After the thrilling final day at Carnoustie, the regular European Tour season resumes with another trip to Germany for the Porsche European Open.
In its various guises, this event has been played since 1978 although we only have one year of form at the current venue, Green Eagle.
It moved there last year and provided the stage for Jordan Smith’s first victory, the English youngster beating Alexander Levy in a play-off at the second extra hole after both had finished at 13-under-par.
Following a $10m+ purse at Carnoustie and the trio of lucrative Rolex Series events, prize money drops considerably here.
Last year’s Top 5 and stats
-13 Jordan Smith (DD: 3, DA: 7, GIR: 15, Scr: 7, PA: 16: AA: 1)
-13 Alexander Levy (DD: 10, DA: 14, GIR: 37, Scr: 4, PA: 7: AA: 3)
-11 Johan Edfors (DD: 21, DA: 18, GIR: 4, Scr: 42, PA: 39: AA: 19)
-11 Siddikur Rahman (N/A)
-10 Jens Fahrbring (DD: 16, DA: 32, GIR: 15, Scr: 22, PA: 11: AA: 11)
-10 Zander Lombard (DD: 6, DA: 5, GIR: 21, Scr: 13, PA: 20: AA: 2)
-10 Adrian Otaegui (DD: 24, DA: 1, GIR: 2, Scr: 57, PA: 9: AA: 10)
Notes: The leading finishers all finished in the top 25 for Driving Distance but many ranked in the top 20 for DA as well so long and straight was the ideal formula rather than just blasting it anywhere. A good all-round came proved important.
Designed in 2008, Green Eagle is a monster par 72 measuring 7,583 yards and is notable for having three par 5s in the final four holes – 15 (632), 16 (663) and 18 (517). There’s another at 11 (595) while the only front-nine par 5 is the 647-yard 9th. They’re balanced out by five par 3s while the much shorter opening nine has three par 4s under 400 yards. The Hamburg course was drenched last year after heavy downpours on Friday so, after the heatwave over Europe in recent weeks, it’s likely to play differently this time. It was also used for a Challenge Tour event in 2010.
Scorchio!! There’s actually a weather warning in place for Hamburg due to the high temps, relatively high humidity and low wind movement. After hitting 90 degrees on the first two days, it should cool a little on Sunday. There’s also the threat of t-storms on all four days so, similar to last year, there could be some disruptions.
The Leading Contenders
The sample size isn’t huge but Reed is ranked 1st for Par 5 Scoring on the European Tour this year (26th on PGA TOUR) and he won’t forget the 18th hole here at Green Eagle having made albatross-2 in round two 12 months ago. He was 13-under for the Par 5s that week but had to settle for T19 after a rather flat closing 73. Reed has played the last two weeks in Scotland, taking T23 in the Scottish Open and T28 at Carnoustie.
Casey smashes it long and straight and is ranked in the top 15 for Par 5 Scoring on both PGA and European Tours so looks a good fit. He couldn’t get anything going in The Open – “got beaten up this week by Carnoustie” – and finished T51 but was runner-up at the Travelers Championship before that and rarely finishes outside the top 20 anywhere. Had lots of top tens in Germany in the early part of his career although this is his first start there since 2014.
A superb winner at Memorial and T4 in Par 5 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour so deserves his place near the front of the betting. And, yes, he is available for the official game after taking out membership and deserves a close look. Pumps it a mile off the tee and has some excellent form this season (a win and four other top fives starting with T5 in Phoenix). T9 at the Travelers before T51 at Carnoustie.
Always seems to find his game in Germany and his last nine starts there show a second place, two other top tens and a further three top 20s. That run includes T12 at Green Eagle last year. The South African found some hot form in May with T9 at Quail Hollow and second place at Sawgrass but he’s been very quiet of late, his only starts since mid-June resulting in MC at the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
A European Tour member so, like Reed, he’s available for the official game. Perez flirted with the lead for the first two days at Carnoustie, opening 69-68 to sit in a tie for third at halfway before falling back to T17. That was his best showing in a while. He played this event last year but was DQ’d after a 76 for signing an incorrect scorecard. Perhaps he’ll have a point to prove. Perhaps he fancies another night out in Hamburg – probably his kind of town.
Beaten in the play-off by Jordan Smith at this venue last year, the Frenchman also won the 2016 edition at Bad Griesbach. He loves to hit driver at this course although his 7-under on the par 5s wasn’t as good as it might have been (Smith was -10 for the long holes). Levy’s chances of making the European Ryder Cup team in Paris looked promising earlier in the season but since winning in Morocco back in April, he’s gone off the boil. MC at Carnoustie made it no top 50s in his last eight starts.
The English youngster was playing in just his 25th European Tour event when winning this trophy at Green Eagle last year. It capped an impressively consistent run of form and he followed it with T9 in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Smith hasn’t quite kicked on since but T3 in the China Open and T8 at the Italian Open were reminders of his talent and he also shot three 67s when T32 at the Scottish Open.
Erik Van Rooyen
If he was relatively unknown coming into July, the South African has grabbed our attention with two big performances on the links. He was T4 at the Irish Open after leading into the final day and also prominent for much of the week at Carnoustie before posting T17. Even when he missed the cut at the Scottish Open in between, Van Rooyen fired a Friday 64. #TeamCurrent form will surely invest some of their Molinari winnings on him this week.
Like Smith and Reed, the Spaniard also cracked the top five at this course last year. He hit it pretty long and very straight (1st DA) but was left to rue bogeying two of the back-nine par 5s in round four. A winner on the European Tour in May after landing the Belgian Knockout, he’s also carded T12 (Open de France) and T28 (Irish Open) in two recent starts. Won the Paul Lawrie Match Play on German soil last year.
Fifth at the BMW International Open on a recent trip to Germany last month, Rai shot 69-63-67-68 at the Scottish Open on his last start, posting T9. He was top two for Driving Accuracy in both events. Rai may not smash it as long as most but the top ten here last year weren’t entirely big hitters and he has bags of talent as highlighted by three Challenge Tour wins last year, the last of those coming in late July.
Known as one of the big-hitting Belgians so Green Eagle should suit. T37 here last year suggests that logic didn’t quite play out although he was T16 going into the final day so the potential is there. No top tens since T9 in Abu Dhabi but Detry was T18 in the BMW International Open (in Germany) and T16 at the Open de France so should enjoy this test after struggling on the links recently.
The Next Rung
Certainly worth a look this week as he was T12 at Green Eagle last year (69-70-73-68) and has also cracked the top ten in the last two editions of the BMW International Open in Germany. A close-up third in his home Spanish Open back in April.
Shot the joint-lowest round of the week on the final day at Green Eagle last year, the 7-under 65 vaulting him 43 spots up the board to T8. Third in Morocco, he’s since taken T14 in the China Open and, two starts ago, T19 at the Irish Open.
The course would appear much too long for the Dane but let’s not forget he was T7 at Augusta National two years ago when ruled out on similar grounds. He’s 6-for-6 on the European Tour since the start of June and his best result in that time was T7 in Germany at the BMW. Shot a closing 66 at the Scottish Open on latest start.
Suffered a pair of MCs on the links in Scotland and Ireland but top 20s at the Open de France and Italian Open suggest there’s still some good form in the tank since he finished runner-up in Sicily in May and followed it with T8 at the Belgian Knockout. T9 and T13 in two of his last four starts in Germany.
Definitely in the big hitter camp although he’s often done well on short tracks too. Regardless of power off the tee, he gets the tick for current form after four top 15s in his last six starts, including T7 on his recent visit to Germany in the BMW International Open. Also solo fourth in this event at Bad Griesbach three years ago.
He hasn’t appeared on many leaderboards in recent memory despite making lots of cuts but Sterne has some interesting converging trends this week. On his last start, he closed 68-64 for T14 in the Scottish Open and he did well at Green Eagle 12 months ago, shooting a Saturday 66 to sit fourth with a lap to go before finishing T19. Has made nine straight cuts in Germany.
He’s had more competitive action at Green Eagle than most but T34 in a Challenge Tour event in 2010 and MC in this event last year isn’t ideal and two of his rounds were 77 and 79. Bjerregaard had four top sixes in five starts from April to June, including a T5 in Germany and T3 at Wentworth, so he should be glad to get back to some parkland action after MCs in the Irish and Scottish Opens.
Another of the top ten dwellers here last year, Chesters was actually the halfway leader before sliding back to T8. His case is strengthened by three top 25s in his last five starts, the best of those his T7 in the Shot Clock Masters. A short hitter but his accuracy served him well 12 months ago.
A surprise challenger at Carnoustie last week after a superb 65 on Saturday put him in contention. A Sunday 77 meant only T47. Miyazato was also T14 at the Irish Open and made the cut at Memorial. Course debut.
The Belgian Knockout runner-up offers decent consistency and got experience of Green Eagle last year when T47 after a bright start. T12 in this event three years ago at a different venue.
MC last year for the local man who won’t fly but cracked the top three in a Challenge Tour event earlier this month and T7 in the 2016 European Open.
Only T60 last year but won a Porsche for a hole-in-one. A runner-up at the Paul Lawrie Match Play on home German soil last year and snapped a run of six MCs with T14 in the Scottish Open last time.
Good for a first-round leader bet although he’s struggled to put four good rounds together. T26 in last German start and T23 at the Italian Open last month.
Will the Italians be inspired by Francesco Molinari’s Open win? Manassero was T12 at Green Eagle in the 2010 Challenge Tour event there and T13 in the 2016 BMW International Open in Germany.
This would be the ultimate example of inspiration if brother Edoardo got the job done. T16 at the BMW International Open last month although three MCs since and two MCs prior.
Enjoyed home advantage when T12 at the BMW International Open last month and played all four rounds at Green Eagle last year (T47).
Ninth in the Open de Espana and T6 in Sicily. The Frenchman is 9th for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee this season.
Green Eagle staged a Nordic Golf League tournament in May called the Master of the Monster. Staben made the top 20.
Who’s On The Team?
The three big-name Americans – Reed, DeChambeau and Perez – are all available for selection and it’s tempting to play all three.
I’ll reveal my full six-man line-up for the European Tour’s official Fantasy game in Tuesday’s Playing The Tips feature.
One To Swerve
No-one leaps off the page but perhaps Erik Van Rooyen has had a demanding stretch and will be running on empty a little. He also has to adjust back after three weeks on the links.