This week’s stop of the European Tour sees the continent’s elite golfers take to Torino, Italy, as the 2014 Italian Open gets underway.
One of the tour’s flagship events, the tournament has been part of the European Tour schedule since its formation in 1972 and has produced some big-name champions in that time.
The likes of Tony Jacklin, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman and Sam Torrance have all reigned supreme at the Italian Open over the years, and here, we analyse the daily action as one of the field of 156 looks to join them on the list of champions.
Final Round Recap
Hennie Otto secured a two-shot Italian Open victory after going round in 68 without hitting a single bogey.
Otto was in clinical form after going into clubhouse two ahead overnight, and victory in Torino ensured that the South African secured his third European Tour win.
Speaking after his victory, Otto told Sky Sports:
“The last three days have been superb.
“I came in and struggled a bit on day one, then hit a terrible drive off the first on day two. You wonder then if you’re going to make the cut. Lo and behold, with the way the game is, I’ve played beautifully since then."
|2014 Italian Open Leaderboard: Day 4|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Sunday's Round|
His total after four rounds was -20 and ensured that he stayed two shots clear of his nearest challenger, David Howell of England.
Scottish golfer Stephen Gallacher was bidding to secure his place in Europe's Ryder Cup team. Needing a second place finish to ensure that, Gallacher fell heartbreakingly close, one stroke short of Howell in third.
Round 3 Recap
Hennie Otto kept his lead at the top of Italian Open leaderboard on Saturday, with his one-under-par 71 just enough to keep his nose ahead.
The South African started the day three shots clear after carding a remarkable 10-under round on Friday, but couldn’t quite move into a dominant position thanks to a few costly mistakes.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay sits two shots adrift of Otto at the top of the tree, though there’s an exciting chasing pack behind them—as we see below:
|2014 Italian Open Leaderboard: Day 3|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Saturday's Round|
|T7||S. S. P. Chowrasia||-9||66|
While Otto will move into the final round in Torino as the leader, Ramsay will be the man that gets the headlines after a stunning performance on Saturday.
The Scotsman carded six birdies without a single blemish to record 66, moving him to 14 under for the tournament—as European Tour revealed:
Should Ramsay continue his form, then Otto’s chase for the title could be in trouble. However, one man is looking to pip them both.
Ramsay’s countryman Stephen Gallacher needs to finish in the top two at the Italian Open to make Europe’s Ryder Cup team next month, and he’s still very much in contention to do exactly that.
A three-under-par 69 puts Gallacher six shots adrift of Otto at the top of the leaderboard on 10 under, and we’ve seen already this week that the Scotsman has what it takes to go low.
He’s feeling optimistic in his bid to do so, too, as he told European Tour after his round that he’s still in with a chance of accomplishing his goal:
While still within the realms of possibility, six shots is a real mountain to climb for Gallacher, who’ll come out on Sunday going for broke on every hole.
He’ll have to hope that players above him slip-up in his bid for a place at Gleneagles, but Ramsay told European Tour that he’ll be going all out for the victory despite his fellow Scot’s ambitions:
I would hate to be the person to deny him a place on The Ryder Cup but I know if it comes down to it, he plays to win and that's the same attitude I have to have. Stevie is a fantastic player as he has shown to get into contention. He will perform on Sunday and I wish him the best in getting (the Ryder Cup place) but I have to accomplish my job of getting into the mix and picking up win number three. It's a big, big ask for him but he has shown how good a player he is and if he did not qualify automatically he would be an asset to the team, not only because of his ball-striking but his attitude as well. His record at Gleneagles is impressive too.
Gallacher’s chase means that an exciting Sunday is in prospect in Torino, but with Ramsay and Otto in strong form, his efforts could be in vain.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger is also in the hunt for the Italian Open crown, but such a congested leaderboard means that the title could be anyone’s come Sunday afternoon.
Day 2 Recap
Hennie Otto took the commanding lead at the top of the leaderboard on the second day of the 2014 Italian Open, playing a phenomenal 10-under-par round in Turin to surge ahead of Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.
Hometown favourite Francesco Molinari fell out of the top 10 following an even round, while Scotland's Stephen Gallacher faces an uphill battle to make this year's Ryder Cup team.
|2014 Italian Open Leaderboard|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Friday's Round|
|T4||Morten Orum Madsen||-8||68|
|T4||Felipe Aguilar||-8||/ (After 14)|
|T9||James Morrison||-7||/ (After 17)|
The South African opened with six birdies on the front nine and scored his first eagle of the event on the 12th hole, with his only blemish coming in the form of a bogey on the second-to-last hole.
One of the sport's most colourful figures (he is perhaps best known for the tantrum shown in the video below), Otto remained in perfect control throughout the day, finding the fairway on 11 of 14 shots and hitting the green 17 times in regulation.
As shared by the European Tour, Otto truly came out firing:
Otto has a history of excellent play in Turin, winning the event in dominant fashion in 2008. With a 15-under score after just two days of action, he's a strong favourite to win his first European Tour event since 2011.
He told EuropeanTour.com he wasn't thinking of his score on Friday:
It's always special to shoot a 62 but a 59 never even crossed my mind.
I didn't really think about my score until my caddie said if I made par on 17 we would have been on course for a ten under par round. Something about courses in Italy suits my eye and it would be great to win the tournament. Hopefully I can keep it up and keep going over the weekend.
His great round on Friday is bad news for Gallacher, who needs a finish in the top two to make this year's Ryder Cup squad. The Scot opened his account with an even round on Thursday and failed to build momentum on Day 2.
An eagle and a birdie in the first five holes put him in excellent position to make a run on the leaderboard, but as shared by the European Tour, a double bogey immediately brought his score back down:
Gallacher picked up the pace on the back nine with three birdies in the first five holes, but chasing an in-form Otto by double-digit strokes, the odds are stacked against him.
Molinari is nine strokes behind the South African and couldn't replicate his great opening round of six-under 66, playing an even round to leave him just outside the top 10.
The Italian has a Ryder Cup wild-card berth on his mind, and with several top contenders seemingly lacking form in the past few weeks, a strong performance over the weekend should all but ensure him of his spot.
Day 1 Recap
Day 1 of the Italian Open saw the boisterous home crowd get what they came for, as Francesco Molinari stormed to the top of the leaderboard.
With a six-under-par round of 66, the Italian takes a one-shot lead into Friday’s play together with Bernd Wiesberger, who also took route 66 to the top, as we see below:
|2014 Italian Open Leaderboard: Day 1|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Thursday's Round|
|T8||Morten Orum Madsen||-4||68|
|T8||Edoardo Raffaele Lipparelli (AM)||-4||68|
For highlights of Day 1's play, head to the European Tour's official website.
The conditions were absolutely perfect for low scoring in Torino, with greens playing softly and wind dialed down, making for some remarkable golf, as the European Tour revealed:
Molinari came into Thursday’s play looking to make a late surge for Europe’s Ryder Cup team next month and appeared to be spurred on by the vocal support at the Circolo Golf Torino.
The 31-year-old fired back-to-back birdies to get his round started in style before adding four more in a bogey-less round.
He wasn’t the only one without a blemish on the card, though, as Austrian Wiesberger also chalked up six birdies without a slip-up to reach the top of the pile, per European Tour:
Wiesberger announced himself to the golfing world with a stunning performance in the PGA Championship, and he looks to have brought his Valhalla form to Torino.
Thirty-threes going out and in gave the 28-year-old his 66 despite the putter being far from hot on a day that could have seen Wiesberger go incredibly low.
However, six under is a great foundation for the rest of the week, and if he can correct minor errors in his short game, then it could be a fruitful few days for the Austrian.
Elsewhere, the only player who can qualify for the Ryder Cup through the automatic places, Stephen Gallacher, didn’t have the best of days on Thursday.
Four birdies and four bogeys saw the Scot go round in 72, and he told European Tour after his round that miscalculations off the tee cost him dearly:
Gallacher will need to come back strongly on Friday, but with so many players on song and thriving in the generous conditions, a low round could be needed just to make the cut.
Wire-to-wire winners have been a common theme in this year’s tour, and with Molinari and Wiesberger looking good at the top of the leaderboard, another could well be on the way.