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With Europe's finest away on Players Championship duty, inevitably the Italian Open has a second division feel to it. However, that hasn't stopped the tournament from providing some exciting finishes over the years, and with eight of the world's top-100 in attendance we still have a reasonably competitive field.
The problem from a gambling perspective, as last week in Spain, is that we know virtually nothing about the venue, as it has never been used for tournament golf. What we do know is that Royal Park, Roveri is a Robert Trent Jones Jnr designed par-71, in a stunning Alpine setting. It's never easy to make solid assumptions just from looking at pictures and the card of a course, but there appears little to suggest this will be dramatically different from previous Italian Open venues. This event always produces a birdie-fest, with the highest winning total this century a mere 17-under par 271. With very little forecast in the way of wind, I expect we will once again see a minimum of -15 for the winning total, perhaps much lower.
A strong case could be made for each of the market leaders. Home favourite Francesco Molinari starts favourite, unsurprisingly given some strong links with the venue. He certainly should enjoy some advantage over the rest, most of whom will never have seen this course before, and this must represent a golden opportunity to win a long overdue second Euro Tour title. (The first came in this event three years ago). Nevertheless, value seekers must assess whether 14/1 about a man who has only ever won once is worth an investment. Especially one that seems to have made a habit of saving his best golf for when all winning chance has disappeared. In truth, I can see both sides of the argument. Molinari must win again sooner or later, and given that he's already won his national open we probably shouldn't worry too much about the 'bottle' factor. However in the ultimate analysis, others are preferred.