Jon Rahm displayed his brilliance once again with a commanding win in last week’s Open de España. Italian golf fans will hope for more home success with the Molinari brothers amongst a number of local players teeing it up in the Italian Open.
The Rolex Series event continues its nomadic existence with a fifth venue in 10 years – Olgiata Golf Club. This is a new test for many of those in the field but Matt Fitzpatrick is among the number to have played at Olgiata on the Challenge Tour. He enjoyed the tough test of golf it provided then and can thrive against top level opposition to push for a sixth European Tour win.
Olgiata Golf Club hasn’t been used by the European Tour since 2002 when Ian Poulter won the Italian Open. A fair number of those in this week’s field have previous course experience though as it’s been used multiple times on the Challenge Tour in the intervening years.
Olgiata is an exclusive golf club at which members pay a high premium to ensure it remains in tip top condition. The European Tour stars heading to Rome this week will find immaculate fairways and greens but those who played it some years back will need to get their heads around the changes that were made some years ago as part of Italy’s bid for the 2020 Olympics.
This should be one of the toughest weeks for some time. Olgiata is long for a par 71 at a maximum of 7,523 yards but also demands a certain amount of accuracy off the tee as it’s a classic looking tree-lined layout.
|Olgiata Golf Club||Rome, Italy||7,523 Yards||$7,000,000|
There will be no defending champion at this year’s Italian Open. Thorbjorn Olesen remains suspended by the European Tour pending a court case to ascertain whether or not he is guilty of charges of sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft and common assault. Indeed, only two of the most recent five winners – Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari – are in attendance in Rome.
Although the Italian Open regularly shifts venue, recent winning scores have remained similarly low. That is set to change this week as the players will find Olgiata a much tougher proposition, subject of course to the way the European Tour decide to set the course up.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Thorbjorn Olesen||Gardagolf Country Club||-22||1 Stroke|
|2017||Tyrrell Hatton||Golf Club Milano||-21||1 Stroke|
|2016||Francesco Molinari||Golf Club Milano||-22||1 Stroke|
|2015||Rikard Karlberg||Golf Club Milano||-19||Playoff|
|2014||Hennie Otto||Circolo Golf Torino||-20||2 Strokes|
Analysis: Par Four Scoring Could be Key
Olgiata is a different beast from the championship tees compared to those that the members play off. The changes to the course were largely focused on adding length, especially to the par fours which look particularly demanding. Those towards the top of the leaderboard on Sunday will have avoided big scores on the punishing par fours thanks to solid play from tee to green and the odd card-saving putt. The players must avoid bogeys on the par threes and try to maximise scoring on the three par fives but it’s performance on the most demanding par fours which will likely be where the 2019 Italian Open is won and lost.
Fitzpatrick Can Land a Big Win
It’s easy to forget that Matt Fitzpatrick is just 25. The Englishman seems to have been around on the European tour for longer than that. Fitzpatrick already has five wins to his name, including the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. He’s shown that he has the game and the mentality to win the biggest tournaments on the European Tour and has a real chance to further improve his CV this week in Rome.
In order for Fitzpatrick to get into contention on Sunday he’ll need all aspects of his game to be in fine working order. Given that he ranks fifth for strokes gained in total on the European Tour he appears very much up to the challenge. Speaking of challenge, Fitzpatrick is one of those in the field who played at Olgiata on the Challenge Tour so he’ll know what to expect at Rome. Combine that knowledge with the experience of his caddy, Billy Foster, and you just know Fitzpatrick will have a rock solid game plan in Rome.
It’s a case of putting the plan into action for Fitzpatrick. His solid performances of late and the way that the course should play into his strengths suggest he’ll be do that and be a major contender and that the odds of 25/1 that Betfred are quoting are too big to ignore.
Local Knowledge to Help Pavan
Nobody in the field for the 2019 Italian Open has more course knowledge than Andrea Pavan. The Italian learned how to play golf at Olgiata and plays the course regularly as he remains a member. Playing a top level competition on your home course doesn’t always end up well as there’s an extra amount of pressure and the course is set up very differently but Pavan won at Olgiata on the Challenge Tour and may just do the same in the big leagues.
It’s taken Pavan longer than he’d have liked to make a real impact on the European Tour but the 30-year-old now feels at home amongst this level of competition. His medium to long term form is impressive and he has a game that is tailor made for this course so make sure to add Pavan to your staking plan at 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
Final Verdict: Matt Fitzpatrick to Win
Andrea Pavan would be a very popular winner of this year’s Italian Open and his chances should be respected at 33/1 with Ladbrokes. It’s Matt Fitzpatrick who looks the most likely winner though. He has played a lot of good golf at this part of the season before and can set up a tilt at the Race to Dubai playoffs with a big Rolex Series win at 25/1 with Betfred.
About the Italian Open
Since the European Tour was officially founded in 1972, the Italian Open has been a part of the tour. The tournament has also been a European Tour Rolex series event since 2017. However, it was around way before then, with the first edition being played at Golf Club Alpino di Stresa back in 1925.
The event has taken place on various golf courses throughout Italy over the years. The Circolo Golf Villa d’Este has hosted a record 12 Italian Opens, although the last time it was held on the Montorfano course was in 1972. The Italian Open has also been held at the Golf Club Milano, Golf Club Monticello and Golf Club Castello Tolcinasco, among a number of others.
Several big names have won this competition over the years, including Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer and home favourite Francesco Molinari. Auguste Boyer and Flory Van Donck jointly hold the record for the most wins of the event with four victories apiece.
Boyer & Van Donck Level on Four
Only two players have won the Italian Open more than twice. Several have a couple of wins to their names, including Francesco Molinari, Hennie Otto, Bernhard Langer and Ian Poulter; but Auguste Boyer and Flory Van Donck are ahead of the game with their four victories each.
Boyer won the second Italian Open way back in 1926, adding a second title two years later. The Frenchman then won back-to-back tournaments in 1930 and 1931. Each of his last three victories came at Villa d’Este, with the first coming at Alpino di Stresa.
Seven years after Boyer’s fourth and final victory, Flory Van Donck picked up the first of his four titles. The Belgian won again in 1947 before securing triumphs in 1953 and 1955.
Multiple Winner of the Italian Open – 1925 to 2019
|1926, 1928, 1930, 1931||Auguste Boyer|
|1938, 1947, 1953, 1955||Flory Van Donck|
|1927, 1935||Percy Alliss|
|1950, 1954||Ugo Grappasonni|
|1984, 1992||Sandy Lyle|
|1987, 1995||Sam Torrance|
|1983, 1997||Bernhard Langer|
|2000, 2002||Ian Poulter|
|2007, 2012||Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano|
|2008, 2014||Hennie Otto|
|2006, 2016||Francesco Molinari|
Molinari’s Second Win Ten Years On
Since the Italian Open became a European Tour event, only three Italians have won the tournament. The first of those was Baldovino Dassu, who won by eight strokes in 1976. Four years later, Massimo Mannelli won the 1980 Italian Open.
In recent times, Francesco Molinari has been the most successful Italian player. The first of his two titles came in the 63rd edition in 2006. The Turin man beat Anders Hansen and Jarmo Sandelin by four strokes at Golf Club Castello Tolcinasco in Milan.
Ten years after winning at Castello Tolcinasco, Molinari finished top of the pile once again. Francesco went on to seal a single-stroke win over English ace Danny Willett. Two of his six European Tour wins have come on home soil.
Molinari almost won the Italian Open for a third time in 2018. Unfortunately for him, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen edged out the home favourite by just one stroke at Gardagolf Country Club in Brescia, leaving Molinari with the runners-up medal. The Italian got over the disappointment rather quickly however: the following month Molinari won The Open Championship at Carnoustie, becoming the first Italian to win a major in the process. He beat the likes of Rory McIlroy by two shots with the great Tiger Woods a further shot back.
Poulter Wins in 2000 and 2002
Ian Poulter is a two-time Italian Open champion. In fact, Poulter and Percy Alliss are the only Englishmen to have won this tournament more than once, with Scots Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance the other Brits to have also picked up two Italian Open championships.
Poulter’s first victory came in 2000 when the Hertfordshire man was just 22 years old. Poulter became only the second man from England to win this event in 10 years, claiming a single-stroke victory over Scottish star Gordon Brand Jnr. That was his first European Tour victory.
Poulter was at it again two years later, this time winning at Olgiata. Despite rain shortening play to 54 holes, the English ace got the better of Scot Paul Lawrie by two strokes to claim his second Italian Open crown.
Low Scores Prevail
As with many professional golf tournaments, a winning score of 20 under par or better is not an uncommon sight at the Italian Open. In fact, since Bernhard Langer won the event with a score of 17 under par in 1983, the winning score has only been worse than 10 under par on two occasions: when Jim Payne won with nine under par in 1996 and Craig Parry won with the same score in 1991.
Italian Open Winning Scores of 20 Under Par or Better – 2000 to 2019
|Year||Player||Score (To Par)|
|2018||Thorbjørn Olesen||262 (-22)|
|2017||Tyrrell Hatton||263 (-21)|
|2016||Francesco Molinaro||262 (-22)|
|2014||Hennie Otto||268 (-20)|
|2012||Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño||262 (-24)|
|2011||Robert Rock||267 (-21)|
|2008||Hennie Otto||263 (-25)|
|2006||Francesco Molinaro||265 (-23)|
|2001||Gregory Havret||268 (-20)|
|2000||Ian Poulter||267 (-21)|