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The European Open returned to the schedule in 2015 after a 6-year break having formed an important part of the European Tour up until 2009 and the event's resurrection saw a new early autumn slot alongside a new home in Germany having previously been played in the UK and Ireland at such venues as the London Club, The K Club, Sunningdale and Walton Heath to name but a few. Those historical results from 2009 and before are little more than interesting facts though with the event having shifted to Germany; a change in scheduling for 2017 as well as a new track also makes the results from the past 2 years less relevant too as we move to the 'Green Eagles Golf Courses' on the outskirts of Hamburg for this year's renewal.
Following last week's festivities at Royal Birkdale that saw Jordan Spieth produce a sublime finish over the final 5 holes to add the Open Championship title to his ever-growing list of achievements, a few of last week's attendees have remained in Europe including Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker and Pat Perez as well as Charl Schwartzel who spends the majority of his time across the Atlantic nowadays. Reed and Schwartzel dispute favouritism with most bookmakers around the 12/1 mark, however aside from Thorbjorn Olesen, Joost Luiten, defending champion Alex Levy and the in-form Richie Ramsay, the field quickly thins out to a more run-of-the-mill European Tour affair.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the RBC Canadian Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. Green Eagles Golf Courses is a collection of 42 holes spread across 3 courses in the 'Lüneburger Heide', a picturesque part of Germany on the outskirts of Hamburg. The North Course is being used for this week's event and the Michael Blesch design is a brute at 7,165 metres (7,836 yards) from its tips for its scorecard par of 73, however with 4 teeing areas on each of the holes there's considerable flexibility as to how the course can be set up and this week's layout will reportedly measure 7,582 yards and play to a par of 72. European Golf Design (EGD) have undertaken some renovation work to get the North Course ready for this event with changes predominantly around 6 of the green complexes, however the fact remains that this is one of the longest courses in the world of golf when playing its full length.
With a course of that length, as you'd expect the fairways are reasonably generous and the greens large and undulating so as to give players a chance of compiling some kind of score. Water is in play on all but one of the holes and an element of control is going to be required to avoid paying the penalty for wild tee shots or approaches, however the reward for a safe navigation to the green will be excellent quality putting surfaces that will be receptive after recent wet weather. The North Course hosted the 2010 ECCO Tour Championship event on the Challenge Tour won by Andreas Harto with a 284 total which was -8 to the par of 73 that week.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's European Open. Please note that, this year's renewal has moved to a new venue this year. Current Form | Event Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Hamburg is here. Fairly significant rain in the lead up to the event will have softened the course ahead of four improving tournament days with the risk of showers diminishing a little as we head towards the weekend. Temperatures will reach the low-70s Fahrenheit and will be accompanied by fairly light wind speeds.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
A switch of venue doesn't help our analysis this week as the most recent event held here at the North Course was the 2010 ECCO Tour Championship on the Challenge Tour won by Andreas Harto and no performance stats were captured that week. Player interviews that week talked inevitably about the length of the course, however the consensus I took from what I could find was that attacking the greens from the fairway was the best course of action as 3 putts are commonplace given the sheer size of the putting surfaces. Water is in play on a number of the holes and with the recent wet weather softening fairways and greens this could well suit the more aggressive types who can keep their ball out of trouble from off the tee.
Alex Levy had shown good progressive form before winning this event last September at Bad Griesbach with finishes of 18/34/7 following a mid-season break with no entries into the Majors/WGCs last year for the Frenchman. 2015 winner Thongchai Jaidee on the other hand had finishes of 65 (Open Championship)/50/57(WGC Bridgestone)/MC (US PGA Championship) prior to his victory, although a couple of runner-up finishes earlier in the year had signalled some intent at least.
A guessing game then to a large degree, however with a long, wet course being played in what should turn out to be pretty favourable conditions may well produce a reasonably logical winner.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
Looking at raw statistics and finishing positions without any context can be misleading and I think that defending champion Alexander Levy is actually playing far better than his 51/15/MC/57/MC/26/MC form line since winning in China at the end of April suggests. The ever-smiling Frenchman is a lover of target golf and a soft course that rewards accurate but aggressive play has got to be right up his alley, even if it is a different venue to that where he won this event in a play-off last autumn. Tougher assignments aren't Levy's bag, nor is links golf to that matter, so it's no surprise to me to see a relatively poor set of results from Wentworth onwards, however interspersed within that we've still seen signs of life with a second round 66 at Dundonald Links the most tangible form of late. A weekend off in Southport is no bad thing in my view as he'll have had an extra couple of days to prepare for his Porsche European Open defence and a wet few days in Germany followed by 4 tournament days of calm, improving weather sets up perfectly for the 26 year-old.
Not the longest off the tee but certainly long and aggressive enough, when Levy plays his best golf he combines that attacking style with sufficient accuracy off the tee to set up birdie chances and although this is unlikely to develop into an all-out birdie fest given the dimension of the North Course, I still suspect that the exposed track will appeal more to his swashbuckling style than many others. Total driving is likely to be key here this week - a combination of length and accuracy from the tee - and when the 4-time European Tour winner gets that element of his game right he tends to feature heavily: Levy ranked 4th for Total Driving when capturing his maiden title in China in 2014 and 10th on the same count when winning the weather-affected event in Portugal later that year; 2nd in that category was the driving force behind his success in this event last October and although he was a little more wayward when winning in China this year, he still ranked 10th for Driving Distance whilst hitting nearly 2/3 of fairways. 9th for Total Driving at Wentworth and 10th at Le Golf National on two tracks that I wouldn't earmark for Alex are encouraging despite his low finishes in both events and, for me, his game is simply ready to explode once again when conditions suit.
Germany has been a happy hunting ground for Levy with 3rd and 12th place finishes at the BMW International Open to add to his Porsche title and he came close to defending his Volvo China Open title in 2015 despite a switch in venue, ultimately finishing 3rd behind Ashun Wu courtesy of a disappointing final round of 73. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that broad smile greeting us as he receives the customary Champagne shower on the 18th green on Sunday. RESULT: 2nd, Lost Play-Off
The top of the market this week is pretty unappealing to me I must say. Whilst Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel are undoubtedly a class above most of the players here, both arrive folowing poor efforts at Royal Birkdale and a missed cut each on their start prior to that and at such short prices a leap of faith is required if backing either of them. Thorbjorn Olesen is a skinny 20/1 shot for a player who's just as likely to miss the weekend as contend and Joost Luiten's game hasn't been firing for some time now. Paul Dunne could go well if he can avoid the water from off the tee, however that's a big if given how he's been driving the ball and I wouldn't be surprised to see Kiradech Aphibarnrat bounce back to form on a soft course that should appeal to him. With a new layout to the European Tour though I'm going to play a few longshots this week instead as a lack of course experience can often level the field.
First up, Julian Suri who's another of these young Americans who's taken the European route to advancing his career, following in the footsteps of the likes of Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka. There are similarities in the 26 year-old's game too as he averages 307 from off the tee in his limited European Tour starts and from the evidence we've seen so far he could well be progressing up the OWGR ladder at a rate of knots as we progress through 2017 and 2018. Since making his Challenge Tour debut just over a year ago, Suri has recorded 10 top-30 finishes, a maiden win at the Czech Masters and another close call the following week to finish 3rd at the Swiss Challenge. 2nd behind Matt Wallace at co-sanctioned European Tour level in Portugal in May was also impressive and he looked very much a future winner at this level that week and was unlucky to run into an unstoppable performance from Wallace. Another prominent performance at the Italian Challenge on his penultimate start fizzled out as his mind drifted to his Major Championship debut last week at Birkdale, however with a missed cut recorded in Southport he can now focus on priority number 1 and that's to secure a full European Tour card - victory here would achieve exactly that. 3rd for Total Driving on his last regular European Tour event at the Lyoness Open (finished 23rd) is encouraging and a lack of course experience won't hinder this aggressive ball-striker in the slightest here this week. RESULT: T16
Much has been written over the years about the (as yet) largely unfilled promise of Oliver Fisher. A 3-time winner of the Faldo Series as a youngster and a member of the Walker Cup team at the tender age of 16, much was expected of the Essex lad and aside from a 2-stroke victory at the 2011 Czech Open, so far his career hasn't quite lived up to those expectations. Two top-10 finishes in his last 9 starts is encouraging though and further promising positions in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Pretoria and Austria this season before Sunday woes suggests that his game isn't that far away at all and at 100/1 he's worth taking a chance on in my view. An excellent ball-striker when on his game, it's actually his putting which has picked up in recent times and has been the catalyst for his far more prominent performances; if he can tie everything together this week then an improvement on his 10th place finish in decent company at Portstewart isn't out of the question with the potential to reward each-way punters here with 7 places on offer from Coral. RESULT: T55
A win at the Golfsixes with Thorbjorn Olesen earlier this year may not count as an official European Tour title for Lucas Bjerregaard, however the confidence boost that accolade will give him is nevertheless a positive and I'm sure that he has the ability to win a regular event before too long. The most suitable track for a breakthrough is likely to be one where his power gives him an advantage and with a soggy monster of a course awaiting the players this week, I'm happy to overlook some indifferent form over the past few weeks and back him to go well here at a decent price. 7th in Austria last month was the Dane's best regular event finish for over 12 months and a decent week from tee-to-green accompanied his typically powerful driving to give him Total Driving and Ball-Striking ranks of 6th in the field that week which in turn bodes well for this week's test. 11th for GIR that week on a layout which again rewards long, straight driving is much more like it from the 25 year-old who recorded his best efforts on the European Tour at the back end of 2015 when his ironplay was on song and if he can brush off some disappointing results at Le Golf National and on the Irish and Scottish links then he should find this week's task much more to his liking. Finished 5th in this event in 2015 and may well feed off the positive vibes as he returns to Germany. RESULT: MC
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