Free betting tips: Ben Coley's Italian Open preview

Last Updated October 12 2017, 13:11Golf
Tommy Fleetwood in action
Tommy Fleetwood in action

Golf expert Ben Coley fancies Tommy Fleetwood to extend his Race To Dubai lead in this week's Italian Open.

At the turn of the decade with the European Tour mired in financial problems, the Italian Open was an event which suffered so badly that its long-term future appeared to be in doubt.

Standing opposite the PLAYERS Championship, organisers had no chance of attracting even local favourite Francesco Molinari as a player ranked almost 2,000th in the world claimed his second win, a decade on from his first. Still, at least it was close. One year earlier, world number 420 Daniel Vancsik had won by six.

Now, boosted by its inclusion in the multi-millions Rolex Series, world number five Jon Rahm and Masters champion Sergio Garcia combine with Molinari junior at the head of a high-class field which guarantees entertainment - particularly after a late switch back to Golf Club Milano.

Molinari, despite in his own words "hitting horrible shots", clung on to beat Ryder Cup-bound Danny Willett a year ago in a straightforward shootout on a short, rain-softened, there-for-the-taking golf course. A year earlier, a thriller of a different kind saw Rikard Karlberg edge out Martin Kaymer on a day where as many as a dozen players had a genuine chance to win. On both occasions it really was all about the birdies.

Reaching the required total is a task best achieved by continually attacking pins, and there's no obvious reason why that won't suit Rahm as he bids to cap his first full year as a professional by overhauling Tommy Fleetwood at the head of the Race To Dubai standings.

Fleetwood, though, has other ideas and he looks the best bet on the back of an encouraging return to action in last week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

It was heartening to hear him talk in Scotland about becoming a father during the British Masters but on this occasion, there's no real cause to speculate that it might trigger an upturn in his play. All we really need is for it to have no detrimental impact on one of the stars of 2017.

Since finishing seventh here in 2016, Fleetwood has since become a genuine threat at elite level courtesy of wins in Abu Dhabi and France and with a big lead in the season-long Race To Dubai, he might just be one more victory away from capping the most memorable year of his life.

He's already won a Rolex Series event of this stature and providing the putter behaves - which it certainly did during his course-record 63 at Carnoustie last Friday - I see no reason he can't add another on a golf course which he's performed well at when nowhere near the force he is today.

Crucially, Fleetwood is absolutely determined to be crowned Europe's golfer of the year and has that very much in mind in Italy this week, knowing that as he heads home afterwards, the Spaniards in hot pursuit will be off to the Valderrama Masters as they look to eat into his lead.

"I would love to win the Race To Dubai, absolutely love it," admitted Fleetwood last week, and as arguably the biggest threat to Rahm bar perhaps the defending champion, he has to be a bet at around 25/1.

Tree-lined fairways and small greens should also help Matthew Fitzpatrick confirm that he too is overpriced at the same sort of price.

This will be the 35th European Tour event Fitz has played since his breakthrough victory in the British Masters two years ago, and he's since added three more titles to a collection which will continue to grow rapidly.

At this level he's not only a frequent winner, but he's just about the best around when it comes to taking a chance and that counts for so much when trying to pick apart a bunch of players who might otherwise appear equals.

We saw that ability as recently as a month ago as the youngster beat Scott Hend in a play-off for the European Masters and that's a significant form line, as it confirms that when the emphasis is on fairways and low-scoring, he's absolutely deadly.

Matt Fitzpatrick's winning DP World Tour Championship round

Fitzpatrick has finished 11th and 15th since returning from a short break following his victory in Switzerland and the latter was particularly encouraging, as he'd missed the cut in both previous Dunhill Links starts but this time fought hard following a bad start to maintain his momentum.

Third here two years ago and 16th last year, when bang in the mix until a disappointing final round, Golf Club Milano definitely suits and there are no issues around motivation for this man in particular. Fitzpatrick just wants to keep on winning until he's right at the top of the game.

Again, with the greatest of respect, he's a superior player to Tyrrell Hatton, he's much more prolific than Molinari and he's in better form than Garcia. I only see one player in this event who is considerably more likely to win it and that's Rahm, for whom a shootout on a tight track may not prove to be ideal.

Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick are both highly-motivated, in-form players who've got the elite form required to stare down the Spaniard if he does turn up in top shape. They form a very solid attack at the front of the market and I will be disappointed if both are not in the mix throughout, although should Fleetwood find being away from his son too much he will be forgiven.

In years gone by, I'd have been inclined to take several chances in events like this one but the creation of the Rolex Series already looks significant. Alex Noren, Fleetwood, Rahm and Rafa Cabrera-Bello make up a high-class roll of honour so far and that's a trend which could well continue - perhaps with one of the above players.

However, for a youngster with abundant potential whose most recent form reads 1-15, I'm surprised that we can take 100/1 about Romain Wattel.

Still only 26, the Frenchman seems sure to build on his nervy victory in the KLM Open three weeks ago and it was highly encouraging to see him finish 15th on his return to action in the Dunhill Links, as it suggests he has quickly adapted to having achieved a long-held ambition.

It's not insignificant that his victory came in an event he'd gone well in before and Wattel's Italian Open record is therefore encouraging, eighth in 2013 preceding 11th a year later before he failed to convert a 54-hole lead en route to 10th at this course in 2015.

Last year he again performed with credit in Milan, finishing 38th, while he played very nicely for three of the four rounds on his sole subsequent visit to Italy in the Rocco Forte Open earlier in 2017.

Having struck the ball really well last week, I see no reason he can't get back into contention again and on that score, there's plenty of recent encouragement. Branden Grace, Jeunghun Wang, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan and Anirban Lahiri all won their second European Tour title right on the heels of their first and, like all of them, Wattel is a classy youngster with a big future.

Inside the top-20 of those assembled for birdie average over the last three months, Wattel is overpriced to prove that winning in the Netherlands is the start of something big for a player who won on the Challenge Tour as an amateur and has plenty more in the locker.

For those who'd rather take an entirely speculative approach than follow the advice with Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick, Alejandro Canizares is worth considering. He needs a big finish to secure a card for 2017 and will know that he's fortune the Tour heads first to this course, which he loves, before taking him home to Spain.

Perhaps this two-time European Tour winner could go well, while there's a case too for former Italian Open winner Robert Rock in an event which has thrown up several two-time champions already this century.

However, pick of the outsiders is Ricardo Gouveia, in the hope that he can get the putts to drop having turned the corner with his ball-striking of late.

A surge through the field on home soil in the Portugal Masters has this classy youngster within hailing distance of the Race To Dubai top 100, and it's from that sort of slot which Chris Paisley and Lucas Bjerregaard - to name just two - have gone seriously well here over the last couple of years.

Gouveia just missed the weekend here a year ago but is a former winner in Italy on the Challenge Tour and, having again caught the eye in the Dunhill Links last week, he looks the pick of those with everything on the line in the penultimate event of the regular season.

Bjerregaard's course and correlating form (Perth, Hong Kong, Switzerland) makes him an interesting contender at 66/1, the same price available in a place about Victor Dubuisson after this ball-striking machine blitzed through the pack last weekend, while Stephen Gallacher has fond memories of an event which saw him finish third under immense pressure in 2014.

However, I'm keen to get a South African on-side in the belief that they could continue to show an affinity for these classical Italian courses which perhaps remind them of home.

We've seen Hennie Otto win the event twice so while Brandon Stone is tempting as he bids to follow in his friend Haydn Porteous' footsteps, it's the less fashionable Darren Fichardt for me.

This veteran still knows how to win, as he showed when seeing off Stone and others in the Joburg Open back in February, and has finally found a return to that sort of form lately.

Fichardt was sixth when faced with the tiny putting surfaces of Crans three starts ago, finished with a closing 64 for a top-30 finish in a good renewal of the British Masters, and can be forgiven a so-so effort in the Dunhill Links where he's never been a factor in 11 attempts.

Only a poor putting week cost him better than 16th place here last year and having been 20th in 2015, that makes for an extremely encouraging profile at 250/1.

Recommended bets: Italian Open

2pts e.w. Tommy Fleetwood at 25/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

2pts e.w. Matthew Fitzpatrick at 25/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Romain Wattel at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

0.5pt e.w. Ricardo Gouveia at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

0.5pt e.w. Darren Fichardt at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

Click here for our transparent tipping record

Related links

Posted at 2050 BST on 09/10/17.

Most Read

Last year's stars Buveur D'Air, Sizing John and Un De Sceaux1

Cheltenham Festival schedule, tips & guide

The 2018 Cheltenham Festival gets under way on March 13 and we've got all the tips and information you need ahead of the four-day spectacular.

Luton are part of Saturday's Sporting Life Accumulator2

Sporting Life Accumulator

Four promotion contenders in the Sky Bet EFL are backed for home wins in Saturday's 15/2 Sporting Life Accumulator.

Gary Anderson and Peter Wright shake hands after an epic encounter (Pic: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)3

MVG wins; Anderson & Wright draw

Michael van Gerwen thrashed Daryl Gurney 7-2 in Berlin while Gary Anderson and Peter Wright served up a Premier League Darts classic.

Ronnie O'Sullivan4

World Grand Prix snooker

The full draw, daily schedule, odds, results & TV guide for snooker's Ladbrokes World Grand Prix, which takes place in Preston from February 19 to 25.

5

Market Movers: Piling on Paddy

Shotgun Paddy has been punted to return to winning form as Sky Bet's Michael Shinners reveals all today's major racing gambles.

Most Read

Last year's stars Buveur D'Air, Sizing John and Un De Sceaux1

Cheltenham Festival schedule, tips & guide

The 2018 Cheltenham Festival gets under way on March 13 and we've got all the tips and information you need ahead of the four-day spectacular.

Luton are part of Saturday's Sporting Life Accumulator2

Sporting Life Accumulator

Four promotion contenders in the Sky Bet EFL are backed for home wins in Saturday's 15/2 Sporting Life Accumulator.

Gary Anderson and Peter Wright shake hands after an epic encounter (Pic: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)3

MVG wins; Anderson & Wright draw

Michael van Gerwen thrashed Daryl Gurney 7-2 in Berlin while Gary Anderson and Peter Wright served up a Premier League Darts classic.

Ronnie O'Sullivan4

World Grand Prix snooker

The full draw, daily schedule, odds, results & TV guide for snooker's Ladbrokes World Grand Prix, which takes place in Preston from February 19 to 25.

5

Market Movers: Piling on Paddy

Shotgun Paddy has been punted to return to winning form as Sky Bet's Michael Shinners reveals all today's major racing gambles.

Racing Tips

Label Des Obeaux

Value Bet: Designer Label

Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bets in the Betdaq Handicap Chase at Kempton and the Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

Iain Jardine

Wolverhampton tips: Super switch

All-weather expert Jamie Maynard previews the pick of the action at Wolverhampton tonight and fancies a stable-switcher in the finale.

Khalidi can go close at Lingfield

Simon Holt: Art attack

Racing commentator Simon Holt previews the feature action at three meetings on Saturday, with Khalidi fancied at Lingfield and Art Mauresque on the radar at Kempton.

Next Race Off
17:30 Dundalk
4
(4)
Six Silver Lane
J: D E Sheehy
8
(9)
Rosenborg Rider
J: T M Sherry
7
(7)
Settle For Red
J: P J Smullen

Football Tips

Abdoulaye Doucoure of Watford celebrates

Saturday's Premier League tips

Watford are backed to beat Everton as one of our best bets for Saturday's action in the Premier League.

Billy Sharp scores from the penalty spot

Sky Bet EFL betting tips

Nick Hext's Sky Bet EFL selections start with a tip for Sheffield United's trip to Hull on Friday night, which is live on Sky Sports.

Luton are part of Saturday's Sporting Life Accumulator

Sporting Life Accumulator

Four promotion contenders in the Sky Bet EFL are backed for home wins in Saturday's 15/2 Sporting Life Accumulator.