Stal all set to sparkle
Gary Stal is one of David John's four picks for this week's Lyoness Open at the Diamond Country Club in Austria.
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Punters and players will be revving up now for the US Open at Pinehurst so we have a quiet-ish week in Europe with the Lyoness Open taking place in Austria.
This will be the fifth staging of the event at the Diamond Country Club and a little star quality is brought to the line-up in the shape of defending champion Joost Luiten along with past winner and local hero Bernd Wiesberger.
- 1pt e.w. Eduardo De La Riva at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Ladbrokes) - Faded in the final round here 12 months ago but worth another shot.
- 1pt e.w. Nacho Elvira at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Betfred) - Sound form this season and sort of event where he could well thrive.
- 1pt e.w. Gary Stal at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Betfred, Stan James, Ladbrokes) - Classy performer with positive memories from a win in Austria.
- 1pt e.w. Florian Fritsch at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Ladbrokes) - Arrives in good form and makes some appeal at three-figure odds..
Luiten is a top-class act and has been priced as such. He defends a title for the first time on the European Tour but with the gains he has made over the past 12 months, I really don't see that as being an issue and he must go pretty close.
His recent form is good as his quest to make Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup team in September ticks along nicely and unless he is overly distracted by next week's trip to the USA, then Luiten has to be a live contender.
Wiesberger was roared to glory two years ago by a passionate gallery and despite a couple of quiet weeks recently, he should be thereabouts if he repeats what he showed in Malaysia when chasing home Lee Westwood.
Wins recently from Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy might see some punters happy to go in on one or both at single-figure odds but Henrik Stenson highlighted at the Nordea Masters that is not always plain sailing to the top prize even if you are in great shape after three rounds.
So I certainly think there is some scope to look beyond the obvious and Spanish duo Nacho Elvira and Eduardo De La Riva have shown enough this year to suggest this could be a good chance to break their duck.
I am a fan of the former's grounding in the game - he attended Texas A&M University in the USA - and a strong surge towards the end of 2013 on the Challenge Tour saw him secure his playing rights for the new campaign.
It is obviously a swift learning curve for the 27-year-old as he learns the nuances of the new courses he is tackling this season but has enjoyed a very steady first half of the campaign and just one good week somewhere along the line will ensure he is back in 2015.
He has made seven out of his last eight cuts and best of T15 in China reads quite well in the context of this event. There is an element of the unknown with him on a course he has not played competitively but there seems no obvious reason why he won't adapt.
De La Riva has a bit more experience at this level and was bang there going into the final round of this event 12 months ago.
A three-over-par front nine did for his chances on the day but even that setback can't completely mask that he handled the course very well for three-quarters of the event and included a 65 in round two.
I am impressed with De La Riva's consistency this year as he rarely goes home without a cheque and three top-25s from his last five starts gives me the impression that he is not too far away.
He may just need this slightly less exacting assignment to get his head in front in a bid to also open his account on the European Tour.
We are not quite getting such a big price on Gary Stal these days but the Frenchman remains a very promising talent and looks worth an interest at 66/1.
I put him up as a selection at big odds in March in Morocco and his T33 was a reasonably creditable performance bearing in mind he managed to rack up a 10 on one hole in round three.
He has since chipped away pretty steadily and grabbed a little bit of attention at Wentworth when he took advantage of a late call-up in place of the injured Victor Dubuisson when he fired an opening 66.
What may just give him a little positive mental edge this week is the return to Austria - he won the Karnten Golf Open on the Challenge Tour in the country two years ago.
He showed bags of resolve that day in a tense duel with Daniel Brooks to prevail by a shot, a performance that suggests he has what it takes to progress to the next level.
A final pick goes to German Florian Fritsch, who gets into the event thanks to a invite from the sponsors.
Fritsch has an interesting back-story. Another player to go to college in the USA, (University of South Carolina) his career rather hit the rocks back in 2010 when he developed an extreme fear of flying.
Without trying to belittle his situation, that is not exactly ideal for a touring professional and rather limits where and when he can play.
But a short hop over the border from Germany is not an issue this time and he tees it up in pretty good nick having recorded back-to-back top six finishes in Austria and the Czech Republic.
He seems to have a good shout at improving on two missed cuts in this tournament and a win on the German Pro Golf Tour around this time last year - where he had the useful Daan Huizing trailing in his wake - at least shows he can get his head in front.