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Italian Open Betting Tips: Six picks at 2023 Ryder Cup course

This week we head to Marco Simone Golf & Country Club for the Italian Open
This week we head to Marco Simone Golf & Country Club for the Italian Open

With the Ryder Cup little more than a year away, the DP World Tour will once again treat us to an extensive look at the host course this week in Rome. As we head to Marco Simone Golf & Country Club for the Italian Open. 

Having previously hosted the event in 1994, Marco Simone has gone through a significant renovation since, in preparation for next year’s Ryder Cup and is very much in keeping with the modern game.

With this it was very fitting that last year’s event, the first time we’d seen the course since the renovation, was won by a very modern golfer in Nicolai Hojgaard, a monster driver of the ball who concentrates on whacking it as far as he can then figuring it out from there, whilst one of the runners-up, Adrian Meronk is of a similar breed, giving us a glimpse of what to expect in a year’s time.

What it also showed us, besides the fact big hitters fared well, was that this course is no pushover, as Hojgaard shot -13 to pick up the victory and only seven players managed to get to double digits under par. It will be interesting to see if that difficulty stands up again this year and gives us an even clearer example of what types of player will be suited to the test next year.

Italian Open Tips

The Course

Marco Simone G&CC was designed by American architect, Jim Fazio in the late 1980’s, with his son, Tom Fazio II overseeing the redesign in 2015. It’s a big, wide and exposed course, measuring 7268 yards and playing to a par 71.

From looking at the course last year, I felt it would suit the bomber types and that is certainly what transpired, though I was surprised by how difficult it played. For all the fairways are very wide and inviting, they are not without danger, with plenty of large, strategically placed bunkers awaiting to gather errant tee-shots, whilst if you stray too far you will find some very punishing rough. In addition to this there is water in-play on around half the holes on the course.

The greens then provide more difficulty, severely undulating and intended to be firm, with run-off areas aplenty that will put strain on the short-game, this was indeed the case last year as the course ranked as one of the tougher courses on which to scramble. Marco Simone really showed itself last year, to be a course that will test every aspect of your game.

That being said, if you golf your ball well, you will find enough chances to score. There are a handful of shorter risk/reward par 4s, some that will be drivable during the week, such as the 330 yard 11th hole and 352 yard 16th, with a further two below 400 yards.

There are then the par 5s, two of them reachable in two for most. Though they are somewhat overshadowed by the lengthy 626 yard 18th, that will undoubtedly have a significant bearing in deciding this week’s winner. 

The course is then littered with tough holes, from the 503 yard par 4 8th to a series of strong par 4s on the back nine, namely the 14th and 15th holes. Here is where your tee-to-green game will have to be on point to stop you undoing any of the hard work you may have done on the “easier” holes.

Golf Tips

The Stats

We have just one year of stats to go off but this doesn’t stop us being confident in what we should be looking for this week. As mentioned, it looked a course for strong drivers before last year’s edition and with a top three that read Nicolai Hojgaard, Adrian Meronk and Tommy Fleetwood, this proved to be the case.

We saw this in the stats too, as Hojgaard led the field off-the-tee and Meronk ranked 8th. However, though Fleetwood has been an exemplary driver for much of his career, the long game wasn’t quite firing consistently and he managed to contend thanks to an excellent week with the short-game. Though like the other two, he is a player who does not lack for distance off the tee.

Fleetwood wasn’t alone in quality with the short-game, as Hojgaard and Meronk both performed solidly both on and around-the-greens, though it was in approach where they excelled, along with those strong driving performances, with Meronk ranking 5th and Hojgaard 14th. 

Though there are some straighter steadier types towards the top of the leaderboard, such as Masahiro Kawamura and Richard Bland, it’s difficult to shake that image of that top 3 and when we look a little further down we find further evidence of that big hitting with Adri Arnaus and Min Woo Lee also performing well. Even Danie Van Tonder, who eventually finished 27th but was well in contention before a disastrous Sunday. 

With this it’s clear to me that not just quality driving is important here but that distance off the tee is a big advantage. Having said that, I don’t believe that alone is enough and you will need to be pretty on the ball as a whole tee-to-green due to the difficulty on and around these greens.

With the variety on show on the eleven par 4s, where the opportunities are tempered by the challenge of the majority, I expect these to be the holes that play the biggest role in deciding this week’s winner.

Key Stats: SG: Off-the-Tee, Driving Distance, SG: Approach, SG: Around-the-Greens, Par 4 Scorin

Correlating Courses

Portugal Masters @ Dom Pedro Victoria

With no fewer than nine of last year’s top eleven here at Marco Simone possessing a top 9 in the Portugal Masters, we found as strong a course correlation we could have hoped for after just one event.

It’s easy to see why they compare so well, as Dom Pedro Victoria is an exposed, watery course that has suited the bigger hitters over the years.

Nicolai Hojgaard was 2nd there last year, whilst Tommy Fleetwood, Richard Bland, Mikko Korhonen and Masahiro Kawamura have all recorded top 5s and were in that top 10 here last year. With other members of the top 10 in Italy ’21, Francesco Laporta, Pablo Larrazabal, Scott Jamieson and Johannes Veerman recording a finish of 9th or better.

Ras Al Khaimah Championship/Classic @ Al Hamra Golf Club

Al Hamra Golf Club hosted the Ras Al Khaimah double-header on the DPWT earlier this year and has hosted multiple events on the Challenge Tour in the past. It’s a wide open, watery resort course that very much suits the big hitters as seen by the two winners of those events this year, Nicolai Hojgaard and Ryan Fox.

Hojgaard obviously provides the strongest correlation, whilst Adrian Meronk finished 6th there earlier this year and has a 2nd there on the Challenge Tour. Pablo Larrazabal and Masahiro Kawamura have recorded 3rd and 6th place finishes respectively, whilst Adri Arnaus and Victor Perez, who both went well in Italy last year, have won at Al Hamra on the Challenge Tour.

Irish Open @ Mount Juliet

Mount Juliet has hosted the Irish Open for the last two years and despite being a tree-lined course, there is  combination of plenty of room off the tee and danger should you start straying too much from the fairways, whilst it requires a pretty strong all-round T2G game to compete.

Adrian Meronk won there this year for his first victory on the DPWT, whilst Francesco Laporta, Richard Bland and Johannes Veerman have each finished inside the top 4 in the last two years.

Alfred Dunhill Championship @ Leopard Creek

Similarly to Mount Juliet, Leopard Creek may be a tree-lined course but the fairways are generous and it’s a demanding course that requires strength in your game across the board.

The form-ties are strong, with Pablo Larrazabal a past champion, Adrian Meronk and Richard Bland possessing 2nd place finishes. Scott Jamieson has finished 3rd and Johannes Veerman 7th.

Abu Dhabi Championship @ Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Back to a more wide open, exposed course and Abu Dhabi Golf Club, host of the Abu Dhabi Championship until this year looks a good comp to Marco Simone.

Pablo Larrazabal and Tommy Fleetwood have picked up the trophy there, whilst Scott Jamieson has recorded a top 10. I suspect it’s a course that will develop stronger form-ties with this venue the more we visit.

Czech Masters @ Albatross Golf Resort 

Finally the form-ties weren’t as strong as others for this Czech Masters host but on paper it looked as good a comp as any for me and similarly to Abu Dhabi, the more we come to Marco Simone, the more strong form-ties I’d expect to develop. Albatross Golf Resort is an open, exposed setup that has room off the tee and has generally been a feast for bombers.

Johannes Veerman won there last year and Scott Jamieson has recorded multiple top 10s at the venue.

The Weather

Similarly to last week at Wentworth, we have a stormy week forecast in Italy. There are thunderstorms predicted for the first three days, with it clearing up for the final round.

You feel the likeliness of a rain-softened course will play even more into the hands of the bigger hitters and with only a mild breeze predicted, when the players do indeed get out onto the course they may find scoring easier than last year.

This course does firm up quickly though, as shown last year and of course there’s always the chance that the most severe of the conditions don’t arrive. Hopefully this will be the case this week and we don’t have to deal with a constantly interrupted event.

The Field

After his close call in the BMW PGA Championship last week, where he came to within one shot of taking good friend, Shane Lowry to a playoff, world #2 Rory McIlroy stays in Europe for another week to get a no doubt important look at next year’s Ryder Cup venue.

Not just Rory of Europe’s elite who stays on from last week, as Viktor Hovland gets himself a first taste of Marco Simone, as does Tyrrell Hatton. Whilst Matthew Fitzpatrick returns hoping for better after missing the cut last year.

Other notables include Francesco Molinari in his home championship, looking to build on his encouraging 9th place finish at Wentworth, with now established PGA Tour players such as Aaron Rai, Lucas Herbert and Kurt Kitayama also staying on in Europe.

Selections

It was really hard to ignore Rory McIlroy this week; he’s the second best player in the world at the minute, playing excellent golf across the board and this course should suit him to a tee. Ultimately, he’s in a price range I never go in, though I would say a best of 4/1 is a little higher than I was expecting. Still, I will be trying to get him beat this week and my hope is that the potentially problematic weather will throw him out of his rhythm.

Next in the betting come Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland, both again with clear chances but slight negatives in the form of Fitzpatrick’s missed cut here last year and Hovland looking poor on Sunday at Wentworth, whilst his short-game might not cut it..

Both of them are bypassed and the benefit to having such a top heavy field is that you don’t have to go far down the betting to find top quality players at 40/1+, which is the area of the board I start in, kicking off with Rasmus Hojgaard, who I’m taking to follow in the footsteps of twin brother, Nicolai’s win here last year. 

Bet365 Sign-Up Offers
Rasmus Hojgaard – 1/5 8 places
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-09-13 15:00 Odds subject to change.

Rasmus has been enjoying a year of great consistency so far, with eight top 25 finishes, four of them top 10s. This has been well on show over recent starts, finishing an excellent 10th in a high-class Scottish Open five starts ago and most recently finishing 22nd in the Made in Himmerland and 18th last week at Wentworth on his most recent start. Though ultimately what has been missing when comparing to his previous three years on tour, is that victory.

The reason the victory hasn’t quite come is that whilst most areas of his game have fired throughout the year, no area has done it consistently over a run of several /roundsevents. With each part of his game coming in and out of form event-to-event. A negative in terms of putting it all together to make that serious play at a victory but a positive in the sense that it really hasn’t been all that far away.

This is represented by a strong selection of stats, where Hojgaard ranks 39th in approach, 55th around-the-greens and 60th off-the-tee, adding up to a ranking of 31st tee-to-green and with him being one of the longest hitters on tour, ranking 11th in driving distance, we find a player who is well suited to Marco Simone G&CC.

This was on show last year, as Rasmus finished 18th, looking to get a real hand of the course over the weekend, finishing with consecutive rounds of 68, driving it well but equally as encouraging, handling these tricky putting surfaces. 

Hojgaard has three wins on tour in three years and just might be the type of character that won’t shy away if tasked with contending with some of the biggest stars in the game over the weekend.

Kurt Kitayama – 1/5 8 places
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-09-13 15:00 Odds subject to change.

Kurt Kitayama enjoyed a good first season on the PGA Tour last season and looks a danger coming back over to the DPWT this week at a course that should suit his power-packed game.

Though there have been plenty of missed cuts in his form figures stateside this year, he has shown enough signs that he’s a player who can transfer that winning ability he showed on the DPWT to the PGA Tour. The two biggest examples of this came from a 2nd place finish in the Mexico Open and a 3rd place finish in the Honda Classic. Whilst he also performed excellently in the co-sanctioned Scottish Open, with another 2nd place finish.

This good form was evidenced over the final few weeks of the 2021/22 season, as he finished 20th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 19th in the BMW Championship in the final three events. Before travelling to Wentworth for a 32nd place finish last week.

Over the second half of the season he was in top-class form tee-to-green, particularly off-the-tee, where he’s gained strokes in 10 of his last 13 starts and we see evidence of the power he possesses as he ranked 20th in driving distance last season. In addition to this the short-game has been in excellent form, gaining strokes in 8 of his last 10 starts around-the-greens and when combining it all with a ranking of 58th in par 4 scoring, we find a player who should be well suited to this test.

Though he hasn’t played here and hasn’t got a great deal of form at the correlating courses mentioned above, we can clearly see how this test well suit when looking at those best performances this year, as his efforts in the Honda Classic, Mexico Open and Scottish Open all came on exposed setups.

It’s been three seasons since Kitayama won twice on the DPWT and coming back to the tour hopefully full of confidence after the previous season on the PGA Tour, he can add a third in Italy this week.

Lucas Herbert – 1/5 8 places
66/1
Odds correct as of 2022-09-13 15:00 Odds subject to change.

Lucas Herbert is a proven winner on both sides of the Atlantic and with him starting to find form with the driver over recent starts, I was pleased to see him at such a price this week for a test that should be to his liking.

The talented Herbert earned his way onto the PGA Tour through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last season and wasted no time establishing himself there, winning the Bermuda Championship on just his third PGA Tour start at the end of last year.

He has maintained a good level of form this year, this despite his long-game going missing for much of the year. He’s recorded seven top 20s, with the best of them a 7th place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has been in good form over his last half a dozen starts, with three top 15s to his name, including a 15th place finish in The Open.

Earlier in the year it appeared he was overly reliant on his short-game, with him ranking 1st on the greens on the PGA Tour last season. However I don’t think this was entirely the case, despite his poor rankings off-the-tee and in approach. 

What is noticeable when diving in deeper to Herbert’s long-game stats is inconsistency, with him going from quality iron play/driving one round, to a poor performance the next, which whilst not ideal at least shows he has been showing quality in these areas all year, just not for a prolonged period over consecutive rounds.

This has changed over recent starts as Herbert has started to find greater consistency with the driver, historically his second best club after the putter and he’s gained strokes in his last six starts in that regard, his best run with the driver since June last year. Added to the fact he possesses plenty of power and that quality short-game, Herbert quickly looks like an ideal fit.

Despite not playing here last year, we find further evidence of his suitability for this test from his good record at Mount Juliet, where he won last year and returned to finish 9th this year, in addition to this is a 2nd place finish in Portugal.

Herbert is one of few players in this field who has won on both sides of the Atlantic and with his driver starting to produce with greater regularity, he looks one of the biggest dangers to those at the top of the betting this week.

Johannes Veerman – 1/5 8 places
80/1
Odds correct as of 2022-09-13 15:00 Odds subject to change.

Johannes Veerman was right at the top of the leaderboard here last year deep into the third round, before a quadruple-bogey derailed him and meant instead of being right in contention he started that final round six behind. He got it going again on the Sunday but once again fell foul down the closing stretch to eventually finish 8th. 

However he was arguably just two shots away from taking away this title last year and coming back to the course with some good recent form, including last week where he put up his second best ball-striking display of the year, can atone for those costly errors last year.

Not only a strong performance at the course last year but he has some hugely encouraging correlating form. Chief amongst them is a victory in the Czech Masters last year, whilst a 3rd place finish in the Irish Open last year, as well as a 7th place finish in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and an 8th in the Portugal Masters offer further encouragement.

Veerman’s been in particularly good form of late, hitting the top 25 in five of his nine most recent starts. This form has largely been engineered by the short-game, the putter especially, where he ranks 10th this season and if able to repeat that improved ball-striking showing last week, as shown last year he certainly has the game to contend here.

George Coetzee – 1/5 7 places (Betfair)
100/1
Odds correct as of 2022-09-13 15:00 Odds subject to change.

George Coetzee continues to show positive signs after returning to the DPWT three starts ago following a short but successful winning trip back home to South Africa. He now comes to a course in which he finished a solid 27th last year and if able to continue to hit his irons as well as he did last week, recording his second best stats of the year, he can improve considerably on last year’s effort.

We know exactly what Coetzee is about, a bomber who can work magic on and around the greens. This has been the case in recent starts, where he’s recorded consecutive finishes of 16th, 22nd and 32nd, gaining strokes in each start on the greens and 2/3 around-the-greens.

Despite driving it well earlier in the year, he’s been a little off the boil in recent starts, though still ranks 55th for the season, with 21st in driving distance showing the power he possesses. The short game credentials are evidenced by rankings of 28th in scrambling and 41st around-the-greens, when adding all of this to being the 23rd best par 4 player on tour this season, as well as that improved approach performance last week, Coetzee looks a player ready for a strong performance this week.

In his 27th place finish last year he shot two rounds in the 60s, though relied heavily on the putter. I am buoyed by a hugely encouraging book of correlating form, where he has an excellent record in Portugal including a victory, a 3rd place finish at Leopard Creek and top 10s in Abu Dhabi and the Ras Al Khaimah.

Coetzee is a five-time DPWT winner, though all but one of those have come in co-sanctioned Sunshine Tour events. With his game starting to click into gear over recent starts he can put it up to those big names at the top and go close to doubling his European tally this week.

Zander Lombard – 1/5 8 places
150/1
Odds correct as of 2022-09-13 15:05 Odds subject to change.

I’m going back to South Africa for my final selection this week, as Zander Lombard has been playing well recently, including a season’s best approach performance on his latest start and with some strong correlating form he looks the type to fit this test, despite a MC last year.

Similarly to Coetzee, Lombard has returned from a brief trip back home with his game looking in better shape. Since finishing 18th on the Sunshine Tour four starts ago, Lombard has recorded finishes of 5th in the Czech Masters and 18th in the Made in Himmerland in his three most recent starts.

Each part of his game has fired in both of those starts, with a strong ball-striking performance and a good week on the greens helping him to that 5th in the Czech, whilst the irons once again fired in Denmark, combined with some quality around-the-greens. 

This is not a recent development for Lombard, who has been playing solidly tee-to-green this year, gaining strokes in each recorded area overall. In addition to this he’s a big hitter, ranking top 50 in tour in driving distance and is a strong par 4 player, ranking 53rd. A good profile for this test. 

He didn’t show this in his MC last year, though his game was in a much worse plac. Instead I’m encouraged by his strong correlating form, in which he’s recorded two top 5s in the Alfred Dunhill, a 3rd place finish in the Ras Al Khaimah and that 5th in the Czech Masters just three starts ago.

At his best, Lombard is a strong iron player. With those recent, confidence building performances in that regard, along with his length off-the-tee and generally solid short-game, he can go well this week and cause a stir at the top of the leaderboard.

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