a tie or 4th despite never playing the course previously. He shot a final-round 65 last week to finish in a tie for 7th. He surely has to be in contention this week.