Markus Brier and Darren Clarke, who will play together in the first and second rounds of the Bank Austria GolfOpen presented by Telekom Austria, will have the odds stacked in their favour for entirely different reasons.
While Clarke’s status as odds-on favourite with the bookmakers is self explanatory – the Northern Irishman is close to a return to the world class form that has made him a permanent fixture in the last five European Ryder Cup Teams – Brier’s rank among the favourites to win this week requires a healthy dose of imagination and superstition.
He may have missed four consecutive cuts on The European Tour, but Brier is worthy of a pre-tournament tip purely because of his track record around his home course, the stunning Fontana Golf Club on the outskirts of Vienna.
The Austrian’s record at Fontana is second to none. Having won the Austrian Open in 2002 and 2004 on the European Challenge Tour before taking the title on The European Tour in 2006, the home favourite is fully expected to continue his biennial success rate in his National Open Championship by his adoring public.
“My first goal is to make the cut because I have missed four in a row – if that happens then we can talk about winning!” said Brier.
“I am trying to focus on winning in 2002, 2004 and 2006 instead of the missed cuts. Hopefully the rhythm can continue in 2008. Obviously I know the course here very well and that will be an advantage for me.”
Clarke, meanwhile, cannot remember the last time he was the favourite to win a golf tournament, and acknowledged the fact that a bookmaker’s odds are rarely misrepresentative of form.
A fourth place finish at last week’s Celtic Manor Wales Open, not to mention his first tournament success in five years at the BMW Asian Open at the end of April, have propelled Clarke to 14th place on The European Tour Order Merit and further fuelled his desire to return to the very highest level.
When informed by journalists of his status as tournament favourite, the Ulsterman smiled: “Am I? Oh that's nice. It's been a while since that's happened – I've no idea the last time I would have been favourite. I never back myself anyway, but it's good. I'm playing fine and getting back on the right track.
“I'm at about 85 per cent of where I need to be right now but it's all going in the right direction. The extra 15 per cent will come by getting myself into the positions I was in last week and keep doing that. The more frequently that I'm up there the more comfortable I'll feel with the changes that I've made.”
|1||SINGH, Jeev Milkha||IND||18||-15|