BMW International Open 2014: A preview and best bets for this week's Euro Tour event
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 26/06/14 10:19am
A general view of the 18th hole at Gut Larchenhof
Germany will welcome home a conquering hero when new US Open champion Martin Kaymer lines up in this week's BMW International Open.
After dominating the field and scoring a wire-to-wire victory at Pinehurst, Kaymer will now be looking to win this event for the second time.
His first victory came in 2008 when he edged out Anders Hansen in a play-off to become the first home winner in the tournament's then 20-year history.
That win came at Golfclub München Eichenried but this week's event takes place at Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof where Kaymer missed the cut when it staged the event for the first and only time in 2012.
Martin Kaymer with the US Open trophy
Two-time major winner Kaymer shares favouritism with Sweden's Henrik Stenson.
World No 2 Stenson was tied sixth at this venue two years ago (just two shots out of a play-off) while he won the event in Munich in 2006 and made the top 10 in 2008, 2011 and 2013 so he's been a big player in this event.
Sergio Garcia also makes the return to Europe, still probably bemused by how he didn't at least get to contest a play-off at the Travelers Championship on Sunday. The Spaniard lost by one to Kevin Streelman who, astonishingly, birdied the final seven holes.
England's Danny Willett won here in 2012 and is likely to be a popular punt having finished tied third in the Irish Open last week.
In the spirit of the World Cup, some of the leading names got the chance to show off their soccer skills in the build-up when they donned their national team's football shirts and attempted to kick balls into an extra large hole on the 18th green.
Garcia, a decent footballer, was hoping to restore national pride after Spain's shock early exit from Brazil while others who enjoyed the light-hearted kickabout before the serious golf stuff starts on Thursday included Stenson (Sweden), Marcel Siem (Germany), John Daly (USA), Victor Dubuisson (France), Willett (England), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium) and Ricardo Santos (Portugal).
The winner was Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who told europeantour.com: "Now I know why Austria did not qualify for the World Cup. They knew beforehand that I would be playing at the BMW International Open during the World Cup, so would be unable to join them in Brazil!"
Whereas Golfclub München Eichenried used to produce a total birdie-fest with winning scores such as -27 (John Daly 2001), -24 (Robert Karlsson 1997, Thomas Bjorn 2001), -23 (David Howell 2005) and -22 (Nick Dougherty 2009), the one tournament played here at Gut Lärchenhof in 2012 was won with just 11-under. A wet and windy final round was largely responsible with winner Danny Willett, who posted a closing 73, saying later: "It was a tough day - it was brutal with the wind whipping and it was raining." Gut Lärchenhof is a 7,228 yard par 71 or, as we're in Germany, 6,611 metres. The venue was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1996. It has water hazards on half the holes while the greens are "firm" according to the European Tour website.
Martin Kaymer in action in 2012. Water lurks on nine of the 18 holes at Gut Larchenhof
The forecast in Cologne this week suggests temperatures in the low 20s. In a possible repeat of 2012, the final day could see rain (60% chance) although the wind is set to be minimal all week.
A 10th place in this event last year sparked an incredible run from Henrik Stenson which resulted in him becoming the first man to win both the Race To Dubai and FedEx Cup in the same season.
So, after understandably coming down from those incredible highs in the opening half of 2014, the Swede looks ready to embark on another big run.
Henrik Stenson: Great credentials this week
In his last three starts he's finished seventh at Wentworth, fifth in his home Nordea Masters and fourth in the US Open so he's dropping plenty of hints.
To be honest, Stenson could strike on any course right now but the fact that this week's event is taking place at a venue where he was sixth and just two shots out of a play-off when it last staged the tournament in 2012 must bode well.
Sky Bet aren't taking any risks but the 7/1 could look very nice on Sunday.
Victor Dubuisson had a pretty impressive US Open debut and threatened to make the top five or 10 before slipping from 14th after round three to 28th at the finish.
That followed on from a runners-up finish in the Nordea Masters so he's found his mojo again after a dip following his brilliant display in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona.
He's a quick learner so there's no qualms about backing him at 28/1 on his course debut.
Francesco Molinari, a former runner-up in this tournament, is 25/1 to take the title but preference is for his brother at 50s.
Edoardo has progressive form figures of 46th (Wentworth), 18th (Nordea) and 2nd (Irish Open) and his stats for the last couple of events are excellent with strong iron play and a sharp short game.
"I'm hitting the ball probably the best I've ever hit," he said in Ireland last week so let's take that hint and back him for another big week.
5pts win Henrik Stenson at 7/1
2pts e.w. Victor Dubuisson at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Edoardo Molinari at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)