Jon Rahm, the Spanish rookie who has spectacularly rocketed up the World Ranking list to No 5 in his first year on the US PGA Tour, is back in Europe this week, this time to tee off in the Italian Open.
So too are a host of other European stars who have been playing much of their golf on the lucrative US Tour in recent years, not the least of these being Italy's Francesco Molinari, this week's home favourite and defending champion, Sergio Garcia, Spain's reigning Masters champion, Swedish star Alex Noren, German's two-time major champion Martin Kaymer, Northern Ireland's former US Open champion Graeme McDowell and England's former World No 1s, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
And that's not all. Also in the stellar field along with Rahm are three other seiously-hot, 20-something Ryder Cup contenders, these being Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, who set a course record of 63 at unforgiving Carnoustie last week, Tyrrell Hatton, who looked so solidly impressive on his way to the successful defence of his Alfred Dunhill Links title in the same week and Ireland's Paul Dunne whose great potential finally blossomed two weeks ago when he won the British Masters.
Why this sudden injection of world-class stars into an event that for too many years had been one of the less glamorous stops on the European Tour?
Partly, perhaps, it's because the climax of this year's US PGA Tour, the FedEx Cup playoffs, have come and gone while the 2017 European Tour is still very much alive and kicking as it heads into the final stages of its Race to Dubai finish.
More likely, though, it's the money factor. The Italian Open is now one of the eight tournaments making up the new Rolex Series and as such has seen it's prize purse more than double to $7million.
Not unexpectedly Rahm is the British bookmakers favourite for the Italian title. At 13/2 he tops a list that includes Garcia at 14/1, Molinari at 16/1, Hatton at 18/1 and Noren, Fleetwood and fellow Englishmen Matthew Fitzpatrick all at 20/1.
The bookies have Ross Fisher a little further down at 33/1, but if the 36-year-old Englishman can hang on to the magnificent momentum that saw him shoot a final-round 61 and set a new, Old Course record at St Andrew's last week, they might still regret it.
Molinari with his course knowledge and good memories of the 7,156-yard, tree-lined, near-90-year-old parkland course at Golf Club Milano at Parco Reale di Monza where the Italian Open has been played for the past three years, will have a clear-cut advantage over most of his rivals, notably Rahm who has made only two sorties into Europe since graduating from US College golf, both to play in Rolex Series events.
The big-hitting 22-year-old Spaniard won the Irish Open and finished 10th in the Open de France and on the strength of those two visits sits in third place in the Race to Dubai standings.
Now, with a record of 3rd-4th-5th and 7th place finishes in the recent FedEx Cup playoffs, he clearly still has the form to win again in Italy.
Fellow countryman Garcia currently sits ahead of Rahm in second place on the Race to Dubai standings, but he hasn't really been able to come out with his A-Game since winning the Masters way back in April and unless he can rediscover his form soon, his hopes of being crowned the European Tour's No 1 for the first-time are not going to materialise.
With a lead of more than a million points Fleetwood is sitting pretty at the top of the Race standings and if he can produce more of the scintillating golf that saw him shoot that 63 in the second round at Carnoustie and less of the inconsistency that saw him stumble with a 76 in very the next round and tumble out of Dunhill Links contention, even the likes of Rahm and Gacia will be hard-pressed to stop him claiming his first European crown.
Mind you it might be worth keeping an eye on Fisher. After the way, he bounced back from a lengthy spell of relative obscurity with that stunning, final-round 61 at St Andrew's to grab second place, a first place this week is not out of the question. Nor is a return to Ryder Cup competition.
Our Golfweather.com boffins say you won't need rain suits or woollies this week. All four days will be bathed in warm sunshine and the wind shouldn't be a factor. Expect a lot of birdies.
LEADING ODDS FOR THE ITALIAN OPEN
(Tuesday am, Oct 10, 2017)
Jon Rahm 13/2
Sergio Garcia 14/1
Francesco Molinari 16/1
Tyrrell Hatton 18/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood 20/1
Alex Noren 20/1
Shane Lowry 25/1
Bernd Wiesberger 28/1
Ross Fisher 33/1
Paul Dunne 33/1
Martin Kaymer 33/1
Lee Westwood 40/1
David Lingmerth 45/1
Marc Warren 50/1
Thorbjorn Olesen 50
George Coetzee 55/1
Alexander Levy 55/1
Eddie Pepperell 55/1
Lucas Bjerregaard 55/1
Luke Donald 55/1
Joost Luiten 55/1
Andy Sullivan 55
Graeme McDowell 60/1.
NOTE: For all the latest odds, go to www.oddschecker.com/golf/italian-open/winner.
RACE TO DUBAI TOP 10
1 Tommy Fleetwood ENG 3,807,265
2 Sergio Garcia ESP 2,799,255
3 Jon Rahm ESP 2,761,857
4 Rafa Cabrera Bello ESP 2,124,686
5 Alex Noren SWE 1,986,032
6 Ross Fisher ENG 1,936,015
7 Rory McIlroy NIR 1,832,091
8 Francesco MolinariI ITA 1,669,921
9 Justin Rose ENG 1,593,950
10 Bernd Wiesberger AUT 1,475,240.
Written by email@example.com.
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