There is a choice of two strong golf tournaments this week but as the European Tour is enjoying some momentum, we will preview the Italian Open which features a strong field led by BMW PGA Champion Francesco Molinari.
We enjoyed some success at Wentworth ourselves at the weekend with Top 10 picks Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Matthew Fitzpatrick both coming in at good prices so we will stay on the other side of the Atlantic and see if we can keep a good run going.
Not only is Francesco Molinari our most recent Tour Champion, he is also a two-time winner of the Italian Open with successes in 2006 and 2016. It is a tight market for this one but the impressive way in which the Italian held off Rory McIlroy at Wentworth makes him a worthy favorite (+900 with Bovada) on home soil.
It is tight at the top however with Tommy Fleetwood (+1100) within a couple of points point of Molinari with most US online sportsbooks. The 2017 Race to Dubai winner finished in a tie for twentieth at the BMW PGA and never really threatened the leaders so form isn’t with Fleetwood coming into Thursday.
In contrast, Alex Noren (+1000) tied third at Wentworth and is at similar odds as Fleetwood in some places. The Swede was defending his PGA title and looks better placed to challenge the outright favorite in Italy.
Our defending champion this week is Tyrrell Hatton (+3300) who we had tipped for the BMW PGA last week but a disappointing showing at Wentworth coupled by some average results in 2018 leaves the Englishman on the distant edges of the chasing pack and verging into outsider territory.
At the head of that pack is Ian Poulter (+1800) who is getting plenty of support from the pundits ahead of this event. He is a two-time winner of the Italian Open but those victories came in 2000 and 2002 so while he is a genuine contender, Poulter’s win price is too short for us and doesn’t reflect his current form.
A more tempting option is Ross Fisher (+2800) who is further back at similar odds to Hatton. Fisher was a runner up last year and is in better shape coming into this event, having started the fourth round at Wentworth in the final group.
Also in the chasing pack is Matthew Fitzpatrick (+1600) who gave us that Top 10 profit at the weekend and could well have the form and the game to go one better in Italy this time around.
At the head of the outsiders there is a very tempting price next to the name of Lucas Bjerregaard (+4000) who finished in a tie for third last week after threatening the very top of the leaderboard for the first half of the tournament
The Dane is talented if inconsistent and has a recent Tour win with the Portugal Masters towards the end of the 2017 campaign.
Other distant betting odds to look for this week include Lee Westwood (+5000) and Graeme McDowell (+6600), two veterans who were in contention for part of the PGA event last time out. Elsewhere, Alexander Levy (+3500) is a recent winner on Tour with victory in the Trophee Hassan last month while Dylan Frittelli (+6600) is poised to rediscover his 2017 form at some point.
Our Italian Open Preview’s Predictions, Betting Picks & Course Trends
We have a new date for this event which was held in October last year and a change in venue as the Italian Open switches from Milan to the Gardagolf Country Club in Brescia for the first time since 2003.
This is a par 72 but it is a relatively short one at 7,156 yards and is a parkland venue requiring accuracy from the tee to avoid punishing trees and bunkers. With that type of length, distance hitting isn’t going to be a real advantage so we’re looking for Greens in Regulation and Driving Accuracy as key stats.
Molinari completed that double in 2016 but there have been a few multiple winners including Poulter and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano who is also competing this week but is way down the field amongst the rank outsiders.
It is a strong field and we could well have a big-priced winner coming through. I’m torn between two players but will take Alex Noren just ahead of Matthew Fitzpatrick. The Swede moved seamlessly to the PGA Tour at the start of 2018 and based on his performance at Wentworth, looks best placed to challenge the favourite Molinari. We’ll retain Fitzpatrick at the head of our Top 10 picks and hope for another profitable four days.