Porsche European Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE European Tour gets a nice little bonus this week. With the PGA Tour taking a brief break before the start of the 2019-20 season, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele are all making the trip to Germany for the Porsche European Open.
These are all guys who are regular winners and men who have earned millions of dollars in prize money during glittering careers. Very different from the defending champion, Richard McEvoy, who 12 months ago won his first European Tour title at the 285th attempt as he claimed the European Open by one stroke at Green Eagle. It capped a remarkable two weeks for the veteran who, just seven days earlier, had won won the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge on the European Challenge Tour in wire-to-wire fashion.
McEvoy, 41, shared the lead heading into the final round in Germany with American Bryson DeChambeau and held his nerve on the 72nd hole as he holed a birdie putt from 20 feet for a one-stroke victory over Sweden’s Christofer Blomstrand, German amateur Allen John and Italian Renato Paratore.
“I can’t wait to return to Hamburg to defend my title,” said McEvoy. “That win was the culmination of a lot of hard work leading up to the Porsche European Open and the win in France the week before really helped set me up for a good tournament. I had played in a pro-am a few weeks before and shot a course record, beating the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. That gave me a lot of confidence – so when I started the final day level with Bryson, I knew that I had it in me to get over the line.
“There were a few nerves out there, and the long putt I holed on the 15th was crucial as Bryson made a six – so there was a two-shot swing as I took the lead on 11 under. Although I dropped a shot on 17, after I teed off on 18 I felt as though I was in control. I was confident in what I was doing.
“When I saw I had a tricky lie, I knew the best decision was to lay-up and give myself a chance to win the tournament. On previous occasions, when you’re in positions like that, your head might be a bit scrambled, but I went through the process and I was ecstatic to see that final putt drop.”
It was the first time in eight years that a player followed a victory on the Challenge Tour with a win on the European Tour the next week.
McEvoy is under no illusions about the size of the task he faces in Hamburg. “The field is shaping up to be even stronger than last year’s, especially with the likes of Matt Kuchar and Xander Schauffele making their first appearances,” he said.. “Paul Casey and Patrick Reed were up on the leaderboard last year – I’m really looking forward to going up against them again. The fans in Hamburg were fantastic in 2018 and we are all looking forward to their support in a few weeks. It’s going to be another great tournament.”
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Danes Lucas Bjerregaard and Thomas Bjorn will join the field. Wiesberger, who won his sixth European Tour title and first Rolex Series event at the Scottish Open in July, is second on the Race to Dubai Rankings. The 33-year-old returned to the top 50 in the world rankings after his victory in Scotland – his second title of the season, adding to his win at Made in Denmark in May – as he continues his comeback from a wrist injury that saw him miss ta large chunk of the 2018 season.
Bjørn, who captained Europe to Ryder Cup glory at Le Golf National last September, will be making his 15th European Open appearance, while Bjerregaard, currently ranked 50th in the world, will make his third appearance in Hamburg, playing in his fifth-consecutive Porsche European Open.
“I’m really looking forward to making my first appearance in Hamburg on the European Tour,” said Wiesberger. “I played on the Porsche Nord Course nearly ten years ago on the European Challenge Tour, so I’m looking forward to returning and competing at Green Eagle Golf Courses again. Hamburg is a great city and I hope to see a lot of fans out there supporting us.”
Spaniard Jorge Campillo and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters have also confirmed they will be returning to Hamburg in September. Campillo secured his first European Tour title earlier this year at the Trophée Hassan II, while 2016 Ryder Cup player Pieters has recently returned to the winner’s circle.
Casey had another excellent year on the PGA Tour. He finished seventh in Hamburg last year in his seventh appearance at this event. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I would love to win this tournament,” said Casey. “This is an event steeped in great history and I used to volunteer at this event as a small kid when it was held in England at Walton Heath. This year has gone well for me so far with my defence of the Valspar Championship being a highlight. My game is in good shape and I’m excited to test myself in Europe again.”
Reed could be the player to watch after returning to the winner’s circle during the FedEx Cup after what had been a lean spell for the 2018 Masters champion. “The North Course at Green Eagle is a really fun golf course to play, with a great and challenging layout,” said Reed. “I’m really excited to compete in my third trip to the great city of Hamburg for the Porsche European Open. I’ve had two good years on the course at this event, and I hope to challenge for the title again in September.”
Kuchar, who remains one of the most consistent performers in the game, last played in Germany at the 2007 Deutsche Bank Players’ Championship of Europe, and says that he is looking forward to returning to Europe. “I’m excited about making my Porsche European Open debut,” said Kuchar. “I always enjoy coming over to Europe to play, and I have heard a lot of great things about this tournament.
The tournament returned in 2015 after a six-year gap and was won by Thongchai Jaidee. It was won in 2016 by Alex Levy, in 2017 by Jordan Smith and last year by McEvoy.
Xander Schauffele. Class act
Paul Casey. Has a decent record in this event
Patrick Reed. Ferocious competitor
Xander Schauffele. Future major champion
Paul Casey. Would love to win here
Patrick Reed. Back to his best
Matt Kuchar. MR Consistency
Bernd Wiesberger. Trying to close gap on Shane Lowry at top of Race to Dubai
Thomas Pieters. Hugely impressive ball striker
Lucas Bjerregaard. Looking for another big week with a new caddie on the bag
Ryan Fox. Makes Dustin Johnson look short off the tee
Rory Sabbatini. Enjoying something of a resurgence
Victor Dubuisson. Battling back from injury and showing some flashes of form
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