There’s considerable excitement surrounding this year’s Italian Open and much of it centres on hopes of a home victory. Edoardo Molinari has established himself as a significant force in world golf over the past year and he’ll be looking to join brother Francesco as a winner of this event. In addition, teenage sensation Matteo Manassero makes his professional debut this week. He will become the second youngest European Tour member of all time – just nine days older than a certain Seve Ballesteros was when he played his first European Tour event in 1974.
Manassero has excelled as an amateur – becoming the youngest ever winner of the Amateur Championship last summer, going on to be the youngest competitor in the Open Championship since Young Tom Morris in the 1860s and finishing an excellent 13th, then becoming the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters this April. Expectations are high for the young Italian.
This is the second year BMW has been title sponsor of the Italian Open. Last season Daniel Vancsik put on something of a master-class to finish six shots clear of Raphael Jacquelin, Robert Rock and the enigmatic John Daly.
Venue: Royal Park I Roveri
Date: May 6-9
Course stats: par 72, 7,282 yards
Purse: €1,300,000 Winner: €216,660
Defending Champion: Daniel Vancsik (-17)
Thursday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Friday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Saturday 8 – Live on Sky Sports 4 from 12.00pm
Sunday 9 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 12.00pm
Edoardo Molinari – The Italian has developed into a consistent performer and is a threat in any event he enters – he’ll be particularly keen to win on home soil. He’s favourite with the bookies to secure the victory here.
Rhys Davies – The Welshman has enjoyed an excellent season so far and, with an awesome putting touch, looks like making birdie every time he finds a green in regulation.
James Morrison – The Englishman is perhaps the most “on-form” player on the European Tour at the moment. He won in Madeira and lost in a playoff for the Spanish Open last week. If he continues his run he’ll be right up there again this week.
Key hole: 17th. At 468 yards it’s the second longest par 4 on the course. A pond sits in the middle of the hole and a stream runs up past the left side of the green. The players will have to beware of that hazard, though the bail out to the right is hampered by two large bunkers.
Skills required: Course management. With a number of well-placed bunkers and water hazards over an eclectic mix of holes, every shot will be tested and the players will use every club in the bag.