This week we’re heading to Rome for the 76° Open D’Italia – the Italian Open to you and me – for the 5th Rolex Series event of the 2019 season. In a country where the sport of golf continues to grow, this year’s renewal sees a strong contingent of local hopes with both Molinari brothers as well as Andrea Pavan, Renato Paratore and Guido Migliozzi carrying the hopes of home fans, plus there’s a smattering of lesser-fancied compatriots to provide the supporting cast.
The Italian Open is one of the more established events having started life in 1925 and joining the European Tour right at the start in 1972. This is generally a nomadic event and although there’s been an element of regularity and consistency with some recent venues used for this tournament, for 2019 we switch back to Olgiata GC which hasn’t hosted the Italian Open since Ian Poulter won the 2002 edition by 2 strokes over Paul Lawrie.
Course Overview. Olgiata GC is every inch the stereotypical Italian parkland layout. Since Ian Poulter won here in 2002, the course has seen an extensive renovation which has added over 400 yards to the scorecard, now measuring 7,523 yards for its par of 71 from its tips. Naturally though, it remains to be seen how the European Tour set things up this week and I’d take that exact yardage with a pinch of salt.
Although tree-lined pretty much throughout the course, we’re not talking Wentworth in terms of a claustrophobic layout and there’s generally a fair amount of rough to miss before players run the risk of being hampered by trees. The fairways themselves are quite narrow though and attacking from the cut and prepared is likely to be preferable. Greens are small and undulating with a Bentgrass base.
Olgiata GC has also hosted Challenge Tour events since Poulter’s victory here in 2002, namely the Italian Federation Cup in 2009, Roma Open in 2010 & 2011, plus the EMC Challenge Open in 2014 and 2015, however – like the 2002 event – very few of this week’s field were in attendance in those events.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Italian Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event, however as previously noted this year’s venue hosted the event in 2002 only from the stats listed: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Current Form/Event Form.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Thorbjorn Olesen, 80/1; 2017, Tyrrell Hatton: 18/1; 2016: Francesco Molinari, 25/1; 2015: Rikard Karlberg, 70/1; 2014: Hennie Otto, 80/1; 2013: Julien Quesne, 80/1; 2012: Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, 40/1; 2011: Robert Rock, 66/1; 2010: Fredrik Andersson Hed, 66/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Rome is here. More perfect golfing weather is expected after the glorious conditions we saw in Madrid last week. Light winds, sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s Fahrenheit should help to take the sting out of this course.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
No tournament stats were captured for the 2002 event held here at Olgiata, nor are there any stats from the Challenge Tour events held here since that time, so we’re going to have to rely on specification only this week.
Winning totals have varied considerably in the events held here with Poulter winning a weather-affected 3-round affair at 16-under in 2002. In terms of the Challenge Tour events, Edoardo Molinari won in 2009 at 17-under, Andreas Harto won in 2010 at 19-under, Sam Little won in 2011 at 11-under, Ricardo Gouveia won in 2014 at 9-under and Matteo Delpodio won in 2015 at 5-under. Clearly some large variances there and the 2010 Tom Fazio makeover, which was undertaken with a speculative eye on Rome hosting the 2020 Olympics, clearly toughened the course up to a degree.
Incoming Form. The incoming form of our recent Italian Open winners is mixed, however all but Robert Rock in 2011 had recorded a top-10 finish in their previous 8 starts. 80/1 shot Thorbjorn Olesen was his typical inconsistent self having failed to break the top-30 in his 5 starts prior to winning his first Rolex Series event in a quality field at Lake Garda:
- 2018, Thorbjorn Olesen: 5/12/36/53/29/MC/10/MC/46/37/MC/60
- 2017, Tyrrell Hatton: 41/30/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/36/MC/3/8/1
- 2016, Francesco Molinari: 42/17/7/55/MC/34/8/2/36/22/47/MC
- 2015, Rikard Karlberg: MC/21/43/MC/MC/MC/10/MC/9/14/13/36
- 2014, Hennie Otto: 37/37/37/9/5/13/41/13/57/WD/MC/39
- 2013, Julien Quesne: 9/27/MC/MC/68/9/WD/MC/MC/58/41/7
- 2012, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano: 53/MC/2/MC/3/MC/31/54/55/62/76/5
- 2011, Robert Rock: MC/MC/45/20/58/40/19/13/52/29/45/MC
- 2010, Fredrik Andersson-Hed: 35/5/4/MC/4/18/44/7/28/MC/13/17
Event Form. Recent renewals are perhaps a little irrelevant as we’re playing on a track not used for so long, however the Italian Open is often played on a similar style layout with tree-lined fairways and challenging greens. It’s interesting to note that four of the past seven winners of the Italian Open had already previously won the title in their career and six of the past nine had recorded a top-3 finish or better in this event before their victory.
Other multiple winners of this event include Ian Poulter, Bernhard Langer, Sam Torrance and Sandy Lyle and it’s clearly an event, or style of event, that can favour the same types of players year after year – notably Poulter’s 2nd Italian Open title came on this track in 2002.
- 2018, Thorbjorn Olesen: 2/53/67/MC/32
- 2017, Tyrrell Hatton: MC/45
- 2016, Francesco Molinari: MC/MC/23/MC/13/17/1/3/MC/6/8/46/16/18/20
- 2015, Rikard Karlberg: MC
- 2014, Hennie Otto: MC/47/MC/33/1/MC/7/46/22/8
- 2013, Julien Quesne: MC/MC
- 2012, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano: 6/1/MC
- 2011, Robert Rock: 48/37/MC/56/51/2/17
- 2010, Fredrik Andersson-Hed: MC/9/28/MC/3/MC/54
With a lack of immediate course history and a number of changes made to the course since that distant Italian Open held here in 2002, evaluating exactly how this week will play out still requires an element of guesswork. Italian Opens often play out quite similar though regardless of the track used and I’ll err on the side of accuracy over power, despite the course having been extended since it was last seen on the European Tour.
My selections are as follows: