Martin Kaymer went very close to winning this event 12 months ago and rates a major player again.
The Italian Open heads back to the Milano Golf Club where a very decent field turns up during a busy time of the year. Seven members of the European Ryder Cup team travel to Milan in search of some solid form in the run up to the heavily anticipated game in a few weeks time. The Milano Golf Club is a classical tree lined track that requires a lot of strategy off the tee. Plenty of dog legs await on the holes where placement of the ball off the tee is paramount to shooting a decent score around here.
We hit the bar here last year with Kaymer beaten in a play-off at 14/1 and our other selections Matt Fitzpatrick (25s) and DavidLipsky (100s) coming up a shot shy of the playoff. Everyone knows my affinity for a punt when we come to these tighter tracks and this week will hopefully be no different as we search for another winner.
We got 14/1 about Martin Kaymer last year when he was beaten in a playoff and giving his form heading into this event I'm surprised to see the same price available this time around. Kaymer was showing glimpses of form heading to Italy last year but was far from a guaranteed contender. This time around his form his a lot more consistent and given Kaymer's ability to play well between the trees I'm prepared to have another stab at him winning this event. His form from late May reads 5-7-37-5-13-36-7-15-6. He is playing solid golf and a lot of those decent performances have been on tracks where driving needs to be in good order.
The K Club, Wentworth, Le Golf National, Baltusrol and Himmerland in Denmark have all yielded top tens for the German this summer and with the Ryder Cup a few weeks away he may be looking to justify Clarke's selection of him for the 2016 game. He hasn't missed a cut since March so we must have a strong enough bet on him this week.
Ben An, Joost Luiten and Matt Fitzpatrick all have lively chances here. Ben An rallied last week from a long way back to gain third. Luiten played the golf of his career holing absolutely everything on route to victory in Holland. Fitzpatrick produced three tremendous rounds to finish off in Crans to finish just outside the placings despite an awful first round score. I find it hard to separate the three and as much as I'm tempted to invest in one of them, I favour Kaymer simply because of his form around the tighter tracks. An and Fitzpatrick have shown signs of inconsistency in the last twelve months and despite having a lively chance, I'll pass them up and substitute them with a few outsiders.
David Lipsky finished 1 shot off the playoff here last year and considering he looks in better form than last year we have to be tempted by the 80/1 on offer. A top ten in Czech Open was followed by a superb performance in Denmark, another tight track. He finished 3rd behind Thomas Pieters but had every chance of winning the event until the Belgian produced a remarkable final few holes. I was impressed by his competitiveness that week and returning to a tight track where he plays his best golf the 80/1 is tempting enough for us to nibble at.
Soomin Lee arrives in Milan a big outsider but personally I feel he is still underestimated by the bookies. After finishing 3rd in Hong Kong towards the end of last year he all but won in Malaysia before succumbing to Marcus Fraser. It didn't take him long to bounce back and win the Shenzhen quite convincingly. His form since has been poor to say the least but the tighter courses seem to suit this talented lad and a made cut in Crans was very welcome followed by a top ten in the KLM last week. He can not be ruled out this week considering his upturn in form and although it is a longshot I feel it is worthy of an each-way bet.
Lucas Bjerregard hasn't hit the heights that we expected over the last twelve months but with a few half decent results under his belt in the last few weeks I feel he is worthy of a bet around this track. He definitely seems to play some of his best golf when the targets off the tee are narrowed as he showed in Hong Kong and here in Italy last year. He finished one shot off the playoff last year but all week looked one of the more likely winners until failing to birdie the easy par 5 16th (which incidentally has been turned into a par4 this year). It's a risky bet as he hasn't shown a great deal over the last few months but his talent remains and I believe he is worth chancing with sights that should suit his eye off the tee.