South African Hennie Otto will face an impressive field which includes Thomas Levet, the winner of last week’s Open de España, and European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie as he attempts to defend his BMW Italian Open title this week.
Frenchman Levet heads to Royal Park I Roveri in Turin as the man in form having captured his fifth European Tour title at PGA Golf Catalunya, finishing two strokes clear of Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti.
The 40 year old former Ryder Cup player will be joined by Montgomerie, the eight-time Vardon Trophy winner, who will hope to add the 2009 BMW Italian Open crown to his success in the BMW International Open in Munich ten years ago as he seeks his first win since the 2007 European Open.
The Scot’s former Ryder Cup team-mate Darren Clarke also returns to action looking to return to the kind of form he hopes will eventually help secure a place in Montgomerie’s Team for The Celtic Manor Resort in 2010.
Northern Ireland’s Clarke is making his first European Tour appearance since playing in the World Golf Championship –CA Championship in March and will be hoping to add the BMW Italian Open title to the BMW Asian Open crown he won in 2008 – his first of two titles last season, which was subsequently followed by his win in the KLM Open.
With Danish Ryder Cup players Thomas Björn and Søren Hansen, who finished tied third and tied 11th respectively in Girona last week, and former Open Champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland also in the field, it promises to be a stiff examination of Otto’s credentials as defending champion.
Otto knows all about holding off strong competition, however, having beaten England’s Oliver Wilson by one shot to capture his maiden title last year, with eventual 2008 European Number One, Robert Karlsson of Sweden, in third place at Castello di Tolcinasco Golf & Country Club near Milan.
Two-time Major Champion John Daly continues his comeback following a respectable tied 31st place last week, while there is also a sponsors invitation for the man he famously defeated in a play-off to win The 1995 Open Champion, Italy’s most decorated golfer, Costantino Rocca, who was European Senior Tour Rookie of the Year in 2007.
Rocca will be sure to attract the galleries against spectacular Alpine backdrop, as will compatriot Francesco Molinari, who captured the Italian Open title in 2006 and who returns home in good form after a share of 11th place in Spain.
Molinari, who became the first Italian golfer since Massimo Mannelli 26 years earlier to win his national Open, will be playing his home course as both him and his elder brother, Edoardo, who is also included in the field, are attached to the host golf club of Royal Park I Roveri.
This year’s tournament marks the new partnership between BMW, The European Tour and the Italian Golf Federation, announced earlier this year, which saw BMW confirm their commitment to three high profile tournaments on European soil in 2009.