The Italian Open this week really marks the beginning of the business end of the European Tour and Race to Dubai season.
It is the first of six remaining events in the 2017 season that includes four Rolex Series showdowns and the World Golf Championship from China. Those leading the standings will know the impact a good performance at Golf Club Milano this week could have for their chances at the title.
This event takes a huge boost in status this year by being added to the Rolex Series roster and, thus, having its prize fund over double to $7million. Previously played more than 10 events out and with a prize fund of just $3million, the Italian Open has not experienced significance of this magnitude before.
With increased status and European Tour importance comes an obvious increase in field quality. Eight of the Race to Dubai top 11 will take to Italy – including the three front-runners Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm – in a bid to boost their title quest.
The Italian turnout for their home championship is extensive with 13 natives entering, including Matteo Manassero, Renato Paratore and most significantly defending-champion Francesco Molinari. The world-number-18 became the first Italian to win this title twice last year by just holding off the then-Masters-champion Danny Willett by a single shot.Embed from Getty Images
Molinari is one of six returning past champions that includes Rikard Karlberg (2015), Julien Quesne (2013), Robert Rock (2011), Graeme McDowell (2004), Grégory Havret (2001). Fresh from becoming the first successful defender of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Tyrrell Hatton will take to Golf Club Milano as well as Ross Fisher, on the back of setting the new Old Course St Andrews record with a Sunday 61.
Based in Monza, alongside the famous racetrack, Golf Club Milano hosts Italy’s headline championship for the third consecutive, and sixth overall, year. The club is a 27-hole location and the course facing the players this week will be made from a combination of the Red and Yellow courses.
It will set up as a 7156 yard par-71 and is famed for being a flat and still parkland course. The fairways are narrow meaning accuracy should outplay distance this week. Scoring is almost always low, regardless of the venue, as the past two winning scores from Milano have been 22-under and 19-under-par.
High-scoring or low-scoring, the conditions lay out the same for the field and he who can come out on top in Italy would take a huge boost in the Race to Dubai standings with only a handful of events remaining.