Federico Colombo (Getty Images)
Federico Colombo will hope to maintain his 100 per cent record at Olgiata Golf Club, in Rome, when he tees up in this week’s Italian Federation Cup, the penultimate event of the 2009 European Challenge Tour season.
On his only previous visit to the 6,966-yard, par 72 course on the outskirts of his native country’s capital, Colombo captured the Italian Under 18 Championship in 2005.
Colombo, who will be joined by his compatriots Lorenzo Gagli, Rankings leader Edoardo Molinari and Michele Reale at the €150,000 event, arrives in Rome in fine fettle after his best performance of the season at the ALLIANZ Golf Open Grand Toulouse a fortnight ago.
Colombo’s tied third finish earned him €9,000 and moved him up to 74th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings, but in all likelihood only victory this week would be enough to secure one of the 45 places available at next week’s season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
He said: “When I last played the course it was in great condition, so I’m really looking forward to going back. It’s a typical parkland course with lots of trees. It’s almost like an American design, with nice wide fairways and big greens. The course suits my game, and obviously I have good memories of it after my win there in the Italian Under-18 Championship, which was a great week.
“I’m probably going to need another very big week, because I’m well down in the Rankings. But I’m very confident after playing well in Toulouse last week. If I hadn’t double bogeyed the tenth on the third and fourth days, I would’ve won the tournament. I’ll probably have to win this tournament or at least finish in the top three to get into the Grand Final, but if I can play as well as I did last week, I’ll have a chance.”
Other players in need of a big week include 2004 Volvo Finnish Open champion Roope Kakko who, after finishing third in the recent ECCO Tour Championship, will now be hoping to do an Italian job.
Some of the Finn’s best recent results have come on Italian soil, including a tied eighth at this year’s BMW Italian Open on The European Tour, a runner-up finish at the 2008 Margara Diehl-Ako Platinum Open and a tied fifth finish at the Italian Federation Cup the year before.
Kakko will now hope his love affair with the country continues as, in all probability, he will need to finish in the top two this week if he is to guarantee a Grand Final berth.
But Kakko, who is currently 65th in the Rankings after opting to divide his playing schedule between The European and Challenge Tours, is confident he can cope with the pressure.
He said: “I hadn’t been playing that well, and when you’re not on top of your game, The European Tour can be a cruel place. I’m not at the level where I can play average golf and still make the cut. But I played well in Denmark, and I managed to sort a few things out, particularly with my driving. So I feel a lot more relaxed and confident now. For a while I was worried about the state of my game, but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I need a very strong finish to the end of the season. If I can win here and get into the Grand Final, then anything can happen. And I feel like I’m good enough to win on the Challenge Tour, even though my last victory was a while ago now. If it doesn’t happen for me, I’ll have to go back to Qualifying School. But I really hope I can avoid that, because it’s such a stressful week!”
Molinari has no such worries, having long since secured a return to The European Tour with a series of superb performances.
The Italian has already built an unassailable lead in the Rankings, but will be hoping to capture a second title on home soil having won the Piemonte Open earlier in the season.
John Parry, the Challenge Tour’s newest champions following his victory in Toulouse, will be bidding for back to back titles to further cement his position in the top 15 in the Rankings.
Upon completion of the Italian Federation Cup, the top 45 players in the Rankings will proceed to the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final next week, when the leading 20 players in the Rankings will earn a European Tour card.