The next leg of the 2016 PGA European Tour kicks off with the Italian Open this week. Now in its 91st year, it is one of the oldest golf tournaments in the world. Until very recently it was played at the Circolo Golf Club in Turin, but has since switched to the more central Golf Club Milano.
With a prize fund of €3,000,000, players will be itching to get on the green and see if they can follow in the footsteps of Swedish player Rikard Karlberg, who managed to defy the odds and win in a play-off against Martin Kaymer in 2015. Gambling.com takes a look at which players offer the safest odds, or who might have an outside chance of upsetting the order and making a savvy punter rich.
Last year’s runner-up is the bookies' favourite to walk away with the top prize, with Ladbrokes offering solid odds of 12/1. The German has never returned to his career high in 2011, when he was ranked No.1 on the Official World Golf Ranking, but looks to be in good form heading into this tournament. His sudden-death scuffle with Karlberg robbed him of the title last year.
So it could be a case of Kaymer returning to reap some revenge and take care of some unfinished business. More recently, he has been on fine form, having managed to finish in the top ten of his last eight tournaments, including a top five finish at Made in Denmark and the 100th Open de France.
This will be the South Korean’s first time entering the Italian Open, yet he is still attracting favourable odds of 16/1. The 24-year-old has been making good on the promise he showed when he became the youngest winner of the US Amateur Championships.
Since then, he has managed three professional wins, including this year’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, narrowly losing out to American Brian Stuard. He also managed to come third in the recent KLM Dutch Open, showing a strong game against native Netherlander Joost Luiten.
The Dutchman, currently 11th in the European tour rankings, is equalling Byeong-Hun An with odds of 16/1; between them it may be a case of age vs. experience. Luiten just turned 30 this year, with eight tournament wins in his career, five of those on the European Tour.
His form this year has been more erratic than the South Korean’s, yet, like Kaymar, he has managed to reach the top ten in eight 2016 tournaments, including the 100th Open de France and Real Club Valderrama Open de Espana.
The Englishman might be leading the others in the European tour, currently in ninth position, but his form overall has not been as well-defined, which is why Ladbrokes is offering slightly higher odds at 20/1, alongside other favourites like Danny Willett and Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Willett managed to beat his fellow countryman in this year’s Masters Tournament, forcing Westwood to share joint second place with the American Jordan Spieth. Willett might be a smarter bet, currently leading the table in the Race to Dubai, but Westwood is not far behind in ninth and could surprise.
If Westwood or Willett don’t offer tempting enough odds, you could always go for Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, currently attracting odds of 66/1. This is despite some great performances recently, including finishing tenth at the KLM Open and sixteenth at the D+D Real Czech Masters, where he was striking the greens. With the Milan course offering flatter courses and smoother greens, he could be the surprise upset that Rikard Karlberg was the previous year.
The giant Swede ventures back to Milan to defend his title; with odds of 80/1, he is an outside bet, but he was receiving similar odds last year before he picked up the tin cup. Karlberg is not without form this season, having come second in the BMW PGA Championship and seventh in the Nordea Masters a week later. Still, it might be worth a punt just to see him go up against Kaymer again.
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