The 78th staging of the European Tour’s Italian Open heads to the hills on the outskirts of Rome and the venue for the 2023 Ryder Cup. Here is all you need to know, including the revamped course, the Aussies teeing it up and TV times.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: England’s Ross McGowan ended his long European Tour winless run of 11 years and 15 days as he claimed a one-stroke victory over compatriot Laurie Canter with a 20-foot birdie on the 72nd hole.
COURSE: Marco Simone Golf and Country Club will host the 2023 Ryder Cup on a course that has been completely redeveloped for that event. This week’s Italian Open will serve as a dress rehearsal of how the ‘new’ course.
The redesign was overseen by American architect Jim Fazio, who is from the distinguished family of course designers including his son, Tom Fazio II, his more famous younger brother, Tom, and uncle George.
Fazio’s design winds through the undulating hills of the Roman countryside, with the Castello di Marco Simone backdropping numerous holes.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: One of the in-form players during the past fortnight Henrik Stenson continues to search for his first win in a little over five years. And he’s edging ever so closer to the breakthrough. He finished T4 in Prague and claimed outright third in the Swiss Alps last week. Momentum is a wonderful thing, and Stenson says he hopes he has enough to propel him into a Captain’s pick for the European Ryder Cup team.
"Two strong rounds this week, even though I still feel like I want to have a bit more security in my long game,” Stenson said after his third-place finish.
“That’s really the area that I’m focusing on. We’ll take the positives once again and move on to Italy and hopefully we can keep on getting better.”
Stenson is just one of a handful of players looking to play their way into form for the upcoming big European Tour money events and Ryder Cup.
While the Ryder Cup will be foremost in the thoughts of the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Captain’s pick bubble players – Bernd Wiesberger and Victor Perez – all of whom will be looking for a good performance in Rome.
Wiesberger, like Stenson, has form momentum. The eight-time European Tour winner fired rounds of 67-67-69-65 to finish in solo second in the Swiss Alps, however, he will be ruing his final hole double bogey that cost him a ninth Tour win.
The Australian has more than just momentum, he has the lure of a rookie Ryder Cup team spot. If Wiesberger can replicate his Swiss form over the closing two qualifying events, he could knock Rory McIlroy in the final qualifying spot on the European Points List. McIlroy would then qualify via the World Points List, where he’s currently in second position, which in turn would see Ireland’s Shane Lowry out of the automatic qualifying reckoning.
Of the Australians teeing up in Rome, Min Woo Lee is the most likely to capture the title. If not for a disastrous front nine in the third round, the West Australian would have been deep in contention heading into the final day.
He is currently No.10 in the Race to Dubai rankings and can advance as high as No.5 in the standings with a victory – the first for an Aussie in this event in 30 years – this week.
72-HOLE RECORD: 262 – Percy Allis (1935), Francesco Molinari (2016), Thorbjorn Olesen (2018).
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Greg Norman (1988), Craig Parry (1991).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Min Woo Lee, Scott Hend, Wade Ormsby, Maverick Antcliff.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9.30pm – 2.30am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9.30pm – 2.30am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9.30pm – 2am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9.30pm – 2am)
*AEST, check local guides