The European Tour returns after a few weeks off to allow the bigger events in America to take place. After rumours that the next period of the tour would take place across the pond, it is actually Austria where we head for the Austrian Golf Open.
This tournament actually has its place in European Tour history as it was this one which brought the sport out of the pandemic on this side of the pond last year. Marc Warren took advantage of a weakened field to win the title, one which he has passed up the opportunity to defend.
2020 – Marc Warren
2018 – Mikko Korhonen
2017 – Dylan Frittelli
2016 – Ashun Wu
2015 – Chris Wood
2014 – Mikael Lundberg
2013 – Joost Luiten
2012 – Bernd Wiesberger
2011 – Kenneth Ferrie
2010 – Jose Manuel Lara
It is the Diamond Country Club just outside Vienna which is the course once again this week. Nothing has changed since last year so the course is a par 72 which remains at 7,458 yards. That is fairly long even by today’s standards particularly when you need to plot your way around it. Water is in play on half of the holes and this is one of those courses where the greens undulate so you need to get close to the pin or rely on a tip top short game.
If you look at the list of winners above there isn’t really a set style that win this tournament so form might be an important commodity. The statistics tell us that you need to hit a lot of greens in regulation which will make sense given how well guarded they are. Length is certainly no bad thing but accuracy off the tee is of more importance so I’m looking for those with a good long game here. The recent winners have all been good putters too.
A week after The Masters and with plenty more big events on the horizon it isn’t a surprise that the field is relatively weak this year. The defending champion Marc Warren hasn’t shown up so we are guaranteed a different winner. There are a few former champions in the field in the form of Chris Wood, Joost Luiten and Ashun Wu while the home hope this year sits on the shoulders of Matthias Schwab, who will break his European Tour duck if he lands the title.
Five members of the top 100 in the world rankings are here. They are led by the Belgian player Thomas Detry while Sam Horsfield, Rasmus Hojgaard, Kurt Kitayama and Martin Kaymer complete that quintet. Other notables in the field is the recent Kenya Open winner Justin Harding, big hitting South African player Dean Burmester and the two time winner last season in John Catlin. The field is best described as competitive.
The highest ranked player in the field, Thomas Detry, is the 10/1 favourite to win the tournament this week. Those who regularly read the European Tour previews on this site will know that I am no fan of backing a short price on a player who hasn’t won before. I’m also reluctant to get involved in a player who has messed a couple of chances to win up. Things will fall into place at some point for Detry if he is good enough but I’m not betting at 10/1 that it happens. He certainly isn’t for me.
There are two second favourites for the tournament at 16/1. They are the home hopeful Matthias Schwab and the twice winner on the UK Swing last season in Sam Horsfield. As with Detry, I’m no fan of backing maidens at short prices so while I expect Schwab to win at some point, I’m not going to be on him this week. Horsfield is a much better betting proposition but I just wonder if he is a little more vulnerable to those who are a bit straighter off the tee. I’ll tentatively leaving him alone.
The recent Kenya Open winner Justin Harding is next in the betting at 20/1. He is teeing it up here for the first time this week which is something of a negative but the flip side of that is we know he is in great form. He isn’t one of the longer hitters though which might go against him. He’s a solid enough proposition but he is one of those players who do a lot of things well but nothing outstandingly so he might be a little too vulnerable at 20/1 here.
A trio of players are next in the betting at 22/1. They are Kurt Kitayama, Joost Luiten and Martin Kaymer. Luiten is a former champion here and has had four other top 10 finishes on this course but he’s only had one top 10 all season which would be something of a concern. Kitayama missed the cut in the second week in Kenya but I suspect that was a reaction to going so close to winning the previous week without getting over the line. He is a monotonous greens in regulation hitter which could be crucial but he’s also a debutant here. Kaymer has done little of note in 2021 and could be here to shake off the rust for the majors and better European events to come.
I’ll take a couple of main bets this week. The first of those is the form man in a lot of senses in Kurt Kitayama. Let us get the negative out of the way first. It is never ideal when a player hasn’t played at a venue in the past however we should remember that Kitayama won a European Tour event in both Mauritius and Oman on his first outing there. That is significant here because both those events would be considered among the lesser lights of the European Tour, which is exactly how this one can be viewed in terms of the strength of the field. Now for the positives. Prior to a missed cut last time out, which was entirely down to the short turnaround between that event and the previous one where he was deep in contention throughout. That was the Kenya Open where he finished second and he was in the top 10 in Qatar the week before that. On both occasions he led the field in strokes gained tee to green, gaining more than 10 shots on the field in that discipline on both occasions. In the Kenya Open he also sat ninth in putting average so his all-round game is very strong. Given that he’s won twice as a debutant on tour and he comes in here in better form than most he looks like a leading bet to me here.
The other main bet I like is the Swedish player Niklas Lemke, who has been in excellent form for the last six months. In that time he has only finished outside of the top 15 once with his putting statistics being particularly appealing while his long game has also been more than competitive. Lemke isn’t short of length and I don’t think that is a bad thing here and he has been scoring quite highly for greens in regulation in the recent period too, hitting 62.5% or more in his last nine outings. We should add that he didn’t get into the big events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai so he hasn’t been competing in the company some have but the tournaments he has been in he’s been playing well and looks a good price here.
Two men caught my eye away from the top end of the fields in Kenya last month and both tee it up here so I’m going to have a go on both of them. The first of them is Nino Bertasio whose long game was something else in Kenya but he couldn’t quite put everything together enough to push right into contention. His strokes gained tee to green efforts were very strong but the second week in particular his putting let himself down however in Abu Dhabi he ranked eighth for strokes gained putting in a much better field than this so he has all the tools to go well, it is just about putting them all in the box in the one week. I’ll pay to see if that is this week.
The other man who caught my eye there was the Spanish player Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez whose two weeks in Kenya saw him go 4-14 in terms of his finishes. In those weeks he was in the top 10 for putting on both occasions and in the second week ranked seventh for driving accuracy and 11 for greens in regulation. He has form on this track as well because he returned from the pandemic with a fourth place finish here last year where he was one back after 54 holes. Course form and current form is a good combination and as a result I’ll play the Spaniard here.
The other bet I’ll go with is another Spaniard in Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano who I still think there is a tune in at some point. He has missed two of his last six cuts which is unfortunate but in the other four events for strokes gained tee to green he has ranked 32-23-24-7 and whittling that down to approach he reads 4-22-1-2 so into the greens in particular he has been very good and that is a large part of the test this week. The one thing that continually lets him down is on the greens where he is incredibly hit or miss. He has played here twice before though and while that was a decade ago the course hasn’t changed a whole lot. He was 15-21 in those two outings so he has gone well on these greens in the past. I’ll pay to see if this is a good putting week and if it is he looks a big price.
Back K.Kitayama to win Austrian Golf Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back N.Lemke to win Austrian Golf Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Garcia Rodriguez to win Austrian Golf Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back N.Bertasio to win Austrian Golf Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-7)
Back G.Fernandez-Castano to win Austrian Golf Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-6)