Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Italian Open Tips 2024

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After a few near misses of late, it was great to get 33/1 headline selection Guido Migliozzi over the line last week in the Netherlands. As ever it was a rollercoaster final day on the DP World Tour, however the Italian showed his quality and experience over the two additional holes to secure a well-deserved fourth title at DP World Tour level.

On to this week we go and the Italian Open is one of the more established events on Tour, having started life in 1925 and joining the European circuit right at the start in 1972. In an event that historically hops from venue to venue, this year we’re heading to pastures new and the Adriatic Golf Club Cervia, so event form students should consider the history stats accordingly.

Patrick Reed makes a rare start on the DP World Tour this week and heads the betting market at a best price of 16/1 at the time of writing, closely followed by Tom McKibbin and Bernd Wiesberger at 18/1. Recent winners Laurie Canter and Guido Migliozzi sit alongside Jordan Smith at 22/1 before the field starts to thin out a little.

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Course Overview. There are 27 holes across three sets of nine here at Adriatic Golf Club Cervia, each with their own characteristics. The ‘Red’ course was the first opened back in 1986 and works its way through the local pinewood forest; the ‘Blue’ was next and models itself on a Florida-style course with water in play from the many lakes on the course. The ‘Yellow’ was the most recent addition back in 2004 and models itself on a Scottish links course.

For the tournament we’re reportedly playing the Yellow course as the outward 9 and the Red for the inward 9 with the Red’s par 5 6th becoming a long par 4 15th for the professionals, with the total yardage quoted as 6,965 yards for its par of 70.

Aside from the contrasting nines, the holes themselves are quite varied with the remaining two par 5s measuring 553 and 619 yards and the course featuring a total of five sub-400 yard par 4s.

The course sits just inland from the Adriatic coast although none of the holes actually flank the sea to make it a truly coastal test. The tees and fairways were converted to Bermudagrass in 2011 and the greens are overseeded with Ryegrass.

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.

As previously noted, this year’s venue is hosting for the first time so event history should be considered accordingly: 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. 2023: Adrian Meronk, 22/1; 2022: Robert MacIntyre, 50/1; 2021: Nicolai Hojgaard, N/A*; 2020: Ross McGowan, 750/1; 2019: Bernd Wiesberger, 35/1; 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.

* Nicolai Hojgaard was a late invite to the 2021 Italian Open and wasn’t quoted pre-event.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

Rain early in the week looks set to have cleared before the tournament starts on Thursday so conditions should be lush to begin with. Temperatures will edge towards 80-85 Fahrenheit in the afternoon sunshine and winds will be generally light at around 5-10mph.

Incoming Form. The incoming form of our recent Italian Open winners is mixed, however all but Ross McGowan in 2020 had recorded a top-14 finish in one of their previous 6 starts:

  • 2023, Adrian Meronk: 7/34/1/10/MC/4/45/14/MC/17/MC/21
  • 2022, Robert MacIntyre: MC/36/77/MC/MC/13/MC/34/20/MC/12/50
  • 2021, Nicolai Hojgaard: 15/74/4/40/45/MC/42/14/MC/MC/21/17
  • 2020, Ross McGowan: MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/70/MC/55/52/42/67/MC
  • 2019, Bernd Wiesberger: 1/8/76/16/2/1/32/30/MC/5/17/MC
  • 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. It’s interesting to note that three of the past twelve winners of the Italian Open had already previously won the title in their career, and ten of the past fourteen had recorded a top-6 finish or better in this event before their victory.

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 – indeed even 2020 shock 750/1 winner Ross McGowan had finished 6th back in 2008:

  • 2023, Adrian Meronk: 22/2/MC
  • 2022, Robert MacIntyre: 4
  • 2021, Nicolai Hojgaard: 16
  • 2020, Ross McGowan: 6/MC/MC/51
  • 2019, Bernd Wiesberger: MC/15/63/23/6/14/45
  • 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 nothing tangible to go on in terms of course history, we’re guessing once again this week as to how this fusion of two nines will play. The card would suggest that precision over power is more likely to prevail, however with a flat forecast and the likelihood of pre-event rain softening the greens, aggressive types who keep the ball in play this week could equally feature.

My selections are as follows:

Matthew Jordan 2pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Patrick Reed takes a rare venture away from LIV Golf this week and tees it up here in Italy on a sponsor’s invitation, and although the bookies have installed the former Masters champion as the clear favourite for this week, my preference is to build a team from players a little further down the betting.

On the strength of his 3rd place finish at LIV Houston just over a fortnight ago, perhaps Reed is worthy of his position at the top of the board, however 32nd last week at LIV Nashville was hardly eye-catching and he’ll have more travel than most to get to Italy and less preparation time to get to grips with this new layout to the Tour.

Talking of new layouts, my general feeling is that when venues are used for the first time it levels the playing field significantly to let the less experienced Tour maidens have a real chance of grabbing their breakthrough win, and few in this field are more eligible than Matthew Jordan in that respect.

The Englishman’s rookie season coincided with the stop-start nature of golf while Covid was prevalent, having graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2019 during a season in which he secured his maiden and to date only which happened to come on Italian soil in this exact week 5 years ago.

3rd at the Wales Open in 2020; 6th at the Hero Open, 4th at the Omega Masters and 5th at the Portugal Masters in 2021; 5th at the Qatar Masters and 4th at the Made In Himmerland in 2022; and most notably 10th at last year’s Open Championship all suggest a player who’s either comfortable on short and/or coastal/linksy courses, something that shouldn’t surprise given the amateur accolades that he gained around the British Isles from his Wirral home.

4th at the Kenya Open was positive, however it’s his trio of most recent results – 5th at the Soudal Open, 13th at the European Open and 12th at the Scandinavian Mixed – which give me most confidence that the 28 year-old is on the cusp of a breakthrough. 1st, 1st and 3rd for GIR over those three outings tells me that Jordan’s irons are in tip-top shape right now, and on a course where precise approaches could be the key he’s got to be a strong contender. RESULT: MC

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Matteo Manassero 1.5pts EW 45/1 (5EW, 1/4) with Betfred

One of last week’s eye-catchers statistically was Matteo Manassero, and on a short course that should play to his strengths he warrants support here in Italy.

2nd for SG Tee to Green, 6th for SG Off the Tee, 12th for SG Approach and 6th for SG Around the Green in the Netherlands, the 31 year-old returns home this week with his game in great shape and with Italian golf buoyed by compatriot Guido Migliozzi’s win last week at The International.

Manny also ranked 3rd for GIR last week, a sure sign that he’s ready to seriously contend once again, and another quick-fire victory after breaking his 10-year drought in South Africa at the Jonsson Workwear Open could well be on the cards. That victory was his first at the top level of European golf since his 2014 win at Wentworth, however there’s more recent evidence that he can reel off wins in reasonably quick succession as he won both the Copenhagen Challenge and the Italian Challenge on the 2nd tier last year between May and July.

That 2nd win last year was the Verona man’s second career victory on home soil, having previously won in Italy on the Alps Tour back in 2020, and in total he’s racked up two wins and two runner-up finishes from his last nine starts when returning home at all levels.

Since his win in South Africa earlier this year, Matteo has finished 5th at the Indian Open, 23rd at the weather-affected China Open and 13th at the Soudal Open before last week’s 7th place finish in the Netherlands. He also qualified for the US Open at Walton Heath, plus has been First Round Leader in two of his last six starts. A short course a couple of hours drive from his home should suit nicely and another big performance here this week is quite possible. RESULT: T10

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Nacho Elvira – WD Pre-Event

Taking the week off in the Netherlands seems to have kept Nacho Elvira a little under the radar, while many of those who flashed any kind of form last week have seen their prices slashed as recency bias goes into overdrive.

We last saw Nacho at the Scandinavian Mixed – another hybrid course where contrasting pairs of nine collided – where he recovered from an opening round of 73 to scythe his way through the field and eventually finish 7th. The parkland-cum-links format at Vasatorps Golf Club seemed to appeal to the Spaniard and the shorter track with a similar dynamic this week could bring an even better finish out of him.

Of course that effort followed the 37 year-old’s second career DP World Tour victory when he edged home the Soudal Open, holding off our man Thomas Pieters and a couple more by a single shot. That’s another composite course, albeit different in style, measuring just under 7,000 yards and must be considered a positive for this week’s test in my view.

2nd at the Kenya Open in February on a tree-lined track shortened by altitude and a play-off defeat at last year’s Made in Himmerland on another short track that’s linksy in style suggests to me that this week’s fusion of nines could be right up his alley.

We’ve also got evidence, albeit a little dated now, that Elvira can rustle up a couple of quick-fire wins as he lifted two trophies in the space of four starts on the Challenge Tour back in 2015. 9 years later and a significantly improved player nowadays, perhaps he can repeat the feat at this level above. RESULT: WD Pre-Event

Tom Lewis 1pt EW 170/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Finally I’ll take a more speculative chance on England’s Tom Lewis who made more birdies than anyone last week in the Netherlands as he looks to significantly improve his status on the DP World Tour.

23 birdies at The International even eclipsed the total of winner Guido Migliozzi, however an eventual 44th place finish tells us that he was making far too many mistakes to truly contend. Still, it’s generally easier for a professional to eradicate mistakes from their game than it is to miraculously find more birdies, and we know from his two wins in Portugal at 21- and 22-under par that when he’s scoring well he can be very dangerous.

8th at the start of the month at the European Open was the 33 year-old’s best finish at DP World Tour level since the start of 2020, and don’t forget that this is a player who’s since then spent a couple of years on the PGA Tour and finished 2nd at a WGC at the 2020 St Jude Invitational. At anywhere close to his best, Tom is more than capable of contending in a field of this quality.

The linksy style of the back nine here is more likely to appeal to the Hertfordshire man than the tree-lined front nine with a pair of top-5 finishes at the Dunhill Links to his name over the years, so a certain leap of faith is required. However the tree-lined parts of this course shouldn’t be excessively tight and difficult, and I can see this feeling quite like some of the scoreable English tracks that he grew up playing.

Eight career starts in Italy at DP World Tour level have produced a total of five top-20 finishes suggesting more than a level of comfort in these parts, and with the limited starts that his current exemption category provides he should be seriously motivated to make the most of these sorts of opportunities. RESULT: T33

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:25BST 24.6.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.