While The Players Championship is the centre of attention in the golfing world this week, the picturesque Sicily coast should also come into focus with the European Tour staging the second running of The Rocco Forte Open.
Alvaro Quiros overpowered the golf course to claim a huge win for him 12 months ago and he is back to attempt to defend the title this week. Although there is a huge event on in America a pretty competitive field has been assembled to take him on.
2017 – Alvaro Quiros
The Verdura Golf Club is the venue again this year which means we get to see the beautiful final stretch of holes which run alongside the Sicilian coast line. The course is a par 71 which measures 7,217 yards but while it isn’t particularly long the history here suggests the bigger hitters have an advantage.
The two men who were involved in the playoff last year smack it a million miles so I think length is important. Equally as important is being comfortable in the wind. The other thing to consider is good putters. The leaderboard was packed with good putters last season which would make sense on this sort of terrain.
Clearly the elite of European golf are going to be out in Florida taking on that challenge but there is a decent cast list for this tournament too. Winners this season that are teeing it up here include Eddie Pepperell while seasoned winners such as Andy Sullivan, Thorbjorn Olesen and David Horsey are also here.
There is the up and coming brigade such as Sam Horsfield, Nino Bertasio and Julien Guerrier to enjoy on the links as well as a few from overseas such as Jason Scrivener, Haydn Porteous and Austin Connelly tee it up this week too.
It is Andy Sullivan who heads the betting this week. He is 14/1 to win the tournament and if he is at his best then he would be far too good for this field but ultimately if his game was in that condition then he wouldn’t be playing here, he would be in Florida instead. His lack of recent form puts me off even accounting for his better effort in Morocco last time out.
Thorbjorn Olesen is no stranger to winning in windy conditions and he is a leading chance at 16/1. His form isn’t the best in recent times but he is often someone who pops in when the conditions suit and walks off with the title. He won here in 2012 when the course staged the Sicilian Open so he knows how to get it done around here which could be significant also.
Eddie Pepperell landed the title in windy conditions in Qatar earlier in the season and he is 25/1 to follow that win up with another one here. He certainly isn’t without a chance given that victory and his comfort in the wind but he’s missed both cuts since that win which is a concern. Five missed cuts in seven events doesn’t really inspire confidence so I’ll leave him out.
The defending champion Alvaro Quiros is 30/1 to make a successful defence of his title. He warmed up nicely for this tilt when he was second in Morocco last month and a bold showing is expected. Whether the pressures of defending a title get to him remain to be seen but if his putter stays hot he should go well enough. It is 40/1 bar.
I’ll take two main bets this week. Both of whom give it a smack off the tee and are adept at getting the ball in the hole and it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Thorbjorn Olesen is my first main punt. He has won the Alfred Dunhill Links and the Perth International in recent seasons and also won here in 2012 so he is fine at playing in the wind which might be bigger than given credit for this week. Last year was the first since 2014 that he hadn’t registered a win. I’m backing him to put that right here.
Julien Guerrier is another player who smacks it far off the tee and in recent weeks his putter has been red hot with him finishing in the top five for putting at both the Open de Espana and the China Open and if he gets another positive week out of the short stick then he is entitled to go very well here. He was in the top 10 as a relative unknown here last year and with some decent results in Italy on the Challenge Tour there is something about the climate that gets him going. He is well worth a punt here.
I’ll go for a couple of outsiders who tick the same boxes as the main bets as well. Austin Connelly might not be in fantastic form but he tends to play linksy conditions well as we saw at The Open last year. He showed signs of an improvement on a tough track in Morocco last time out where he putted well once again. That is a hallmark of his game and that, coupled with his comfort on exposed layouts makes him worth a go at 80/1 this week.
Mikko Korhonen keeps threatening the real big breakthrough that his career needs. He was third in the Tshwane Open recently and is usually at home on these exposed tracks like most Scandinavians are. He is another who belts it miles and who has a nice touch on the greens. One poor round cost him a crack at the title here last year but if he can play his best stuff for all four rounds he shouldn’t be far away.
Back T.Olesen to win The Rocco Forte Open (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 17.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
PLACED – Back J.Guerrier to win The Rocco Forte Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back M.Korhonen to win The Rocco Forte Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Connelly to win The Rocco Forte Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-6)