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After the trials and tribulations of Erin Hills where former Challenge Tour and European Tour winner Brooks Koepka deservedly won his first Major, we move to a somewhat more familiar challenge for the players this week as the BMW International Open returns to the Golfclub München Eichenried once again having been held in Cologne 12 months ago.
As always, we have the post-Major dilemma to consider - will those players who endured 4 long days (in some cases) in Wisconsin be able to raise their game to compete here so soon afterwards? A dozen or so have made the journey straight to Munich to compete here, most notably (in terms of their result at Erin Hills) Tommy Fleetwood (4th), Bernd Wiesberger (16th), Eddie Pepperell (16th), Sergio Garcia (21st), Martin Kaymer (35th), Brandon Stone (35th), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (42nd) and Ernie Els (55th). Missed cuts from George Coetzee, Henrik Stenson, Wade Ormsby, Joel Stalter and Andres Romero complete the picture, however the real story of the week from a European Tour perspective was the performance of Tommy Fleetwood who was in with a realistic chance of winning until Koepka pulled away from him on the back 9 on Sunday.
Adapting to a far shorter course and a pronounced drop in green speeds will be a challenge for those who have jetted directly over from the United States - we shall see of course, however Ernie Els proved that the jet lag and fatigue can indeed be overcome as he won the 2013 renewal here in Munich after finishing 4th at Merion, plus Henrik Stenson finished runner-up in 2015 after returning from a top-30 finish at Chambers Bay before winning in Cologne 12 months ago after withdrawing on the Friday at Oakmont when staring a missed cut in the face.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Travelers Championship - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Golfclub München Eichenried, Munich, Germany. Designer: Kurt Rossknecht, 1989; Par: 72; Length: 7,181 yards; Water Hazards: 10; Fairways: Poa/Rye; Rough: Poa/Rye; Greens: Bent/Poa, 9'6" on the stimp.
Course Overview. A slightly lengthened track at 7,181 yards for its par of 72 is still no problem for the modern professional and with 4 mid-range par 5s and couple of potentially driveable par 4s, plus generous fairways, the course is set up for attacking golf. Some wet weather at the start of June has given way to warm sunshine and with more of the same expected over the four days of the event, scoring should be low. The greens are a slow bent/poa mix that yield many birdies, however history has proven that many types of players with different styles have succeeded here - it could be either a high GIR player who putts well, or someone in good putting form who finds more greens than normal who will prevail. Either way, birdies and low scoring are the order of the day for sure.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's BMW International Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. Please note 2012, 2014 and 2016 renewals were hosted elsewhere: Current Form | Tournament 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.
Winners & Prices. 2016: Henrik Stenson, 10/1; 2015: Pablo Larrazabal 60/1; 2014: Fabrizio Zanotti, 80/1; 2013: Ernie Els, 22/1; 2012: Danny Willett, 90/1; 2011: Pablo Larrazabal, 45/1; 2010: David Horsey, 150/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 6 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. The tournament will enjoy largely dry weather with mild temperatures reaching the mid-80s Fahrenheit in the afternoons. Friday carries the risk of a thunderstorm and the strongest breezes, potentially of up to 15-20 mph in the afternoon and there's a small risk of a shower on Friday afternoon. Other than that it will largely calm and perfect playing conditions for low-scoring golf, particularly if the course is softened by thunderstorms on Wednesday before the event.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 6 winners here on this track gives us a little more insight into the task at hand:
Despite the course seemingly setting up nicely for the longer hitters with 4 gettable par-5s and a couple of very short par 4s, length off the tee hasn't been the overriding factor in the last 5 winners here. Minimising bogeys on a low-scoring track is just as important as making the requisite red numbers - momentum-stoppers simply don't lend themselves to success around these parts. Ernie Els made just 4 bogeys and a double over the 4 days back in 2013, Pablo Larrazabal made 6 bogeys, Horsey 5, Dougherty 7, Kaymer 3 bogeys and a double and Larrazabal 7 on their respect paths to victory. The theme continues as you look further back in time also and keeping mistakes to a minimum will be critical in compiling a competitive score this week.
Incoming Form: Taking results at this venue in isolation, current form tends to be more of a factor here than some weeks which makes a level of sense given that there's no room for seriously errant irons or a stone cold putter if you're going to contend. Larrazabal in 2015 had gone off the boil a little although he'd finished 3rd in Morocco earlier in the year. Els came straight here from Merion where he'd finished 4th the week before, plus he'd finished 6th at Wentworth and 2nd in Indonesia in recent times so was in decent nick. Larrazabal (2011) had finished 11th at the Italian Open a fortnight before plus had recent contending performances including 4th in Wales and 3rd in Spain. Horsey had finished 2nd in the Italian Open a month before, Dougherty was 4th in Irish Open the previous month and Kaymer had produced a couple of top 10s in his previous 5 events plus had won earlier in the season in the Middle East.
Course Form (back to 2008): With the exception of David Horsey in 2010, all other winners here over the same period of time had some practical experience of the course here in Munich and the last 3 victors had each finished in the top 5 here prior to winning:
With little to tie the winners together in terms of their respective styles or history of performance on other courses, the one thing that does stick out to me is that recent winners here tended to have found something on and around the greens prior to victory which makes a lot of sense on a course where minimising bogeys whilst making around 25 birdies is required.
The highest ranked players have almost all come directly from Erin Hills, either after an early exit on Friday or a gruelling 4 days followed by a long flight and a complete upheaval in their body clocks. Whether to chance such players is open to debate given the success of Els and Stenson in Germany in recent times, however it's clear that dismissing those returning from Wisconsin out of hand is far from bulletproof.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My team for the week is as follows:
Deciding whether to side with players who contested the US Open last week or not is the starting point for this week and, as we've seen in this event in recent years with both Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson triumphant, dismissing out of hand those who were involved at Erin Hills, be it for 2 or 4 days, out of principle isn't wise. Tommy Fleetwood was the loftiest finisher in Wisconsin and rates a 20/1 shot here this week to take what will surely be a huge confidence boost with him into this week; Bernd Wiesberger led the field for Driving Accuracy at Erin Hills on his way to 16th place and he's clearly striking the ball beautifully at present whereas Eddie Pepperell, who finished alongside Wiesberger, has been heavily backed by early-bird punters given his opening quote of 100/1. If any of this trio - or those who finished a little further down the leaderboard - can muster the enthusiasm here in Germany, plus quickly adjust to the far slower greens, then they could of course contend and potentially win, however I'm going for a team of players who will have watched last week's Major from the comfort of their own armchair.
Hovering outside of the OWGR top-60 for 2017 so far has meant that Joost Luiten's season has been pretty low-key to date. Stateside trips for the two WGCs have produced solid if unspectacular efforts and the same can be said for his regular event results which have been largely consistent without really troubling the top end of leaderboards. At European Tour level, an in-form Luiten is a formidable opponent and the ball-striking excellence which so often signals impending success from the Dutchman has simply been missing since 2017 started. However, a session with swing coach Phil Allen before the final round in Austria on his last start ironed out some issues in the transition and results were instantaneous as the 31 year-old produced his best round of the season, signing off with a 66 and a share of 7th place to set himself up for this week's test.
It's interesting with Joost as I tend to look for signs of improvement in his putting to accompany his usually strong ball-striking before backing him, whereas this time it's completely the other way round. 1.61 putts per GIR at the Lyoness Open was good enough for 2nd in the field and if the adjustments to his swing are evident this week then he could well win here. Once thing we know from the 5-time European Tour winner's history is that all of his wins have come following a recent(ish) top-10 finish and his record in Germany is strong with success at the Vodafone Challenge in this country back in 2007 on the Challenge Tour plus 3 top-11 finishes on this track from 5 starts including a best of 3rd in 2011. The course clearly suits his eye as he finished 6th for Driving Accuracy and first for GIR that year and 6th/2nd on the same 2 measures when Golfclub München Eichenried next hosted this event rubber-stamps his credentials for this week. 3 of his 4 wins on European soil have come on similar bent/poa putting surfaces and with Open Championship qualification already secured he can concentrate fully on maximising his opportunity here this week.
Founded in 1989, the BMW International Open has produced 4 multiple winners in the past in the shape of Paul Azinger, Thomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson & Pablo Larrazabal and it's well within the realms of possibility that David Horsey becomes the 5th here this week. His 2010 victory here came on his competitive debut on this course and the positive vibes will no doubt be flowing this week as he arrives back in Germany in excellent form with 3 top-8 finishes to his name in his last 5 starts. By his own estimation, the 32 year-old left himself too much to do in Austria with rounds of 75 (1st round) and 73 (3rd round) balanced by explosive efforts of 64 and 65 either side of that; couple that with an opening round of 66 in India before fading to 8th place, plus 64/66 in Sicily before dropping away, it's fairly clear that his game is very, very close to top gear and if he can string 4 strong rounds together - or even 3 and something not quite so damaging - then he could bag himself his 5th European Tour title before too long.
The 7,417 yard set-up in Austria wasn't ideal for Horsey's shorter, more accurate game and this layout clearly suits far better given that he's won here in the past. 2nd for scrambling and 10th for putting on that last start is encouraging given that I'm looking for a player who's performing well enough on and around the greens to maximising birdies and keep bogeys off the card as much as possible and that followed similar short-game efforts in India (2nd for scrambling) and Sicily (10th for scrambling). 11th on his last start here in 2015 came in a season where he'd managed just a solitary top-10 finish up to that point and 7th in this event last year in Cologne was his best effort of the year to date. History is good, form is good, vibes are good - Horsey could well go very close here this week.
I may regret not backing Pablo Larrazabal here this week having supported the Spaniard a few times over the past couple of months, however as good a game as he talks on twitter, the results haven't been strong enough to justify what is a relatively short price at 28/1. Aside from the more obvious candidates, Thorbjorn Olesen and Kiradech Aphibarnrat both caught the eye and could go well this week, as could Jbe Kruger who's been in excellent form over his past few starts. 3 players to finish my team though:
First up, Dean Burmester whose 9th place finish at Wentworth on debut was impressive to say the least, particularly as his aggressive, long-hitting style isn't particularly suited to the classical confines of Surrey. 65 to finish that week was bettered only by eventual winner Alex Noren and the South African led the field for birdies that week which bodes well for this week's task. The 7-time Sunshine Tour winner got off the mark on the European Tour earlier this season at the Tshwane Open by making 23 birdies to just 5 bogeys and that's the kind of ratio which would work extremely well again here this week. Aside from his powerful long game, the 28 year-old has been chipping and putting very nicely in 2017 which has certainly helped his overall scoring and finishing positions and with his only previous start in Germany resulting in a 2nd place finish at the Aegean Airlines Challenge Tour event in 2015, he can approach his course debut here with some confidence.
Next up is Scott Jamieson who's been working feverishly on his swing since the back end of last year and his efforts are clearly starting to wash through into his results. 5 top-22 finishes in his last 7 European Tour starts is impressively consistent and 3rd at the Indian Open in March was his loftiest finish for nearly 3 years on Tour. 13th for Driving Accuracy and 3rd for GIR at Wentworth was impressive, as was a putting average of 1.58 (2nd) on the newly laid greens, and it was only a few too many bogeys from missed greens that prevented him from finishing far higher than his eventual 14th place. 7th for scrambling the week after in Sweden appears to have corrected that point and with all aspects of his game in seemingly good order it will be interesting to see how he goes this week having finished 3rd here on debut back in 2011. At 90/1 I'm more than happy to take the bookies on with the Glaswegian this week.
Finally I'm backing the improving Frenchman Matthieu Pavon who makes his BMW International Open debut here this week. The 24 year-old was one of the 16 Challenge Tour graduates to earn his card via his Road to Oman ranking last year, finishing as runner-up on 3 occasions during the course of the year, and although he's yet to win outside of the Alps Tour, that didn't stop Matt Wallace from breaking though at this level recently and Pavon has all the attributes to suggest he'll win on the European Tour before too long. In his 7 cuts made on the European Tour this season he's ranked inside the top-14 for Driving Distance on 6 occasions, inside the top-9 for Driving Accuracy 5 times, inside the top-6 for GIR on 3 occasions (including 1st last time out in Sweden), inside the top-5 for scrambling twice and inside the top-4 for putting average twice also. That's a full house spread over a number of events and beware the week he puts it all together as he'll be taking a trophy home with him. Those efforts have produced finishes of 13th (Morrocco), 3rd (Portugal) and 6th (Sweden) alongside a number of missed cuts, however given the price on offer I'm happy to take a chance that this straightforward track will suit the Toulouse man's eye.
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