Austrian GolfOpen preview

The European Tour heads to Austria this week for the 21st edition of the Austrian GolfOpen presented by Lyoness. Jose Manuel Lara of Spain defends the title around the Diamond Country Club at Atzenbrugg near Vienna.

Jose Manuel Lara defends

Lowdown: The European Tour heads to Austria this week for the 21st edition of the Austrian GolfOpen presented by Lyoness. Jose Manuel Lara of Spain defends the title around the Diamond Country Club at Atzenbrugg near Vienna. A strong field has assembled in Austria as players look to collect valuable Euros in their quest to make the top-60 on the Race to Dubai and thereby secure a start in the Dubai World Championship. Among those looking to do that is three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington. He's currently 87th on the Race to Dubai so needs a good finish this week to climb the standings. "I know that I need to improve my position in The Race to Dubai, but all it takes is a win or one strong finish and I will get into that top 60," he said. "I am also keen to make a start on my 2012 Ryder Cup qualification campaign. You never know, it might happen in Austria- that is certainly my intention." Also on the start sheet at the Diamond Club are Walker Cup stars Tom Lewis and Paul Cutler, both of whom have turned professional following GB&I's memorable victory over the USA at Royal Aberdeen. The pair have been given sponsor's invitations this week. This tournament was first contested in 1990 when Bernhard Langer took the title. Since then, Ronan Rafferty, Paul McGinley, Richard Green and Jeev Milkha Singh have all been winners. Last season Jose Manuel Lara came through a playoff against David Lynn to take the title. It was a crucial victory for the Spaniard as it secured his playing rights on the European Tour. Prior to the tournament last year Lara had endured a miserable mid-season run of nine consecutive missed cuts. Lara played a fabulous final round of 64 to force himself into the mix, it was a round that included 10 birdies. "I was fighting to keep my card and had not played well for the whole season really," he said. "So to go there and play so well, especially in the final round under a lot of pressure, was very special." Opened for play in 2002, the course at Diamond Country Club took over as host venue for the Austrian Open last season. It's an interesting Jeremy Pern design featuring water hazards on nine of the 18 holes.

Venue: Diamond Country Club, Atzenbrugg, Austria Date: Sep 22-25 Course stats: par 72, 7,386 yards Purse: €1,000,000 Defending Champion: Jose Manuel Lara (-17)

TV Coverage: Thursday 22 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10am Friday 23 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10am (red button) Sunday 25 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12pm (red button)

Player Watch: Padraig Harrington - The 40-year-old has not enjoyed a stellar year but he's shown signs of returning to form in his most recent tournaments in the US. He'll have the bit between his teeth this week as he looks to move into the top-60 on the Race to Dubai.

Miguel Angel Jimenez - The evergreen Spaniard is a threat in any tournament he enters. He played some excellent golf in last week's Seve Trophy including a solid 4&2 victory over Open champion Darren Clarke.

Soren Hansen - It's high time the Dane made a return to the top of the game. He's one of the most talented players out there and, at his best, a match for anyone. Perhaps this could be the week he re-finds his game.

Key holes: 11th and 15th. Par 3s of 192 and 159 yards but both play to island greens and anything straying off line at either hole could end in a watery grave.

Where next? PGA Cup - USA takes victory Q School - European Tour Qualifying school underway

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?