The European Tour makes its second trip to Italy in the space of four weeks, with Gardagolf hosting the Italian Open for the first time since 2003, Phil Casey writes.
After three years at Golf Club Milano, the tournament also moves to a different place in the calendar, with Tyrrell Hatton’s victory last year coming in October, just days after he won the Dunhill Links in St Andrews.
Despite a prize fund of $7million as part of the Rolex Series, a clash of dates with the Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour means that some of Europe’s big names are missing.
But the likes of two-time champion and BMW PGA Championship winner Francesco Molinari, European number one Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren and Ian Poulter are in the field at Gardagolf, along with the club’s touring professionals Nino Bertasio and Matteo Manassero.
Manassero describes it as a tricky venue with “tiny” greens and plenty of undulation, adding on the European Tour’s website: “My favourite thing is that you have to be very accurate with your approach play. Players that are more accurate, and not necessarily bombers, will be near the top of the leaderboard I think.”
Let’s hope that proves to be the case because our first selection is the accurate Fleetwood, who also still averages over 300 yards off the tee.
Fleetwood’s chances of victory at Wentworth were scuppered by an uncharacteristic third round of 77, but he bounced back with a 68 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 20th at a venue where he had missed his last two cuts.
The 27-year-old, who partnered Manchester City boss in the pre-tournament pro-am, admitted he felt the effects of what he called his busiest event of the year and can benefit from a quieter week off the course in Italy. He can be backed each-way at 12/1.
At almost three times the odds, fellow Englishman Ross Fisher is our second selection as he looks to claim his first European Tour title since 2014.
On the face of it that does not bode well for our chances, but Fisher lost out to Hatton in the Dunhill Links last year despite a closing 61 on the Old Course and was edged out by the same player seven days later despite a closing 63.
The significance of finishing fifth at Gardagolf on the Challenge Tour in 2005 is debatable, but Fisher was also eighth at Wentworth on Sunday and can be backed each-way at 33/1.
It was no real surprise to see Adrian Otaegui miss the cut at Wentworth following his exertions in winning the Belgian Knockout, but the qualities of display in Antwerp could also come to the fore in Italy.
Otaegui has provided us with two winners and a price of 66/1 in the each-way market is too tempting to turn down here.
And finally, Darren Fichardt’s lack of length off the tee should not be a factor and the South African, who was seventh at Wentworth, could reward a small each-way bet at 100/1.
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