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Last week's headline selection Graeme McDowell couldn't find the score on Sunday to deliver us another winner in this column, however an Each Way payout was enough to secure us a profit on the week - after 2 consecutive positive results let's see if we can keep the momentum flowing and secure a winner this week in Austria!
The Lyoness Open, formerly the Austrian GolfOpen, is a low-key event wedged in the middle of 2 Majors and a WGC which, with its low €1m purse and timing in the golfing calendar, has failed to attract any of Europe's really top stars. Thorbjorn Olesen has been established as the standout 14/1 bookies favourite, followed by local hero Bernt Wiesberger at 18/1 - talented as this young duo are, both were maidens on Tour until very recently and the prices on offer for the pair are more a reflection of the overall quality of the field and represent poor value in my opinion.
The course at the Diamond County Club is located 20 miles west of Vienna in Atzenbrugg and is a relatively flat 7,386 yard par 72. Half of the holes feature water - including 2 par-3 holes to island greens - and the premium around here is very much on finding greens after a successful tee shot into the fairway, anything else will leave players struggling for par with tough scrambling conditions. With heavy rain in Austria in recent times the course is likely to play soft and quite long, although with relatively calm and dry weather forecast for the event itself (with just a small chance of thunder storms) it will be eminently scoreable from the fairways.
The greens at Diamond CC are amongst the best on the 2012 European Tour and the mildly undulating bentgrass surfaces offer some respite to those who are less adept with the putter. For me this tournament will be primarily about who can find the most greens in regulation and find some confidence with the flat stick to make the 20 or so birdies required to hit a score in the -15 region, give or take a few shots. My selections are as follows - PLEASE NOTE that this event starts on Wednesday this week:
From tee-to-green there are few others who are in the same league as the Scot at present and the setup here in Austria gives 37 year-old Drysdale an excellent opportunity to earn a long-awaited first victory on the European Tour. His driving accuracy and greens in regulation have both improved substantially in 2012 and the with that his results are on the ascendancy - he's already secured his playing privileges for 2013 by accumulating €376k so far this term. 3rd at the long Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Club at the start of the season kick-started his campaign and 4 top-11 finishes in his last 6 starts is an excellent return in far stronger fields than this.
On a course that will reward accuracy from tee-to-green, Drysdale's recent ball-striking performances stick out like a sore thumb: Wentworth: 2nd Driving Accuracy, 10th GIR; Celtic Manor 6th & 15th respectively; Portrush 5th and 10th; Le Golf National 1st and 12th. That's ultra-consistent and whilst he did miss the cut at Castle Stuart that was primarily down to the putter which will be under far less pressure this week, plus he'd been playing an awful lot of golf on the run up to that event. His Wentworth form is working out brilliantly with Siem, Els & Molinari (who each finished a shot ahead of Drysdale at the BMW PGA) all winning/contending in recent weeks and this is far, far less competitive. Drysdale was trading at 33/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T15
Another Scot makes my final 5 this week in an event where he's finished 6th and 19th in 2 attempts, albeit on a different track. Gallacher is a player I always take a look at when there's a requirement for high GIR, however he's a tough one to get right with niggling back injury which seems to impact him when he plays too regularly - good news then that he's been resting for the last week after a prominent performance in Scotland a fortnight ago where a 3rd round 65 followed up a first round 68 for a creditable top 25 finish.
Twice a runner-up already this season (Dubai and Malaysia) in far more lofty company, if Stephen is going to add to his one European Tour victory then this is the kind of event that he must compete in. At over 74% of greens hit in regulation for the season to date, Gallacher's irons are working nicely as always plus his driving has been far more dependable in recent weeks where he ranked inside the top 10 for accuracy in Wales, Germany and Ireland. His putting performance improved dramatically in Scotland where, funnily enough, his irons were a little off; now if he can put it all together this week on a track that should suit then I can see him getting very close to this, despite this being his course debut. Gallacher was trading at 39/1 on Betfair at the time of writing. RESULT: T40
At his best Thomas Levet would absolutely walk this event - the 6 time European Tour winner, who also has 2 Open Championship top 5s to his credit, is head and shoulders above most of this field on pedigree and he must really fancy his chances after bouncing back to form in Scotland on his last start. The 2011 French Open Champion famously broke his leg after jumping into a lake to celebrate his title - an injury which literally crippled the remainder of his 2011 season. 2012 started with 10 consecutive missed cuts after he finished joint last at the Volvo Golf Champions, however he was never going to stay in the doldrums forever and his Scottish Open performance -where he ranked 4th for driving accuracy and 11th for GIR - is more than noteworthy. Like Gallacher this will be Levet's course debut, however Diamond CC plays to his strengths and I fancy a further improvement from the Frenchman here. Levet was trading at 49/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T2
Spaniard Ignacio Garrido hasn't won on the European Tour for 9 years since his Wentworth victory in 2003, however his tee-to-green game is as good as ever at present and he must also be fancied to improve on his 4 top-11 finishes in 2012 in the knowledge that a decent finish here will secure his playing rights for 2013 at this early stage. Those 4 finishes have all come on par 72 tracks where a score can be made if the ball is kept in play: 11-under in Morocco for 9th, 14-under in China for 11th, 10-under in Sweden for 10th, and 13-under in Scotland for 11th on his last outing where he ranked 3rd for driving accuracy and 6th for GIR. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Garrido start well (50/1 for first round leader anyone?!) and keep himself in contention throughout the 4 days as he looks to emulate compatriot Jose Manuel Lara's 2010 victory at Diamond Country Club. Garrdio was trading at 54/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T40
I've saved a few pennies back for a speculative punt on another Scot, this time 32 year-old Steven O'Hara from Motherwell. O'Hara is far from prolific - in fact he's yet to win on either the European Tour or Challenge Tour - however he's the kind of player who could just pop up out of the blue and secure a top 5 at a long price, exactly as he did in the Czech Republic last season after a stretch of 4 consecutive missed cuts. O'Hara showed his battling qualities at Local Final Qualifying at West Lancashire earlier in the month to secure his first Open Championship appearance after a 5-hole playoff. His Open appearance was ultimately fruitless as he missed the cut at +6, however he'll be far stronger for the experience and this will feel like a walk in the park after the challenges of Lytham & St Annes. What encourages me most about O'Hara is that his irons are excellent in 2012 - at 7th on Tour for GIR he's the strongest in that department in the field - and recent performances are no different where he ranked 3rd in Germany, 4th in Ireland and 4th in Scotland in that department. He hit 75% of fairways at Lytham - no mean feat in itself - and if he can tie that all together then he'll give himself an awful lot of chances at birdie this week. O'Hara was trading at 149/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T18
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!