After returning as host course last year for the first time since 1990, Golf Club Milano is again the stage for this year’s Open Italian Open.
Just a short hop from the Netherlands where Joost Luiten won last week’s KLM Open, the local Italian fans will also hope one of their own can take home the title, a feat last achieved by Francesco Molinari in 2006.
Although gamers only have one year of relevant course form to assess, it is worth noting that recent dual winners of this event both scored their wins at different venues.
Hennie Otto took the title at Castello di Tolcinasco in 2008 and again at Golf Club Torino in 2014 while Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano won at Tolcinasco in 2007 before adding a second title at Royal Park in 2012.
Therefore, watch closely for any good form on Italian soil.
There was seven-way tie for third spot and, at one stage in the final round, no less than nine players were tied for the lead.
Top 10 from 2015
-17 Romain Wattel
Previous Italian Open winners, venues, winning scores
2015 Rikard Karlberg – Golf Club Milano (-19)
2014 Hennie Otto – Golf Club Torino (-20)
2013 Julien Quesne – Golf Club Torino (-12)
2012 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – Royal Park (-24)
2011 Robert Rock – Royal Park (-21)
2010 Fredrik Andersson Hed – Royal Park (-16)
2009 Daniel Vancsik – Royal Park (-17)
2008 Hennie Otto – Castello di Tolcinasco (-25)
2007 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – Castello di Tolcinasco (-16)
2006 Francesco Molinari – Castello di Tolcinasco (-23)
Notes: Five times in the last 10 years the tournament has been won with 20-under or lower. Expect another birdie-fest this year.
Designed in 1928, the heavily tree-lined course is set in Monza Park. The scenic 7,159-yard par 71 features four par 5s (1st 556 yards, 9th 564 yards and 14th 503 yards). The fairways are narrow and plenty will be missed but that didn’t stop the flood of birdies and eagles last year. Golf Club Milano has hosted this event seven times previously but this will be the first since 1990.
Stats of winner last year
2015 Rikard Karlberg (DD 45, DA 63, GIR 9, Scr 8; PA 15)
Wow. Karlberg hit just 35.7% of fairways when winning 12 months ago. Willett and Bjerregaard, who tied for third, were joint 50th in Driving Accuracy with 41.1%. Missing them didn’t matter.
It’s very hot for the practice rounds but should cool a little over the four tournament days. The predicted temperatures show high 70s for Thursday and Friday and then early 80s on the weekend. We could see a t-storm on Thursday and a brief shower in the final round. Winds are light but could pick up a little on Sunday.
The Leading Contenders
The German was three clear at one stage on Sunday last year but couldn’t get it done, eventually losing to Karlberg in a playoff. He hasn’t won since then so will be keen to get a ‘W’ on the board as he prepares to go into battle with the United States at Hazeltine. Also fifth in his previous Italian Open start in 2012, Kaymer has a bunch of good form this summer, the latest strong showing a top six in Denmark on his most recent start.
T79 at the PGA Championship, T37 at The Olympics and T12 in the European Masters last time (R4 64), it looks as if the Masters champ is building momentum for his Ryder Cup debut in just over two weeks’ time. He has an obvious chance to take it up another notch here after finished T3 at this venue in 2015, just one shot out of the playoff. His putter still isn’t as hot as he’d like but Willett hit over 75% of greens in regulation in Switzerland on his last start.
After the high of winning his home KLM Open, it might be smart to expect a comedown here. For clues we could look back to how he performed after winning the 2013 KLM. Answer: T24 at the Alfred Dunhill Links although that came a fortnight after his big moment. Luiten is usually a get hot-stay hot type as shown by back-to-back second places on the European Tour earlier this year. He didn’t play here 12 months ago but posted T4 at the 2014 edition in Torino.
Can the younger Molinari brother do a Luiten and triumph in front of the locals? He did just that in 2006 but since then he’s always looked as if the pressure of trying to win his home Open was too much. His results are solid enough but ultimately disappointing (20-18-16-46-8) the last five years. Managers will find it hard to leave him out of course, even though he comes in off two lacklustre performances on the PGA Tour, T47 at the Travelers and a missed cut at The Barclays.
Fitzpatrick is one of six debutants lining up for Europe in the Ryder Cup later this month so is using this as prep. It’s a good place to build some confidence as the Englishman was T3 at Golf Club Milano 12 months ago after closing with a 65. His only other experience of Italy is T7 in a Challenge Tour event at the end of 2014. Seventh was also the position he occupied in the Omega European Masters two weeks ago while he won on a tight, tree-lined track at Woburn so everything looks in place for a strong display.
This looks a good week to get the Korean on board after he followed up T11 at The Olympics with a fast-finishing third place at the KLM Open in the Netherlands last week where he hit over 80% of greens in regulation. It’s his tournament debut but An did take T20 in the 2012 Acaya Open in Italy in his Challenge Tour days. Also 6th in scrambling at the KLM, he looks ready to peak.
Westwood wants to get the engine running ahead of the Ryder Cup so, again, he pops up in one of these lower-key Euro Tour events. The veteran hasn’t pegged it up in this tournament since 2000 but he does have some good memories of Italy, his last four finishes in the event reading 12-6-6-3. Most recently, he was fourth in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland (2nd on the All-Around).
The best season of RCB’s career shows no sign of stalling and he’s kept it going with top five finishes on his latest two starts – The Olympics in Rio and Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. His fellow Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano has won this twice in recent years which bodes well although Cabrera-Bello could only manage T74 at this venue last year. There is some strong Italian form to be found in his resume though, T9 in this tournament in 2012 and five top 10s in Challenge Tour events held in Italy.
The little Dane posted T8 in front of his home fans at the Made in Denmark which added to the hugely impressive top 10s he posted at the Masters (T7) and Open Championship (T9). He’s missed the cut in his last two Italian Opens but did manage top 10s in both 2006 and 2010 while he took third spot in the European Tour’s 2012 Sicilian Open so he’s played well on a variety of different courses in Italy.
After the highs of back-to-back to 10s in the final two majors and a very decent T17 at the Travelers, Hatton has rather come back to earth with missed cuts at the Wyndham Championship and Omega European Masters on his two latest outings. Expect that to change soon. His only experience of the Italian Open was a missed cat at Torino in 2014.
The Next Rung
The 54-hole leader on the European Tour for the last two weeks although he failed to convert both opportunities, losing a playoff in Switzerland and settling for T4 at the KLM Open after shooting a closing 73 when suffering ‘one of those days’. Still, he arrives in Italy as one of the Tour’s form horses and he’ll always enjoy a birdie-fest. That said, he missed the cut at this course last year and his overall Italian Open form is underwhelming – MC-23-MC-32.
It didn’t quite work out for the Paraguayan at the KLM Open in terms of a title challenge but T16 represented a seventh top 25 in 11 starts so his consistency continues. Gamers will want more here though and they could well get it given that he finished in a tie for third place at Golf Club Milano last year, just a shot shy of the playoff number.
The Thai was a popular pick at the KLM Open last week but missed the cut, just the second time he’d failed to cash on the European Tour since February. A winner at the 100th Open de France in July, Jaidee will be playing this event for just the second time. He missed the cut at Royal Park in 2011 and was T28 at Castello di Tolcinasco in 2004.
Another of the new boys representing Europe at the Ryder Cup but Darren Clarke will have an anxious eye on how Sullivan gets on here as he needs to find some form and fast. The Englishman has missed his last three cuts on the European Tour and all in weakfish fields (Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland). He didn’t play here last year but was T11 at the 2014 Italian Open in Torino.
Four rounds in the 60s gave Canizares T25 at Golf Club Milano last year and he returns to the Italian venue on the back of T4 in last week’s KLM Open, his highest finish of the season. Up to 56th on the Race to Dubai now, he also has some other useful spots of location form with T10 (2009) and T14 (2010) in previous Italian Opens.
Colsaerts looks close to another big week but is just struggling for four-round consistency right now. He closed with a 65 to finish T24 in Switzerland and ended up T24 again at the KLM Open last week after following a Saturday 65 with a Sunday 72. He has rewarded managers this season with a trio of top three finishes while he boasts some impressive form on Italian soil – three top fives and a top 20 on his last five starts. The T20 came at this course last year when he opened with a 63.
Another looking forward to his Ryder Cup debut, Wood has had some big finishes in Italy. He was third on his Italian Open debut in 2010 and took second place in the 2012 Sicilian Open. The Englishman has missed his last two cuts in this event however although he’ll be seeing this week’s course for the first time. Heading to Italy, he’s searching for form after T59 at the KLM Open and T49 at the European Masters.
It’s been a solid summer for the three-time major winner. He’s made his last seven cuts and that consistent run includes four top 25s and just a single finish higher than T36. It gives him a foundation for a big week somewhere and it could be here after he shot 70-70-69-67 to post T33 at Golf Club Milano last year. It’s going a long way back but other Italian Open exploits include runner-up at Circologolf in 1999 and T6 at Olgiata in 2002. He’s played the event just twice since then.
It’s a first start in the event for Larrazabal since 2012 but he was fifth on that occasion at Royal Park and also T11 at the same venue the previous season. He hasn’t made many headlines of late but the Spaniard has been quietly impressive with four top 20s in his last eight starts, two of those top 10s. His very latest form is 20-7 after respective Sunday finishes of 66 at the KLM Open and 65 in Switzerland.
The former Ryder Cup star closed with a 65 at last week’s KLM Open (finished T16) and that included a double bogey at his penultimate hole. He’d reached the turn in just 29. That gave him a second straight top 20 although he’s only cracked the top 10 once this year (T6 in China). He’s played this event just twice since T19 in 2004 and missed the cut both times (2007 and 2014).
Hopes for the first European Tour win of Bland’s lengthy career at this level evaporated during a final-round 73 at the KLM Open last week but T16 added to his consistent year which shows peaks of third (China Open) and fifth (European Masters two weeks ago). He’s teed it up in Italy over 20 times at European Tour and Challenge Tour level and finished runner-up in the latter’s Grand Final in 2008. He’s just 4-for-11 in the Italian Open with a best of T17 in 2012. Bland was MC at this venue last year.
The Italian’s results in his home Open are a decent reflection of his European Tour career – some big results early on but poor in recent seasons. Manassero posted T8 in 2011 and third in 2012 (both at Royal Park) but was T42 in 2013, T54 in 2014 and missed the cut last year. He’s been trying to rebuild his form in 2016 with third spot at the Scottish Open the most obvious sign but he’s now cashed in six of his last nine events and will be desperate to put on a show to the local galleries this week.
He’s a four-time winner on the European Tour but was languishing outside the top 100 on this year’s Race to Dubai until a season-high T4 at last week’s KLM Open. Add that to top 20s in his last two starts in the Open d’Italia (2013 and 2014) and three top 10s in Challenge Tour events in Italy and he has obvious appeal.
Rock’s big moment on the European Tour was holding off Tiger Woods to win the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in 2012. But he’d paved the way for that victory by winning the 2011 Open d’Italia when shooting 21-under at Royal Park in 2011. He was runner-up at the same course in 2009 and has been in the money in nine of his last 10 starts in Italy although only T74 here last year. Latest form? T29 in Switzerland and T7 at the Czech Masters.
The Italian youngster found it all too much in the final round of the KLM Open last week and went from solo second after 54 holes to T24 at the finish after needing 77 swishes on Sunday. It’s all money in the bank for the rookie though and he does have two top 10s on the European Tour this season. We can forgive most due to age but missing 13 cuts out of 17 in European/Challenge Tour events in Italy suggests he hasn’t found much home-soil inspiration so far.
The Swede has converging trends going for him here having finished T3 at Golf Club Milano last year and posted T20 (KLM Open) and T5 (Made in Denmark) in two of his last three European Tour events. He opened with a 62 in Denmark and shot a Sunday 63 at this week’s venue last year so he can go low.
The other obvious young Italian to consider. Paratore missed the cut at the KLM Open but had a nice run of form prior to that with T7 in Switzerland, T18 in Denmark and T27 in the Czech Republic. He’s contested the last four editions of this event but made the cut just once (T38 in 2013).
After 36 holes at this venue last year, Bjerregaard had a piece of the lead after opening 66-65. In the end he missed the playoff by a shot but it’s clearly a venue where he can flourish. A third place in May’s China Open is his only top 10 this season but he’s made his last three cuts and T28 at last week’s KLM Open showed he could be rounding into some good form again.
Brother Francesco has won this event but how about Edoardo? Well, he’s had 15 stabs at it but never made the top 10 and was down in T65 last year. More promisingly, he’s won two Challenge Tour events in Italy and T34 at the KLM Open on Sunday was the 12th time he’d cashed in 14 starts. There’s only a single top 20 in that run however.
One final Italian name to consider and he gets the last sleeper pick as Golf Club Milano is his home course. That inside knowledge only helped him finish T44 last year although it came in a year when he lost his card. Recent poor form suggests it may be a similar story this week although he obviously has the potential to click at a venue he knows so well.
2016 Fantasy Race to Dubai
Dave Tindall is our main man in Europe. In addition to his weekly previews of European Tour events on Mondays, he’ll share his selections and analysis for the Fantasy Race to Dubai at EuropeanTour.com.
Format: Pick 6 golfers. Players accumulate points based on Race to Dubai (R2D) points earned. Captain’s points are trebled and vice-captain’s doubled. Unlimited team changes can be made each week.
Team Tindall (Team name: YESSIR!)
Last week: Captain Thomas Pieters withdrew after being stung by a bee. That’s the way it’s going for me this season folks. No-one likes a moaner so onwards and upwards. Damn bees though.
Martin Kaymer (captain): Should have won this last year (three clear on Sunday before losing a playoff) but he’s a horses-for-courses type so expect another big showing. Recent form also suggests a win is coming soon.
Byeong-Hun An (vice captain): T11 at The Olympics followed by top four in the KLM last week when irons were dialled in. That brilliant six-shot win at Wentworth last year showed his love of tree-lined trackes.
Matt Fitzpatrick: Won at Woburn (tight and tree-lined) so this week’s course looks perfect for him. In fact, we already know due to his T3 there last year. Top 10 in Switzerland last time and will want to show his sharpness ahead of the Ryder Cup.
Lee Westwood: Did a good job of justifying his Ryder Cup captain’s pick with fourth place at the Omega European Masters last time and has always played well on Italian soil.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello: His breakout season has continued with top fives on his last two starts so RCB has to be followed, especially in a modest field like this. Lots of good form in Italy from his Challenge Tour days.
Fabrizio Zanotti: Has become a top 25 machine this year but just needs the right course to turn one of those into something big. Golf Club Milano could be it given his tied third place there 12 months ago.
Matt Cooper is part of our European team. He contributes to player news, and he’ll share his selections and analysis for the Fantasy Race to Dubai at EuropeanTour.com.
Team Cooper (Team name: NormanStanleyFletcher)
Last week: More progress as Luiten notches the team another win – not that I was alone in picking him, but the relative poor play of the rest of the team was made up for by Joost carrying the armband. I like players who can play tight, tree-lined tracks this week.
Byeong Hun An (captain): Just the five starts in regular European Tour events this term and he's notched three top fives. I like his long game as a fit for the course and the memory of the Wentworth week feels good.
Julien Quesne (vice captain): Nothing left field about him on this sort of track – he loves playing in the trees. Maybe a shock to pluck him out as VC but I can see him winning again soon and he is a past champion of this event.
Matt Fitzpatrick: Ummed and ahhed between Willett and Fitzpatrick – and gone with the younger man. Maybe turned a corner with two recent top tens and the course is bang up his street. Also, a lot of guys who thrived last year play Bro Hoff Slot very well, where Fitzpatrick won in June. It helped nudge me his way.
Martin Kaymer: Consistent all year, play-off loser last year, and I was swayed by the lack, so far, of a Ryder Cup wildcard pick riding the wave of the public pat on the back.
Fabrizio Zanotti: I love following Zanotti on tree-lined parkland courses. Third last year and top 35 in 9 of his last 11 starts (7 of them top 25).
David Lipsky: T6 and T3 in the Czech Republic and Denmark took him to Crans – scene of his first ET win – with a lot of expectation … trailed in T58. I can forgive that. Third here last year, so the recent experience of dealing poorly with high expectation might help this week and let him use the form and the fondness for the track.