Over the last couple of weeks I have been touring around the South East of England ticking off the top 100 courses with my lucky Goalby head-cover coming along for the ride. And yet again tomorrow I find myself in the fortunate position to be playing all of Walton Heaths 36 holes, former Ryder Cup venue, home to US Open Qualifying and maybe/maybe not the venue for next years British Masters (hopefully I will know more after a few questions before the end of my day)
Anyway after last weeks disappointing results with way too many missing the cut in my line ups I'm hoping my luck on the golf course jumps back on to my picks for this week. Luck aside I'm also hoping the research I have spent solid time on since Saturday evening pays off for us all
The Golf Club Milano was designed and constructed in 1928 by James Peter Gannon, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious Italian golf clubs. Originally built as a 9 hole course and further developed to boast 27. This naturally set delight will yet again play host to Italian Open which also carries the prestige of a Rolex series event.
The venue sits within the secluded grounds of the spectacular Park of Monza, almost situated within perfect tranquillity and submerged in nature... That is other than its occasionally noisy neighbour Monza race track (home of the Italian Grand prix) and frequent shout of 'Fore' as balls clatter amongst the mature trees. This gorgeous setting provides a treat for the visually pleased spectator and visually dependant player, just a huge shame we wont see it at it's very finest with the condition of the course not really matching the beauty of the venue its built upon.
Already home to eight editions of the Italian Open and the third straight year it has been hosted at Golf Club Milano. They have within recent years updated the layout of the course, which now has an overall length of 7,156 yards and a par of 71, adapting it to the needs of modern day golf.
The course being played this week is a composite from its 27 championship quality holes, each lined with trees and gently undulating throughout its parkland grounds.
On offer the players will have 3 reachable par 5's starting with the 556 yard 1st, each of the 4 par 3's are relatively demanding and even the shorter 166 yard 12th is far from a push over due to its awkward setting amongst the trees and 3 very imposing bunkers guarding the front of the green.
The course design puts a huge emphasis on shot shaping and accuracy. The fairways are fairly narrow and the greens are small targets compared to most courses on tour.
Scoring over the last 2 years has seen our winners finish with -21 and -19, so birdies or better will most certainly be on offer yet again this year but presenting those chances will most likely come from those that don't try to bite off more than can chew or try to cut too many corners.
We can anticipate that the small and tricky Poa Bent greens will be running at approximately 10.5 on the stimp. they will get progressively tougher throughout the day as they dry out and take wear from each days play
General conditioning of the course is far from amazing due to an extremely hot and dry summer., The grounds staff have been working hard to bring the course back to its full glory however I expect that they will have little option other than to play preferred lies in the fairways.
This Rolex event and $7 million prize fund has attracted most of the stars from Europe. The main attractions will no doubt be coming from the defence attempt from last years winner and home favourite Francesco Molinari and the presence of 2 of Spain's finest, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.
However amongst the elite of the European stars there will be many sub plots to enjoy as Tommy Fleetwood try's to secure the Race to Dubai lead, Tyrell Hatton seeking continue form and push for back to back victories, players scramble to earn a spot in the much anticipated season closer DP World Tour Championships or players simply trying their upmost to maintain playing rights for next year.
Hopefully with so much for all to play with we will get yet another highly competitive event and see superb golf from start to finish.
The Italian Open boasts a long history with this being the 74th edition of the event and has been a constant on the European Tours schedule since its formation in 1972. Over its many years we have seen some illustrious names grace the various courses this event is played across and lift the highly valued title.
Rather than focus on this event overall history I think its wise for me to simply focus on the last 2 years where we have seen Francesco Molinari pip Willett by 1 stroke last year with a total of -21 on its current layout set up and Rikard Karlberg win the year before after a playoff with Kaymer after booth shooting -19 but whilst the course was set up as a par 72.
In both years the event has gone right down to the wire and the leader board extremely tight at the top, going to be crucial if history repeats to get a bunch of contenders in your line up, not only that but making the cut is gonna require a quick start, -3 was good enough to see weekend golf last year and previously -5 was the magic number..
Key Stats and Strategy
If they do go ahead and play preferred lies in the fairway then finding fairways should be a huge factor in this event. As David and Pat mentioned in this weeks Podcast these extremely talented players really can take advantage when offered the option to play with a clean ball, practically teed up in the fairway
This week I'm going simple and sticking with the accuracy players, although big hitters finding the fairways will as always get the better chances to go low, steady patient scoring and accuracy has over the years at this location proved to be the formula to more consistent results.
Form coming into the event will factor but more than happy to look past some performances on the links courses last time out.
Course History will certainly weight in my picks and line up decisions.
Other skill sets I will be looking for from my players are that all important hot putter, great scrambling skills and in particular solid bunker play.
Jon Rahm $11,400 - World number 5 and big time favourite with the bookies to lift the title. Absolute birdie machine and huge points scorer in Draftkings. Although this pick doesn't necessarily fit with my accuracy model, Jon hits the ball more than straight enough and thanks to his ridiculous long ball game has the option should he choose to, to hit less club from the tee and rely more on his ball striking in order to compete. Will have a distinct advantage on the 3 par 5's and I expect this course to offer up an abundance of opportunity to a player of his calibre.
Francesco Molinari $10,600 - With his triumph last year, Molinari maintained his outstanding record in the Italian Open with five top ten finishes in his last ten appearances, including his win in 2006, which was followed by a tied third in 2007, tied sixth in 2009, tied eighth in 2011 before his second victory last year. Amazing accuracy player with a delightful short game, course fit and history boxes have been ticked so expecting 'Chicco' to contend again and keep his home fans pleased.
$9,000 - $10,000
Matthew Fitzpatrick $9,600 - Winning capabilities, incredible short game, not the best but solid off the tee. Superb green reading caddie on the bag. Last 3 starts have seen him place T15, T11 and a win back at the Omega European Masters in early September. As long as Matt finds a good number of fairways this week he should be contending come Sunday, if not then his short game should still keep him in the mix for a top 10 spot.
Tommy Fleetwood $9,400 - Proven winner, leading the Race to Dubai with 9 top 10 placings this year. Ultimate ball striker, hits lots of fairways with driver off the tee and hits his good fair share of greens. Always dependent on getting the putter hot to compete. If not for a disastrous +4 Saturday round on Kingsbarns would of been contending at last weeks Dunhill Links Champs.
$8,000 - $9,000
Bernd Weisberger $8,600 - Solid in all aspects of the game, will keep the ball in play and on the short stuff, hits greens for fun and scores solid progressive golf. Has had a reasonably long break so should be well rested and very determined to pick up good money at this big pay out event.
Martin Kaymer $8,400 - The German machine is starting to show signs of real class once again and returning to a course that fits perfectly to his game. All will depend on him hitting greens and converting chances. Has more than good performances here with 20th last year and 2nd the year before, after losing in a playoff to Karlberg.
David Horsey $8,200 - Hits fairways and hits greens. Makes very few mistakes and keeps the game relatively simple. The shorter yardage to this course and demand for accuracy should work to his favour. 5th last year and didn't compete in 2015. 5 straight cuts made coming into this so should be building confidence after a narrowly missing out to Suri in Denmark and a horrible drive off the last tee.
$7,000 - $8,000
David Lingmerth $7,900 - He has certainly played a lot of golf this year but why wouldn't you if you keep on picking up good cheques. 18 of 24 cuts made all season with 2 top 10's and the most recent being his last performance at the British Masters where he placed 4th. The golf we have seen him play here has been impressive to say the least and what I have seen on the PGA tour has had moments of greatness. If he can find another low round amongst his 4 this week we could be seeing his name amongst the top come Sunday afternoon.
Eddie Pepperell $7,800 - Form coming into this event is just amazing. T7, MC, T3, T3, T5. Found confidence and a completely new gear to his game. Rolling the putts in for fun but more importantly creating loads of chances.. Its a tall ask to keep performing at the top week in week out but absolutely no reason why he cant with the way he's striking the ball right now.
Lee Westwood $7,600 - Almost every box gets ticked with Lee for this course, has he tee shots on a bit of string and a good proportion of holes suit his shape. Will hit those fairways and greens and should create as many chances as anyone here.. just gonna need him to convert them.
Nacho Elveria $7,300 - A fair amount of talk about Nacho this week so unfortunately going to be high owned at this price. However that's not to say that I don't fancy a good performance yet again for him here. Will return to this venue with good vibes after pacing 3rd last year behind Molinari and Willett. As I mentioned earlier happy to ignore the MC at last weeks Dunhill Links Championship and focus more on the results from the British Masters T11 and Portugal Masters T7.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat $7,000 - Been in the write up for 3 straight weeks and served me reasonably well, will be playing him again and hoping this week he can keep the mistakes off the card.
Less Than $7,000
Chris Hanson $6,900 - By no means short of yardage but plays much better on shorter more complex courses. Ignore last week and recent form is more than good enough for me as he is coming back to a venue he enjoyed last year and earned himself T20.
Matt Wallace $6,900 - Although this is his first visit to this venue I have got a good feeling about Matt this week. His results have been average but showing signs of doing good things and getting ever closer to finding that magic move. Course should fit well and therefore should create chances.
Stephen Gallagher $6,800, WD last year but coming into this event playing really tidy stuff and has the results to prove it. Including 2 top 10's this year and and T15 and T12 in his last two events. As with all the players mentioned it gonna come down to making putts but feel more confident of him being more than a cut maker than the others mentioned in this category.
Benjamin Hebert $6,700 and Jorge Campillo $6,700 - If you need to go low then here are your in form cut makers. All playing well and making cuts, have games that are suited to this layout. Jorge finished 7th last year and Hebert 20th and 25th the year before. Solid picks and safest chance of yet another cut made around this price but I'm sure their form and history is no secret to the dfs community and if playing gpp I wouldn't blame you for taking a a gamble elsewhere.