Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Austrian Open Tips 2020

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After a 4-month hiatus, the European Tour returns this week, a full month after play resumed on the PGA Tour in the United States. A 2-week Austrian Swing gets us back in the saddle before the Tour heads to England and Wales for a 6-week UK Swing, starting with the Betfred British Masters at Close House with Lee Westwood presiding.

This week and next are co-sanctioned affairs for the European and Challenge Tour to give players from both Tours the chance to get their seasons re-started and although the prize funds are therefore just €500,000 for each event, it’s good to see support from the likes of  Joost Luiten and Thomas Detry this week amongst a few other European Tour regulars.

There’s been a fair amount of chopping and changing of the field in the lead up to the start of the week which has ultimately left Luiten as the clear, short-priced favourite at 13/2, followed by Detry at 8/1. Adri Arnaus, Renato Paratore and Nicolas Colsaerts all rate around the 18/1 to 20/1 mark as the field starts to quickly thin out in terms of quality and top-level experience.

Diamond Country Club is our venue for this week’s Austrian Open, a venue that’s been used since 2010 for the Lyoness Open and, in 2018, the Shot Clock Masters – both of which feature in this week’s stats. No event was held at the venue last season, however with a good amount of course form to peruse, this week sets up as an interesting betting heat to get us back up and running for the season.

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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. 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. 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.

austrian open tips

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: Current Form | Course 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. 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.

For a summary of winners’ odds on the European Tour for the past 10 years click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. Temperatures in the low 80s Fahrenheit and light winds will help scoring levels for the first 2 days of play before cooler and wetter weather arrives for the weekend. The wind isn’t expected to exceed 5-10mph throughout, so rain-softened greens on Sunday could encourage some strong scoring conditions to close the event.

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).

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. Scoring on the par-5s is fairly critical and circa 25 birdies may well be required to win, so making the most of those 16 looks at the par-5s could prove to be pivotal.

Incoming Form: In terms of recent results prior to victory, 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:

  • 2018, Mikko Korhonen: MC/22/61/MC/MC/3/MC/41/26/15/MC
  • 2017, Dylan Frittelli: MC/48/2/8/16/12/29/19/5/2/MC/MC
  • 2016, Ashun Wu: 16/52/24/60/MC/35/60/31/MC/48
  • 2015, Chris Wood: MC/MC/3/29/31/49/4/16
  • 2014, Mikael Lundberg: 66/MC/MC/MC/35/MC/MC/39/28/60
  • 2013, Joost Luiten: 6/MC/49/27/MC/22/15/21/8/MC/11
  • 2012, Bernd Wiesberger: 19/57/7/1/53/MC/17/MC/47/MC
  • 2011, Kenneth Ferrie: 61/MC/67/MC/70/35/69/MC/8/50
  • 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:

  • 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 was 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.

Being a co-sanctioned Challenge Tour/European Tour affair, 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 biggest unknown this week of course is how players will react to the lack of competitive action due to the Covid-19 suspension. Save for a handful of low-key, local events, this week’s field won’t have played competitively since the European Tour shutdown in early March, meaning 4 months of inactivity.

There’ll be debate of course as to whether form prior to the shut-down is of any consequence or relevance, and it will be fascinating to see how the week unfolds in that respect, however 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.

My final Austrian Open tips are as follows:

Connor Syme 2pts EW 25/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Despite their obvious class in this field, backing either Joost Luiten or Thomas Detry at single figure prices just doesn’t feel comfortable to me.

Luiten is a course winner here in Vienna and has the perfect game to excel around these parts, however the putter always needs to click for him to get in the mix and that’s by no means a given for a 13/2 poke. Detry still remains a maiden on the European Tour and although that won’t be the case forever I’m sure – he’s far too talented for that – his only start here at Diamond Country Club ended in an early flight on the Friday and the fact that he’s one of the clear favourites to win here this week may just add to the pressure for him to get the monkey off of his back.

The last player to win here at Diamond Country Club, Mikko Korhonen, had finished runner-up on his previous start around these parts and in similar fashion Connor Syme must fancy his chances here this week having ended up closest to the Finn 2 years ago.

Syme still lost his card in 2018 despite that valiant effort here in Austria, however promptly regained his playing privileges a year later by finishing 14th in the Order of Merit, fuelled by his maiden professional title at the Turkish Airlines Challenge on the 2nd tier Tour, backing up the promise he showed during a sparkling amateur career.

Since his return to the upper tier, finishes of 11th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, 9th in Mauritius and 10th on his penultimate start before lockdown in Oman offer encouragement. The 24 year-old has averaged 76.6% greens in regulation since that initial effort at Leopard Creek, backed up by 71.5% of fairways, a combination that’s ideal for the demands of Diamond CC.

With travel restrictions impacting his preparations for this week, Syme is looking to drive over to Austria with his caddy and that speaks volumes for his desire to be playing this week, especially as he’s not staying on for the second leg of the Austrian Swing. Aside from his aforementioned effort here 2 years ago at the Shot Clock Masters, the Scot also competed here for his country as an amateur in 2017 and is clearly fond of the track and comfortable in the surroundings.

The Kirkcaldy man won the 2nd Trackman Invitational in May to help keep his game sharp and shook off the rust on the golf course last week in Nottingham in a small Clutch Pro Tour event, so he may be better prepared than many to hit the ground running here this week. RESULT: T4

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Lorenzo Gagli 2pts EW 30/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

When the PGA Tour returned to action a month ago, one of the most consistent players prior to the suspension was Daniel Berger and he went on to defy odds of 66/1 and land his 3rd PGA Tour title in a quality field at Colonial, proving in turn that he’d lost none of his momentum and form during lockdown. Following a similar chain of thought leads me to Lorenzo Gagli who’d recorded back-to-back top-12 finishes in Oman and Qatar before play was halted.

The Italian is an average driver in terms of length from off the tee, but as mentioned in my preamble I’d err on the side of tee-to-green precision over brute power here and with season rankings of 15th, 30th and 36th for Driving Accuracy and 34th, 46th and 17th for GIR for 2018, 2019 and 2020 to date respectively, Gagli has the raw materials I’m looking for this week. 79.2%, 75.0% and 79.2% GIR in his 3 events immediately prior to the suspension suggest that he was striking his irons very nicely and assuming he can pick up where he left off in March then he’ll be in good shape here.

4 starts here at Diamond Country Club have produced 2 Missed Cuts interspersed with a 10th place finish in 2013 and 23rd at the Shot Clock Masters when we last visited the track in 2018. On both of those occasions he played nicely, ranking 13th and 5th for Total Driving and 13th and 10th for Ball-Striking respectively and clearly this layout suits his game when he’s playing well.

With 3 Alps Tour wins and a Challenge Tour success in 2018 to his name, the next step for the 34 year-old is victory on the main Tour and he came closest yet in September when losing out in a play-off to Sebastian Soderberg at Crans-sur-Sierre alongside world number 1 Rory McIlroy. Disappointment like that is all part of the learning curve and in this weak event he may well shine.RESULT: 25th

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Antoine Rozner 1pt EW 50/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Another player with the right kind of game for Diamond CC who’s tasted play-off disappointment in recent times is Antoine Rozner.

The Frenchman nearly got his rookie season on the European Tour off to a flying start in December, showing some early signs at Leopard Creek where he sat in 7th position heading into the weekend before losing out in a 3-way play-off the following week in Mauritius, with Rasmus Hojgaard winning by virtue of making eagle at the 3rd extra hole.

2020 showed some early promise too with the 27 year-old finishing 10th in Oman courtesy of the type of strong tee-to-green performance that would suit this week’s task down to the ground: 3rd for Total Driving and 2nd for Ball-Striking that week, punctuated by 80.6% of greens hit in regulation, is the type of effort that would see him go very close should he repeat that here this week.

The Parisian has progressed through the golfing ranks at a rate of knots since turning professional in 2016, winning back-to-back tournaments on the Challenge Tour in Spain and the Czech Republic last May to essentially rubber-stamp his European Tour card for this year and, in my view, he has the potential and ability to take down an event of this stature. RESULT: T44

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Robin Sciot-Siegrist 1pt EW 80/1 (6EW. 1/5) with Betfred

Finally I’m taking a chance on Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist who’s already shown significant promise in the handful of starts that he’s made on the European Tour since joining the top tier at the start of this wraparound season.

The 27 year-old earned his place on Tour via Q-School having agonisingly missed out automatically by 1 place in the season-long Challenge Tour rankings, despite finishing 2nd in November’s Grand Final. He seemingly took that form with him into this season, recording an 8th place finish in Mauritius courtesy of a pair of weekend 65s before finishing 3rd at the Vic Open in February.

Scot-Siegrist, who’s half-Irish on his mother’s side, has already tasted success as a professional back in 2017 on the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open and with his potent combination of long, accurate driving and excellent putting it may be simply a matter of time before he breaks through at the upper level.

From those aforementioned impressive efforts this season he’s ranked 6th and 2nd for Driving Accuracy, 4th and 9th for Scrambling, 1st and 3rd for Putting Average and 1st both times for Total Putts. All that’s missing has been the kind of GIR performance that would fully reward those other statistics, so 79.2% of greens hit in Oman on his penultimate start is enough encouragement for me to take a chance on him here this week. RESULT: MC

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