With the US Tour taking the week off, golf punters have to be content with the low-key Italian Open, which is being played at the Royal Park I Roveri Golf Club, Turin for the fourth time.
For Turin-born Francesco Molinari, it's a course he knows like the back of his hand and he's predictably a single figure favourite for the home win, with the 9/1 chalked up by Boylesports the best price on that eventuality. He's joined by fellow Ryder Cuppers Nicolas Colsaerts (12/1) and the struggling Martin Kaymer (22/1), who is without a top five finish since last November and will be looking for further improvement on last week's 21st in Holland. Also teeing up this week is the well-backed Thorbjorn Olesen (33/1 into 20/1 with Ladbrokes) and the Dane has solid course form in the book having finished like a train to take second behind Robert Rock 12 months ago.
A closing 62 meant he finished on 20-under (one behind the winner) and another birdie-fest looks likely. Royal Park's tree-lined fairways and numerous water hazards do require a certain degree of accuracy off the tee, but scoring is generally pretty easy on this par-72, 7,282 yard track and with the weather set fair, it could well boil down to a putting contest. That has certainly been the case for all three renewals here with the winners all high up in the putting average stats - 2010 winner Fredrik Andersson Hed needed just 101 putts to secure a two shot victory!
My Three Against the Field:-
Richard Sterne @ 40/1 bet365
With putting the key stat, we could see another shock winner as just about anyone in the field could have a hot week with the flat stick. That hardly makes me want to back Molinari at single figures and, besides, the Italian has never been one to take a short price about. Kaymer can't putt for toffee right now so is easily passed over, but both Colsaerts and Olesen look to hold strong credentials and have the game to take this course apart.
However, the value bet has to be the South African, who has been threatening to add to his five Tour victories for a good while now. Last week's eighth in Holland (68-66 over the weekend) was his fourth top-10 from his last nine starts and this former world top-40 player, who had to miss the majority of the last two seasons due to injury, has made the cut in them all. Always at his best on low scoring layouts which reward his aggressive style, it's not hard to imagine him going well again this week and a win is very much on the cards.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello @ 35/1 bet365
The Spaniard is another player who can shoot low, as he showed when winning the 2009 Austrian Open (20-under) and this season's Dubai Desert Classic (18-under). Near misses in Malaysia (third), Ireland (second) and at the Volvo World Match Play Championship (third) have followed and at one stage he was in contention for a Ryder Cup wild card. It wasn't to be this time but he will be keen to keep playing well to ensure he finishes the season inside the world's top-50 (currently 46th), and will take plenty of encouragement from his 10th place finish at Gleneagles last time, which was his first top-10 since the Irish Open back in July. Granted, he's done nothing in his two starts in this event (MC-63), but he did open with a 65 last year and finished fifth in a Challenge Tour event on this track in 2008.
Peter Whiteford @ 125/1 Paddy Power
The Scot has had two tournaments to forget in the last two weeks, missing the cut in both Holland and Switzerland, but top-10s in the Johnnie Walker Championship and Scottish Open - both low-scoring events - make for better reading and he's no forlorn hope this week at triple-figure odds. He was similarly priced coming into this event 12 months ago but that didn't stop him finishing fourth, and that was following on from 13th the previous year. The course clearly suits his eye and with his putting one of the strongest areas of his game right now - ranked sixth for putting average over the past three months - he could easily nick a place again. And who knows, he might even be inspired to a breakthrough win after the heroics of fellow Scot Andy Murray in New York this week?
Richard Sterne 1pt each-way @ 40/1 bet365
Rafael Cabrera-Bello 1pt each-way @ 35/1 bet365
Peter Whiteford 0.5pt each-way @ 125/1 Paddy Power
Peter Whiteford Top 10 Finish @ 10/1 Skybet