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The European Open returned to the schedule in 2015 after a 6-year break having formed an important part of the European Tour up until 2009 and the event's resurrection saw a new early autumn slot alongside a new home in Germany having previously been played in the UK and Ireland at such venues as the London Club, The K Club, Sunningdale and Walton Heath to name but a few. Those historical results from 2009 and before are little more than interesting facts now though with the event having shifted to Germany; a change in scheduling last year as well as a new track also makes the results from 2015 and 2016 less relevant too as we return to the Green Eagle complex on the outskirts of Hamburg for the second time for this year's renewal.
Following last week's well-deserved maiden Major title for Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie, a few of last week's elite attendees have remained on European soil which has bolstered the quality of this event. Paul Casey (finished 51st last week), Patrick Reed (28th), Bryson DeChambeau (51st), Pat Perez (17th) and Charl Schwartzel (MC) are the most notable of those players to have remained this side of the Atlantic, plus we have the likes of event specialist Alexander Levy (MC) and last year's winner Jordan Smith (MC) who will also tee it up this week in Germany.
Some events stick in your mind from a betting perspective for good reasons, others for bad reasons, and after last year's result where 33/1 headline selection Alex Levy missed a 3-foot putt in the play-off to win this title, I'm looking for some redemption this year, that's for sure.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the RBC Canadian Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Overview. Green Eagle Golf Courses is a collection of 42 holes spread across 3 courses in the 'Lüneburger Heide', a picturesque part of Germany on the outskirts of Hamburg. The North Course is being used for this week's event and the Michael Blesch design is a brute at 7,165 metres (7,836 yards) from its tips for its scorecard par of 73, however with 4 teeing areas on each of the holes there's considerable flexibility as to how the course can be set up. This week's layout will reportedly measure 7,583 yards and play to a par of 72, as it did last year.
With a course of that length, as you'd expect the fairways are reasonably generous and the greens large and undulating so as to give players a chance of compiling some kind of score. Water is in play on all but one of the holes and an element of control is required to avoid paying the penalty for wild tee shots or approaches, however the reward for a safe navigation to the green will be excellent quality putting surfaces.
4 of the 5 par-5s ranked amongst the easiest holes to play 12 months ago with the 15th proving to be the easiest of the lot, however the 16th at 663 yards certainly proved to be no pushover and it played over par cumulatively for the 4 days. The short par-4s on the 1st and 7th holes also gave up an awful lot of birdies which reinforces the view that this is a strong risk/reward track.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's European Open. Please note that, last year's renewal was the only one held at this venue. Current Form | Event 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.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Hamburg is here. Like much of northern Europe, Hamburg has enjoyed a lot of warm, sunny and dry weather of late which will mean that the course will likely play differently to the lush, soft conditions we saw last year. More sunshine is expected with temperatures reaching the mid-80s Fahrenheit and accompanied by light to moderate winds. The weekend carries a small risk of thunderstorms at the time of writing.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Looking back to last year's event held here in Hamburg, the key stats of the top-3 finishes were as follows:
The event produced a top-3 who were all inside the 21 longest players off the tee when this was played months ago and that's no surprise given the sheer length of the course. The course played soft last year following a lot of wet weather which effectively lengthened and widened the track, however to compensate the organisers moved a number of tee boxes forward to keep it relatively fair. No such issues this year with warm, dry weather preceding the tournament and more of the same expected throughout the 4 days of play, so I'd expect this to play its full length give or take a few tactical tweaks here and there, so controlled aggression should be favoured again in my view.
Much of the length of this track comes from the 5 par-5s, however that's not to say that they're all a pushover. Looking at last year, Jordan Smith was -9 for the par-5s in total, Alex Levy was -7 and Johan Edfors was -10; despite there being 20 looks at the par-5s, these were amongst the best scores on display on the week on the long holes. Clearly taking opportunities to score on the par-5s is fairly critical to success around this track.
Incoming Form: Before the venue switched to Green Eagle GC last year, the previous two winners Thongchai Jaidee and Alex Levy had both recorded top-7 finishes on their previous start, although as the event was played later in the year back then it wasn't immediately after The Open. With the scheduling 12 months ago the same as it is this week, Jordan Smith hadn't played at The Open, however prior to that he'd recorded 7 straight cuts made without finishing any better than 20th at the Irish Open:
German Form: With little course form to go on, I've looked at more general form in Germany for our 3 winners. Jaidee had extensive experience in the country prior to his victory and as a player who was once touted as only being able to play his best golf in Asia, he'd certainly started to produce some more positive results on European soil and this was his third victory outside of Asia. 3rd heading into Sunday at the BMW International Open earlier in the year in 2015 had also signalled some intent for the Thai star. Despite finishing 55th the year before in this event, Alex Levy had played well previously in Germany having led going into the final day at the 2013 BMW International Open and he followed that up with a 12th place finish the year after. Last year's winner here at Green Eagle, Jordan Smith, was inside the top-20 heading into the weekend on his solitary start in Germany the month before his victory:
Open Championship Finish: With this event following the Open Championship for the first time last year, we can take a look at how those players fared who teed it up immediately after competing at Birkdale 12 months ago:
The best finish of all those players who were at Birkdale the week before was from Alex Levy who lost out in a play-off having missed the cut at The Open. Of those who played the weekend at Birkdale, Richie Ramsay fared the best by finishing 8th. As always there's the dilemma of how playing the week before at a Major might affect a player's performance subsequently, however there are no strong signals either way from the data above to suggest that we should be either siding with or against those who played last week at Carnoustie.
Boiling it all down, this is a long, challenging course that presents scoring opportunities to aggressive players. Despite having 5 par-5s and a couple of short par-4s, this course was no birdie-fest last year and a 13-under winning score in soft conditions tells us that players will need to pick and choose when to attack this track. With far firmer conditions underfoot, the course will play a little narrower than last year; the huge greens give players a chance to find putting surfaces from the rough though so players with an aggressive mindset are still my preference, especially as the course is likely to play its full length this time around.
With the likes of Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau all going off at relatively short prices this week and with no guarantee as to how they'll perform immediately after last week's Open Championship, I've gone for a small team of players from a little further down the list.
My selections are as follows:
It's been over 5 years now since Richard Sterne tasted success on the European Tour and there have been enough positive signs of late to suggest he's ready to add to his tally of 6 titles. The most recent of those wins came at the Joburg Open at an incredible 27-under par, however the previous 5 all fell between the 13-under to 18-under mark - including two wins on European soil - which is pretty perfect for this week's task and some impressive rounds of late suggest that there's more to come from him.
Despite being close to a foot shorter than some of the lankiest players on the Tour, the diminutive South African can still send the ball out there and at a fraction under 300 yards average from off the tee this season, he's plenty long enough for this task when you consider that last year's play-off contenders Levy and Smith are of very similar length. 3rd for Total Driving on his last start at the Scottish Open was impressive, however that was backed up by Driving Accuracy and GIR rankings of 2nd in the field to suggest that his long game is currently about as good as it gets. Rounds of 65 to start at Gullane and 64 to close were impressive to say the least and an overall finish of 14th, combined with having no invitation to The Open to raise any further expectations, have managed to keep his price at a respectable level for this week.
What's been impressive about the Pretoria native's game of late is that an injury-free spell has seen him miss just one cut since the end of August last year and progressive recent form of 65/51/31/37/14 shows a level of improvement that may well culminate in a seriously contending week. 9 consecutive cuts made on German soil is also impressive and Sterne was 4th heading into the final day here at Green Eagle GC 12 months ago when arriving in far patchier form. Par-5 scoring has been much improved over the last couple of years - he currently ranks 46th on the European Tour on that count and was 21st for the full season in 2017 - and this course sets up nicely for an attacking week from him.
Having watched compatriot Brandon Stone surge to victory at Gullane with a final round of 60, a resurgence from Trevor Immelman at the same event and some prominent displays from Erik Van Rooyen and Zander Lombard at Carnoustie, perhaps the South African will be inspired to victory here this week in Germany.
It's always with some trepidation that I back Scott Hend, however with 8 wins on all Tours since 2012, one thing we know is that he's at least capable of getting over the line when he finds himself in contention and Sundays go his way. Those 8 wins could easily have been 10 as he's lost out in a play-off on both of his last 2 visits to Crans Sur Sierre, however this week's layout should be far more suitable for the Australian bomber who consistently puts the ball out well beyond the 300 yard mark.
With no Majors entries to disrupt his focus and attention this season, the 44 year-old has produced some consistent results of late with 4 top-14 finishes in his last 6 starts across the European and Asian Tours and within that are some really tangible pointers for this week's task. On Scott's last visit to Germany in June for the BMW International Open, he led going into the final day before a final round of 70 saw him tread water and eventually finish 7th. That had followed respectable enough efforts at the Italian Open (14th) and Thailand Open (6th), however it was his last start in Scotland which really caught the eye where a 3rd round 63 had put him in the penultimate Sunday group. A final round 70 was never going to be enough though with Brandon Stone threatening a 59 and he once again drifted down to 14th; nevertheless the underlying form appears to be there.
For all of these final round let-downs, it's clear that Hend can get over the line when Sundays go right for him and given his fit for this course I wouldn't be remotely surprised to see him put himself in position again here. Aside from that aforementioned recent effort in Germany, Scott's also finished 4th in this event back in 2015 on the previous course used for this event at Bad Griesbach and whilst they are layouts of different length, the attacking style required is common across them both - last year's runner-up Alex Levy won there is 2016 which bolsters that form from Hend.
I last backed Lucas Herbert at the Rocco Forte Open in May and he obliged with a fast-finishing final round of 63 which left him an agonising 1 shot shy of the play-off which was eventually won by Joakim Lagergren. The formula required that week was for an aggressive player who'd shown a little form and the Australian impressed with his brand of long-hitting, attacking golf which very nearly produced the goods for us at a 3-figure price. Back then the 22 year-old had more than hinted at his ability with 5 top-8 starts across the Australasian, Asian and European Tour at the World Super 6 before going off the boil with three missed cuts on the trot prior to finding his way onto my team.
An indifferent run of form has followed his Sicily effort, with results of 41/49/MC/MC/51 pushing his price back out to a backable level, however it's worth considering that two of those results were the US Open and Open Championship on debut and he continues to see many courses for the first time each week. With only a year's worth of history here at Green Eagle GC, Lucas will be at far less of a disadvantage this week and I suspect that this layout will appeal to his youthful exuberance and attacking style.
At a touch under 310 yards average from off the tee so far this season, Herbert has the raw power to take on the scoring holes here in Hamburg and that power was once again in evidence last week at The Open where he led the field for Driving Distance at a massive 331 yards. What was encouraging though was that was coupled that with a top-20 performance in terms of Driving Accuracy which is one facet of the game which has perhaps been holding him back a little. Those stats contributed towards a bold showing at Carnoustie where he sat inside the top-30 heading into Sunday and had he produced an Eddie Pepperell-style round rather than the eventual 77 which he signed for then we would be looking at an entirely different price for him here.
Confidence is huge part of golf as anyone who plays or follows the game knows and it was interesting to hear Marcel Siem's thoughts after bouncing back to form at the Scottish Open on his last start. A switch in coach to Hugh Marr a few months ago combined with some swing changes now appear to be bedding in and his 14th place finish at Gullane - where he was 2nd going into the final round - will have got the competitive juices flowing once again. "Everybody knows, it's all about confidence in golf and you just have to believe in it. A few good shots and I start believing in it and I'm happy," he said heading into the final round and although he slipped back on a low-scoring week, the fact that he got himself into the mix for the first time in a few years on Sunday can only be positive for an emotional sort like Marcel.
Words are all well and good though so it was encouraging to see a massive improvement in his long game in Scotland as he'd struggled to find 40% of fairways and 60% of greens in his previous 4 starts, all of which ended in a weekend off. 71.4% of fairways was good enough for 2nd place in that category at Gullane and 87% of greens hit was the 4th best on show, so clearly something's working and he alluded to having 'found something' in his swing which is always that tantalising intangible comment from a professional golfer that should be ignored at your peril.
Playing golf in his homeland hasn't always necessarily reaped rewards for the 38 year-old, however a losing finalist at the Paul Lawrie Match Play a little under a year ago suggests that he's increasingly comfortably in front of a home crowd and, in all, he's produced 4 top-10 strokeplay finishes on German soil over the years to suggest he's not likely to be overawed should he find himself in the mix here this week. 60th here last year is nothing to boast about, despite the fact that he'd missed the cut in his two events immediately before that, however hidden in that performance was this slam-dunk ace on the 17th hole and from there he went on to produce that near miss in the Match Play and then finish 10th in Denmark the week after whilst his sprits were high. After a largely forgettable few years on the European Tour, perhaps the tide has turned for the 4-time winner and we'll see another big week here with positive vibes running through his game.
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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