BMW International Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
OPEN champion Henrik Stenson leads a star-studded field when he returns to Germany to defend his title at the BMW International at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried. Among those he will have to fend off are Masters champion Sergio Garcia, local hero Martin Kaymer and four-time major champion Ernie Els.
This is the strongest field ever assembled for this tournament as Stenson, who missed the cut at Erin Hills, goes for his third victory, having also won in 2006. It was won in 2010 by David Horsey, in 2011 and 2015 by Pablo Larrazabal, in 2012 by Danny Willett, in 2013 by Ernie Els and in 2014 by Fabrizio Zanotti.
Among those in the field are Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood, Victor Dubuisson, Tommy Fleetwood, Bernd Weisberger, Thorbjorn Olesen, Larrazabal and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Kaymer would obviously be a popular champion, having previously won his home event back in 2008. The German is a two-time major champion who, at his best, can be unbeatable. However, he is one of the most inconsistent golfers at this level. He has won 12 times, including the US PGA Championship in 2010 and the Players Championship and US Open in 2014, which he won by a staggering eight shots. It also remains his last victory. He finished in a tie for fourth at the Honda Classic in February and was tied 16th at The Masters, despite a dreadful opening round of 78.
A former world number one, 32-year-old Kaymer is now ranked 58th in the world and needs some big performances to get back into the all-important top 50. His best performance on the European Tour this year was a tie for fourth at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but was bitterly disappointed to miss the cut at the BMW PGA Championship. It makes no sense that a golfer of Kaymer's quality has failed to win for three years. He will deny it, but there it would be no surprise if he were not still haunted by what happened to him in the final round of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Championship, when he led by 10 shots with 13 holes to play and ended up finishing third behind Gary Stal and Rory McIlroy.
Kaymer needs another victory, and he needs it soon. He will hope to be inspired by playing in front of his home fans.
Dubuisson is another man who burst upon the European Tour and briefly seemed to have the world at his feet after winning the Turkish Airlines Open in 2013 and coming within a whisker of winning the WGC World Matchplay. He won again in Turkey in 2015 and was a key member of Paul McGinley's successful Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014, but the enigmatic Frenchman has spent a long time in the wilderness. He often has the look of a man who would rather be anywhere other than on a golf course, and it is difficult to understand why. He is a hugely gifted player with a short game that is reminiscent of Seve Ballesteros in his prime.
Like Seve, Dubuisson is a magician around the greens but is also capable of producing astonishing displays of emotion, such as at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last year when he attacked first his golf bag after putting a ball in the water and then hitting his leg with a club as he stormed off down the fairway muttering to himself.
He ended 2016 in great style, finishing tied third at the Nedbank Challenge and fourth at the Dubai World Tour Championship, but then came missed cuts at the Dubai Desert Classic and Maybank Championship. He returned to form at the Trophee Hassan, where he was fourth, and then missed the cut at the Shenzen International. He hasn't played much golf in 2017 - just five appearances on the European Tour. The Frenchman is a golfer who needs to feel good about himself to play well and since he refuses to talk in depth to the media it is impossible to gauge what is going on between his ears, but this is a 27-year-old who should be challenging for the biggest titles in his sport. Could this be the week when he starts to turn his year around? Your guess is as good as mine.
It is a safe bet that Cabrera Bello will be there or thereabouts, just as he seems to be most weeks. He has already had three top-six finishes on the European Tour this season. Astonishingly, his last victory came in 2012 at the Dubai Desert Classic, but his remarkable consistency has helped him to claim 30th place in the world rankings. He is playing most of his golf on the PGA Tour now, with six top-25 finishes in 2017, including a tie for fourth at The Players Championship, where an albatross two at the 16th, a birdie two at the treacherous 17th and a brilliant par save at the last rocketed him through the field. Unusually, he missed three cuts in April and failed to make the cut at the Memorial Tournament, but it would be a big surprise if he were not to be in contention in Germany.
If Kaymer fails to deliver a win for the home fans, Max Kieffer or Bernd Ritthammer might well bring a smile to their faces. Both men are hugely underrated. They are terrific ball strikers who are capable of going low and will surely be lifted by playing on home soil.
To Win: Rafa Cabrera Bello. MUST win soon
Each Way: Henrik Stenson. Will be there or thereabouts
Each Way: Martin Kaymer. Always lifted by home gallery
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Mr Consistency
Henrik Stenson. Due another victory
Martin Kaymer. Showing signs of form
Sergo Garcia. How can you ignore him
Victor Dubuisson. Will the real Victor please stand up?
Danny Willett. Desperate for some signs of life
Tommy Fleetwood. Getting better all the time
Bernd Weisberger. Mr Top 10
Thorbjorn Olesen. Could become the best Scandinavia has ever produced
Pablo Larrazabal. Wears his heart on his sleeve
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Tags: european tour