Big brother to upstage favourite
David John previews the Open d'Italia and fancies Edoardo Molinari to lead the charge for the home contingent.
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This week's Open d'Italia brings to a conclusion the scramble for a place on Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup team before the Irishman has some decisions to make on which wildcards will make up the dozen players he sends in to battle against the USA.
Jamie Donaldson secured his place with a ballsy win in the Czech Masters and the spotlight now turns to Scot Stephen Gallacher, who can qualify himself with a victory or the runner-up spot in Turin.
Gallacher managed to cling on and post a top-10 finish in Prague last week but never really threatened to produce any fireworks on the final day in a closing 73.
He admitted in his interview afterwards he had not played very well and to my eye looked like the whole experience of trying to make it to Gleneagles almost had him beaten.
He has a few days to recharge the batteries and go again but this remains a very tall order and I can see him coming up painfully short in his quest at 22/1.
Francesco Molinari heads the betting at 12/1 and brought the house down with victory in his national open back in 2006.
I have seen the pain etched across his face as he has desperately tried to repeat the trick in recent years with three subsequent top 10s - the will is undoubtedly there but his short-range putting still makes me nervous at what is a pretty tight price.
I much prefer his brother Edoardo at double the odds having shown signs that he is moving in the right direction again following a considerable time spent hampered by a wrist problem that needed surgery.
It is perhaps a bit strong to call it a resurgence back to the form that saw him win at Gleneagles in 2010 and book an 11th-hour place on Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup side at Celtic Manor but eyecatching finishes in Ireland (second) and the Open Championship (T7) plus some positive noises from him after each occasion bode well for the second half of the campaign.
He spoke at the US PGA in Kentucky of some good wok he had been putting in with coach Sean Foley while three top 20s in this event add extra encouragement that he can rise to the challenge in front of his own fans.
He is actually a winner on home soil - twice in fact - on the Challenge Tour in 2009 when he took top honours here in Turin at the Piemonte Open and also the Italian Federation Cup in Rome.
That was the springboard to get him back on the main Tour and into the Ryder Cup and bar the problem with his wrist, Molinari's talent for the game would surely have yielded more titles.
Healthy again, he can start making up for some lost time.
I am going to pin my hopes on a couple of three-figure golfers to complete the line-up In Italy, starting with England's James Heath.
Heath is a 225/1 chance and still has some work to do to ensure he is playing on the European Tour in 2015 as he currently sits outside the top 150 on the Race To Dubai.
But has does seem to have knuckled down lately as he has made seven cuts on the trot and although there are some mixed results in that run, he does have one top 20 and one top 10.
The latter came last week in the Czech Republic, finishing strongly with a 68, so he clearly has a little bit of momentum and is well capable of putting some low scores together under the right conditions.
A protégé of Sir Nick Faldo, he was last on the main tour full time in 2007 and one of his better efforts did come in this event in a rain-shortened renewal in Milan so Heath might just be worth a speculative punt.
At even more extravagant odds, I am going to give Jose-Filipe Lima a dart in the hope that a return to Italy as well might just rekindle the fire.
The Portuguese player is a real enigma - he seems to thrive on the Challenge Tour and promise plenty but as soon as he gets back among Europe's elite, the talent that got him there unfortunately goes AWOL.
But he does have a bit of previous in terms of throwing himself a lifeline as he popped up from nowhere in 2008 with a T5 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship towards the back end of the season after a similarly dire run of form.
That at least gave him some hope of retaining his playing rights and the theory is he will pull something out the fire once more in a country where he has plenty of positive memories (three finishes in the top six) and plenty of low scores.
- Preview posted at 0920 BST on 26/08/2014