Lyoness Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
THERE will be serious pressure on the broad shoulders of Bernd Weisberger when the Austrian native returns to his homeland to compete in and host the Lyoness Open, which he won in 2012.
In truth, Weisberger would almost certainly not be playing this week if the tournament was being played anywhere other than in Austria. He would much rather either have the week off or be across the Atlantic preparing for the US Open. And his role as tournament ambassador means that he will be expected to wait around until the closing ceremony is over before he can think about catching a flight to the United States.
So if he is going to have to attend that ceremony, he will feel that he may as well do as the tournament winner. The Lyoness Open is being played at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna. It is a treacherous course that measures 7,417 yards and features water hazards on nine holes. It was opened in 2002 and has hosted the Lyoness Open since 2010.
“Despite the tight tournament schedule in the summer, the Lyoness Open is an absolute highlight for me,” said Wiesberger. "I am pleased to be the tournament’s ambassador and to be able to participate again this year.
"It is always something special to compete in front of a home crowd and I can already look back on several good results and many great memories of the Lyoness Open. The Diamond Course offers ideal conditions to prepare for the US Open that will take place the following week. I am convinced that the course will again be presented in excellent condition.”
Weisberger, aged 31, is a three-time winner on the European Tour and always seems to be there or thereabouts. Surprisingly, he did not feature on the leaderboard at the BMW PGA Championship, but it is a safe bet that he will put that right in Austria.
Miguel Angel Jimenez plays most of his golf on the Champions Tour these days, but the 53-year-old Spaniard remains a formidable competitor, and he has a special affection for Austria. It is where he now lives for a start, and he has never finished outside the top 20 in his previous six appearances in Austria.
"Golf fans in Austria took me to their hearts from the beginning, thus the week at Atzenbrugg will be very special for me,” the 53 year old said. “I am very happy to return to the Diamond Country Club and participate in the Lyoness Open. Since Austria has become my home, I feel quite close to the club and everybody who is involved in the organisation of the event.”
Stephen Gallacher has endured a pretty miserable time of it since playing for Europe in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. The European team, under the inspired leadership of Paul McGinley, handed out a fearful thrashing to the Americans. Gallacher was the only Scot on the team and there was a huge spotlight on him and pressure upon his shoulders to play well in front of a home crowd. The reality is that he didn't play well and contributed little to Europe's overwhelming victory. He insisted afterwards that it hadn't affect him, and maybe it really didn't. But can it truly be a coincidence that his game has been heading steadily south ever since?
So it has been heartwarming to see Gallacher begin to rediscover his form once again. He is one of the European Tour's good guys, and has faced and overcome some potentially serious health issues. It is good to see him coming out the other side. There was clear evidence at Wentworth that his game might be in shape to win again soon - if only he can find a week when the putts start to drop rather than grazing the edge of the hole.
South Africa's George Coetzee is another who has been stuck in a slump for too long. He is a prodigious talent. Coetzee hits the ball a long way and can shape the ball either way at will. He is one of the best putters on the European Tour and is finally overcoming some serious weaknesses with his short game from around the greens - there were occasions when it seemed that his wedge was exploding in his hands, like the club had a mind of its own. And if there was any chance of getting the putter behind the ball then he would choose that option rather than chipping it.
Despite that obvious weakness, the 30-year-old is a three-time winner. But he should be sitting comfortably within the world's top 50, competing for majors. His last win came two years ago and he has been struggling ever since but nobody who hits the ball as well as he does can possibly be stuck in the doldrums for too long. He will come out the other side - and it could easily happen this week.
Expect another big week, too, from Graeme Storm. The Englishman was in despair when he thought he had lost his card last season, but earned a last-minute reprieve and is enjoying the year of his life. Not only did he win the South African Open, beating Rory McIlroy in the process, but he has produced a series of solid performances ever since that victory. His confidence is at an all-time high and had he holed a few more putts then he might well have won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The swagger is back in his stride, and it is wonderful to see.
To Win: Bernd Weisberger. Pressure? What pressure?
Each Way: George Coetzee. Time for Gorgeous George to get going again
Each Way: Joost Luiten. There is no better putter in Europe
Bernd Weisberger. Would love another home win
George Coetzee. Must turn the corner soon
Joost Luiten. Solid performer
Graeme Storm. On the crest of a wave right now
Jaco Van Zyl. Best tempo on tour
Tom Lewis. In the doldrums, but one good week could change all of that
Stephen Gallacher. Putting the dark days behind him
Max Kieffer. Showed some good form at Wentworth
Romain Langasque. Brilliant young Frenchman
Sebastien Gros. See above
Tags: european tour
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