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Friday, 19 March 2010

The fashion capital of the world turns its attention from the catwalks to the fairways this week as reigning BMW Champion Angel Cabrera headlines the field for the Telecom Italia Open at Castello di Tolcinasco Golf & Country Club in Milan.

 

The big-hitting Argentine, who will defend the biggest title of his career at Wentworth Club from May 25-28, will be joined in north Italy by ten other winners from 2005, including 2005 Amateur Champion Brian McElhinney and US Amateur Champion Eduardo Molinari.

 

Cabrera arrives in Italy in good heart, having finished tied eighth alongside past winner Vijay Singh in the 70th Masters Tournament thanks to a closing 68 at Augusta National last month.

 

Molinari is likely to receive a hero's welcome when he tees up in his national Open for the first time since he became the first European to win the US Amateur Championship since 1911 last November. He too played at Augusta National in April, alongside World Number One and defending champion Tiger Woods in the first two rounds with his brother Francesco, a European Tour player, on the bag.

 

Meanwhile, McElhinney missed the cut on his professional Tour debut in last week’s Tessali-Metaponto Open di Puglia e Basilicata on the European Challenge Tour, but the 23 year old from Ireland believes the experience will serve him well when he takes his European Tour bow on Thursday.

 

“I suppose that was a lesson to me about how hard the professional game is, but I always knew that you have to play well to compete, and that applies to every level of the game. You don’t get away with anything in this game, but I’ll take a lot from last week and look to improve at the Italian Open,” he said.

 

“It’s all about getting experience for me at the moment and it will be good to see what a European Tour event is like. I then play a Challenge Tour event in Milan, so I will have had three weeks on the road and that is all new to me as well.”

 

By contrast, Joakim Bäckström, John Bickerton, Paul Broadhurst, Emanuele Canonica, Stephen Dodd, Raphaël Jacquelin, Jean-Francois Remesy and Steve Webster all registered victories on The 2005 European Tour International Schedule, with Webster’s coming in the Telecom Italia Open.

 

With his three stroke triumph at Castello di Tolcinasco last May Webster ended a ten-year wait for his maiden title. It was a massive breakthrough and one he credited to some encouragement from Seve Ballesteros.

 

Once again Webster has turned to his boyhood hero for help as he bids to become the first player to win the Italian Open in consecutive years since the 1930s.

 

Seve gave the 31 year old a short game lesson during last week’s Andalucía Open de España Valle Romano at San Roque Club and the five-time Major champion had some kind words.

 

“He told me I was good enough to contend, even in the Majors, so I know I have to get my head down and try to win a couple of times in Europe and get into the top 50 in the world,” said Webster. “I know I should be there, but you have got to do it – end of story.

 

“I am a little disappointed that I have not kicked on since winning in Italy last year. I played really well the following week in the British Masters at the Forest of Arden and I think I should have won there. I have made a lot of top 20 finishes but I have to convert them into top fives and top tens, so I am in contention to win.

 

“It is a big boost for me going back to defend the Telecom Italia Open. I am swinging it great and I just have to get my putter going. If I can, then I should be in contention,” added Webster.

 

Bickerton came agonisingly close to adding a second European Tour title to his collection last weekend, but missed out in a play-off against eventual winner, Niclas Fasth of Sweden, in the Andalucia Open se Espana Valle Romano at San Roque Club. However he goes to Milan in fine form and keen to go one better this week.

 

Canonica, winner of the 2005 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, and Costantino Rocca, like Cabrera a past winner of the BMW Championship, will spearhead the challenge for a first Italian victory since Massimo Mannelli’s success in 1980.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MOLINARI, FrancescoITA18-23
T2SANDELIN, JarmoSWE18-19
T2HANSEN, AndersDEN18-19
4KJELDSEN, SørenDEN18-18
5TEILLERIA, BenoitFRA18-17
T6ARCHER, PhillipENG18-16
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