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Home : Golf NewsBack to News

Sicily could bring more shocks


rocco forte open 2017 verdura golf club logoFinding the Europea Tour's likely winner this week doesn't get any easier as the Tour moves to a brand new tournament, the Rocco Forte Open, in the relatively uncharted territory at Verdura Country Club in Sicily.

Verdura has been used by the European Tour once before - for the Sicilian Open five years ago - but not in the same way as it will be this time.

It's three 18-hole layouts, two of them seaside links tracks designed by Kyle Phillips - better known for his work on The Grove in Hertfordshire (British Masters) and Kingsbarns in Scotland (Alfred Dunhill Links Championship) - are to be combined to form a composite, 7,352-yard, 18-hole tournament layout using the best holes from all three courses.

Only 17 players will have had any experience of playing Verdura, but even they will not have played on the combination of holes chosen for this week and when you add this to the fact that the field clearly lacks any of the real cream of European golf - almost certainly because it falls between the flagship tournaments of both the US PGA Tour and the European Tour, namely last week's The Players championship and next week's BMW PGA Championship - it all points to a second week of surprise results.

Last week, also in a field that contained many more unsung, possible standouts of the future rather than current established stars, it was Englishman Matt Wallace, a 27-year-old unheralded rookie with just four Challenge Tour events under his belt, who put up his hand and stunned the world of golf by marching to a three-shot victory at the Portugal Open.

Can this happen again? In the circumstances, it certainly can and yes, that man Wallace, now an official European Tour member with his confidence boosted sky high, could well be one of the contenders in chief.

The bookmakers, don't think Wallace, but they do see another Tour rookie as the man to beat.

Jordan Smith topped their list of favourites at 20/1 on Tuesday morning followed by South Korean Li Hao-tong at 22/1, Englishman James Morrison at 25/1, and the little-known Thai Phachara Khongwatmai at 28/1 before we get to the names of two former Tour winners we have all heard of, Italy's Matteo Manassero at 33/1 and Belgium bomber Nicolas Colsaerts at 35/1.

Wallace is a little further down their list at 40/1.

Is Smith a strong prospect? I would think so.

He missed the cut in his first tournament of the season as well as in his most recent start, but in between, he's produced some noteworthy stuff. After a 3rd, and ties for 6th and 8th and four other top 25 finishers, he currently stands at No 32 in the Race to Dubai, making him the second highest-ranked rookie after South Africa's Dylan Frittelli (18th).

The 21-year-old Li, the 2016 Volvo China Open champion, is another of the young guns to keep an eye on. With three top 25s in his most recent five European Tour starts, including a tie for 5th in the Maybank Championship, he's clearly a talent who is going to win more tournaments.

Behind these two, established Tour regulars like Morrison, who has produced some good results on Kyle Phillips courses, local favourite Manassero and Colsaerts, both of who have seen better days but seem to be on the up and up again, could be up amongst the front runners coming down tye final stretch on Sunday.

So too could a second Italian local favourite, Edoardo Molinari, a blast from the past who bounced back from obscurity to win last month's Trophee Hassan II and who will want to strengthen the hint he gave in Morocco that he is back on track to further glory.

The Weather? Our forecasters see a series of sunny days with no hint of rain.

But they also see the lightish southerly winds of the first two days getting up to a stiffish 32km/h on moving day Saturday before dropping back into the mid-20s on Sunday and this might just strengthen the hands of Molinari and Chris Hanson who both handled the wind so well in Morocco. Hansen tied for 6th.

In truth, however, no one seems to be too sure about anything right now, including the bookies whose odds for their favourite are as high as 20/1, so don't be too surprised if another relatively invisible outsider like Wallace suddenly rises up and wins again this week. It could happen.

(Tuesday a.m. May 16, 2017)

Jordan Smith 20/1
James Morrison 25/1
Haotong Li 22/1
Matteo Manassero 33/1
Phachara Khongwatmai 28/1
Nicolas Colsaerts 35/1
Thomas Detry 35/1
Chris Hanson 33/1
Matt Wallace 40/1
Trevor Fisher Jnr 35/1
Rikard Karlberg 40/1
Renato Paratore 40/1
Bradley Dredge 30/1
Richard Bland 33/1
Alexander Bjork 45/1
Max Orrin 45/1
Scott Jamieson 40/1
David Horsey 33/1
Romain Langasque 45/1
Matthieu Pavon 55/1
Anthony Wall 55/1.

NOTE: For all the latest odds go to

Neville Leck

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