The Austrian Golf Open steps up to the plate once again this week, having been the first of a number of hastily-organised events last summer once the Covid lockdown began to ease.
The cancellation of the Portugal Masters, and subsequent re-scheduling of the Canary Islands double-header that now follows on from this week, allowed for the Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna to host another event that’s attracted a fairly average field of European Tour and Challenge Tour players.
The regular chopping, changing and general confusion that seems to permeate around this European Tour events has blighted the lead up to this renewal, however now that clarity has prevailed we have a field led by 8/1 favourite Thomas Detry, who’s still in search of his maiden European Tour title. Sam Horsfield, Justin Harding and Matthias Schwab all rate as sub-20/1 chances as players look to build form and momentum as the European Tour heads towards a (hopefully) more regular flow of events.
Aside from last year’s Austrian Golf Open, Diamond Country Club is a venue that’s been used on the European Tour since 2010 for the Lyoness Open and, in 2018, the Shot Clock Masters – both of which feature in this week’s stats.
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Diamond CC, Atzenbrugg, Near Vienna, Austria. Designer: Jeremy Pern, 2000; Par: 72; Length: 7,458 yards; Water Hazards: 13; Fairways: Poa/Rye; Rough: Poa/Rye; Greens: Bent/Poa, 10.6′ on the stimp.
Course Overview. The course at the Diamond Country Club is located 20 miles west of Vienna in Atzenbrugg and is a relatively flat and exposed par 72 that measures 7,458 yards after a few changes made over the past few years.
Half of the holes here feature water – including 2 par-3 holes to island greens – and the premium around Diamond CC is very much on finding greens in regulation after a successful tee shot into the fairway; anything else will leave players struggling for par with tough scrambling conditions around the putting surfaces.
Hitting greens is far, far easier from the fairway here and whilst the card would suggest that longer hitters may enjoy the layout, finding the short grass from the tee is still important and demands a level of strategy from all players on a number of holes.
In normal summertime conditions, the greens at Diamond CC are amongst the best on the European Tour and the mildly undulating bent/poa surfaces offer a little respite to those who are less adept with the putter.
For me this tournament will be primarily about who can hit the most greens in regulation and find some confidence with the flat stick to make the birdies required to hit a score in the middle teens under par, give or take. If played from its tips this week though, cool and wet conditions may well make this layout a tougher test than normal.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at the Shot Clock Masters and Lyoness Open, which were both played at this venue from 2010 onwards, plus last year’s Austrian Golf Open: Current Form | Course/Event Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2020: Marc Warren, 150/1; 2018 (Shot Clock Masters): Mikko Korhonen, 28/1; 2017 (Lyoness Open): Dylan Frittelli, 40/1; 2016: Ashun Wu, 160/1; 2015: Chris Wood, 12/1; 2014: Mikael Lundberg, 250/1; 2013: Joost Luiten, 25/1; 2012: Bernd Wiesberger, 25/1; 2011: Kenneth Ferrie, 55/1; 2010: Jose Manuel Lara, 66/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.
Pleasant Austrian summer weather usually greets the players when they tee it up here at the Diamond Country Club, however that’s not going to be the case this week. Overnight temperatures falling to around freezing will struggle to get close to 50 Fahrenheit in the afternoons, and there’s a risk of sleet and snow showers – particularly for the first 2 days.
The breeze is forecast to be at its strongest on Thursday at around 15mph, gusting 20mph+, before it slowly falls away over the weekend.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the past 9 winners at Diamond CC gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
2018, Mikko Korhonen (-16). 78.6% fairways (3rd), 81.5% greens in regulation (4th), 100% scrambling (1st), 1.73 putts per GIR (27th).
2017, Dylan Frittelli (-12). 66.1% fairways (9th), 72.2% greens in regulation (13th), 70% scrambling (3rd), 1.73 putts per GIR (14th).
2016, Ashun Wu (-13). 50% fairways (29th), 76.4% greens in regulation (6th), 64.7% scrambling (6th), 1.64 putts per GIR (2nd).
2015, Chris Wood (-15). 66.1% fairways (12th), 80.6% greens in regulation (6th), 71.4% scrambling (3rd), 1.68 putts per GIR (5th).
2014, Mikael Lundberg (-12). 53.6% fairways (25th), 72.2% greens in regulation (20th), 65.0% scrambling (4th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
2013, Joost Luiten (-17). 82.1% fairways (2nd), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 55.6% scrambling (31st), 1.73 putts per GIR (20th).
2012, Bernd Wiesberger (-19). 64.3% fairways (26th), 76.4% greens in regulation (12th), 70.6% scrambling (3rd), 1.64 putts per GIR (2nd).
2011, Kenneth Ferrie (-12). 62.5% fairways (14th), 79.2% greens in regulation (4th), 66.7% scrambling (1st), 1.74 putts per GIR (20th).
2010, Jose Manuel Lara (-17). 75.0% fairways (1st), 77.8% greens in regulation (7th), 62.5% scrambling (11th), 1.65 putts per GIR (4th).
Unfortunately no stats were captured for the 2020 Austrian Open as the European Tour got to grips with Covid protocols immediately after lockdown was eased a little.
In those years where calmer conditions have blessed the event, players who can maximise strokes gained as a result of their tee-to-green performance have tended to prevail.
Putters need to be warm without being red hot and a decent second-shot performance coupled with a putting average in the 1.7 region may well be enough for the winner here this week.
Incoming Form: In terms of recent results prior to victory, Marc Warren had shown very little prior to lockdown to suggest that success was pending. 45th at the South African Open was his only outing before golf was halted and he’d failed to finish inside the top-50 at all in the year prior.
2018 Shot Clock Masters champion Mikko Korhonen arrived here having missed the cut at the Italian Open the week before his victory, however 15th at Wentworth prior to that with an eye-catching display with his irons suggested his game was in good shape.
Dylan Frittelli had recorded a couple of runner-up finishes in the recent past before missing two consecutive cuts prior to winning the last Lyoness Open before the event’s demise. Ashun Wu had been solid if unspectacular with 8 out of 10 cuts made in 2016 and a best of 16th prior to victory
In 2015, Chris Wood arrived off the back of a top-20 in Ireland that followed a decent 4th place finish at Wentworth. In 2014, Mikael Lundberg had shown little incoming form of note with 28th at the Spanish Open two events before being his best finish of what had been a poor season up to that point.
Kenneth Ferrie had finished 8th at Gleneagles on his penultimate start which was his best result for some time and Jose Manuel Lara had finished 4th the week before in Holland – his best effort for over a year. Joost Luiten and Bernd Wiesberger were both more obvious winners, Luiten had finished inside the top-11 on three occasions in recent events and Wiesberger had won the Ballantine’s Championship earlier that year:
2020, Marc Warren: MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/DQ/MC/65/MC/75/56/45
2018, Mikko Korhonen: MC/22/61/MC/MC/3/MC/41/26/15/MC
2010, Jose Manuel Lara: MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/WD/MC/MC/MC/4
Course Form (back to 2010): None of the winners here had a massive amount of experience of Diamond CC prior to victory, however shorter-priced winners Wiesberger, Luiten and Wood had all finished 12th or better on their one and only start here; coupled with their season-long form they were each fairly obvious winners:
2020, Marc Warren: 56/21/31/WD
2018, Mikko Korhonen: 19/45/24/9/2
2017, Dylan Frittelli: DQ/MC
2016, Ashun Wu: Debut
2015, Chris Wood: 12
2014, Mikael Lundberg: 30/60
2013, Joost Luiten: 3
2012, Bernd Wiesberger: 5
2011, Kenneth Ferrie: MC
2010, Jose Manuel Lara: Debut
Although this has been a hastily organised event, we thankfully have enough course history to give us a good starting point for this week. For me, this task is primarily about tee-to-green performance, maximising GIR and making sufficient putts on these excellent surfaces to get over the line.
The field here isn’t strong save for those at the very top of the betting. Diamond CC has produced a mix of short and long-priced winners though over the years and given the vagaries of this week’s event, the favourites are by no means a shoe-in.
The early spot in the calendar creates a different dynamic this year with firm, fast and pleasant conditions thrown out of the window, replaced with cold and damp late-winter weather.
Undoubtedly this will make the track play longer than normal, should it be played from its tips, however I suspect that this will make it tougher for all rather than simply favouring the bombers and the one constant here is the course and its requirements for quality ball-striking. To that end I’ve backed a small team of players here this week who have some positive memories of Diamond CC and/or the kind of game which should suit this layout.
Joost Luiten 2.5pts EW 22/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power
13/2 was the price on Joost Luiten to win here on a Diamond Country Club track that he adores last July, and although 18th overall wasn’t what he or his backers had hoped for, there’s plenty to encourage an investment here this week at around 3 times the price.
The Dutchman added this event to his schedule as soon as it was announced and he returns to the outskirts of Vienna with course form of 3/1/3/6/7/18. In addition, a 6th place finish in Austria at the Euram Bank Open followed this event last summer as the golfing world slowly began to return to something vaguely approaching normal, so he clearly feels comfortable in this neck of the woods.
With the likes of Thomas Detry, Sam Horsfield, Martin Kaymer, Justin Harding, Matthias Schwab and Rasmus Hojgaard in the field, Joost finds himself a little further down the betting, however with 6 European Tour titles to his name over the years and the best course form on display, I’d put him above a number of those players personally.
A missed cut in Qatar can be overlooked as the 35 year-old got the wrong side of a heavily biased draw; 41st then 7th in the Kenyan double-header showed good progress before the European Tour took a breather for The Masters. 10th for Driving Accuracy, 16th for GIR and 9th for SG Approach on that most recent effort is nothing unusual for Joost, however 2nd for SG Putting is like a flashing beacon and he must be backed here accordingly in my view.
Northern Europeans should be far more comfortable in the cold and wet conditions, and Joost tends to perform best on higher-scoring tests with the bent/poa mix on the greens here being his strongest suit from a putting perspective.
What swings it for me overall though is that Luiten has hooked up with his old caddie Martin Gray who was on the bag here in Austria when he won the Lyoness Open back in 2013. Positive vibes, positive memories and hopefully a positive outcome this week for us all. RESULT: T12
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“Now clearly I have work to with the driver, but my approach play is leagues better than it ever has been.” Strong words from David Horsey who described the work that he put into improving his game during lockdown as a massive breakthrough in terms of his game moving forwards.
12th at the Saudi International on his last start was the first real sign that the fruits of his labour were beginning to show, however 2nd for SG Approach and 80.6% GIR (7th overall) was seriously impressive given the quality of the field that he faced, and his opening round of 61 was his lowest on Tour since he turned professional 14 years ago.
Due to the vagaries of the schedule, that was the last time that we saw the Cheshire man in competitive action, however he’s since welcomed a baby son into the world and should be on cloud nine as he arrives here this week.
English-born golfers will have played in every type of condition known to man, so an extra layer of clothing and cold hands won’t bother the 35 year-old as much as others; tougher, more exacting tests also suit Horsey who’s always had a neat and tidy game, even before his recent swing tweaks that have excited him so much.
A soggy Diamond Country Club is the only negative I can really offer about his prospects this week and I’m happy to take a chance in that respect, especially given his last 5 visits here have produced finishes of 9/38/31/2/7 and he ranked inside the top-17 for putting on these greens each time over that stretch. Couple that with the growing confidence in his approach play and we potentially have a strong combination here. RESULT: WD
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I backed John Catlin on his last start in Kenya and he promptly missed the cut, however I’m willing to give the American another chance here this week.
9 professional wins in 4 years is an excellent return by anyone’s standards and whilst many in this week’s field have struggled to get over the line either recently or in their career full-stop, Catlin has proven that he has the ability to take his chance once presented.
In hindsight, perhaps the Kenya Savannah Classic was too low-scoring for John – 21-under was the winning total whereas he’s been featuring far more on tougher tests of late, winning at Valderrama at 2-over and then again in Ireland at 10-under. Conditions in Ireland weren’t dissimilar to what we should expect this week with temperatures struggling to hit double-figures Centigrade and he showed that he can handle that scenario by closing with a sublime round of 64 to beat Aaron Rai by 2 strokes.
Accurate ball-striking is the 30 year-old’s greatest asset, which is a strong fit for Diamond CC, and he strongly hinted that this layout could offer more in years to come when he finished 8th here on debut last July. No skill stats exist for that event, however we can assume with a fair amount of confidence that he got on well with the tee-to-green challenge of this course and if his first effort in Kenya is anything to go by – he ranked 4th for Driving Accuracy, 2nd for GIR and 2nd for SG Approach – then his long game is in good shape heading into this week’s test. RESULT: Winner
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Finally, I’m going to take a chance on Scotland’s Craig Howie who produced an each-way return for us at 250/1 at the Belfry the last time he carried our cash.
The logic that week was that the 26 year-old’s strong long game was a decent fit for the Brabazon Course, having hinted at that being his strongest asset from the limited Sunshine Tour stats that are available. In addition there was a positive performance at Celtic Manor, punctuated by an impressive 76.4% of Greens In Regulation which ranked 2nd in the field, as well as finishing 6th for SG off the Tee and 8th for SG Tee to Green – both of which may well prove to be important factors again this week.
Of course, we’ve also got last year’s 4th place finish here at Diamond CC to refer back to, which still rates as the Peebles golfer’s loftiest finish on the European Tour, and although there were no stats available I suspect we can fairly safely say that it was his long game which was his key asset that week.
A cold and wet forecast won’t bother a hardy Scot and Craig knows that his chances must be taken on the European Tour now that the card categories have been reset. Despite those two creditable efforts post-lockdown at this level, Howie will still have to ply his trade on 2nd-tier Tours this year for the most part unless he can conjure up a victory soon. This week, though, presents a better opportunity than many other events given the nature of the course and the conditions expected and a lofty finish to reward each-way backers isn’t out of the question. RESULT: T24
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