The European Tour Fantasy Race returns this week to the impressively named Diamond Country Club as those in the field look to make gains at the Austrian GolfOpen presented by Lyoness.
There are a few very interesting story lines to play out this week, as players jockey for position on the Race to Dubai – looking to either secure their place for 2012, or to qualify for the season ending Dubai World Championship – the latter very much acting as motivation to three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington.
Having not played on European soil since the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland in July, Harrington is looking to improve on an unusually low Race to Dubai ranking of 87. He’s only finished in the top 30 twice this season, which is not what we’re used to from a 14 time winner on Tthe European Tour, but don’t count out a golfer whose career has been defined by talent backed up by unbelievable guts and determination. These traits are still very much evident whenever you watch the Irishman on the links, and if he gets in the hunt this week it would be no surprise if he were to clean up and earn his place in Dubai come December.
One player who knows what it is like to win here in Austria is last year’s champion José Manuel Lara, who credits his win in 2010 as saving his European Tour career. He had looked like losing his card for 2011, but a final round 64 that included ten birdies was enough for a play-off with David Lynn which he would go on to win. This season so far has been consistent in its inconsistency, as the Spaniard has coupled missed cuts with high finishes – the best of which came at the Sicilian Open (third), the Open de Andalucia presented by Turkish Airlines (eighth) and the KLM Open where he finished sixth. Couple positive memories from last season with some good form this year and Lara could repeat his 2010 heroics this week.
It is those kinds of heroics that England’s Gary Boyd would very much welcome come Sunday night, having already been earmarked as a potential winner, but not yet able to quite cross the line in what is still only his second season on Tour. He came close once again this season at the Czech Open, having lost there in a play-off in 2010, and followed that with further solid displays at Gleneagles and Crans-sur-Sierre. He also currently resides just outside that all important top 60 in the Race to Dubai, so a strong performance, and possibly even a win, would be just the ticket this week.
If you fancy an outsider, then you can’t go too far wrong with the flamboyant, and interestingly nicknamed, Joel Sjöholm (aka Toro). This Chilean born Swede, and Challenge Tour graduate, has put up some very interesting performances this year with three top tens – Sicilian Open (third), Saab Wales Open (eighth) and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles (sixth) – but these have been equally countered by a few misses. One thing for certain is that this super confident Swede will not wilt if he finds himself in the mix come Sunday, and for that reason he is our top outsider this week.
Finally, here at the European Tour Fantasy Race, we always try and find you a home favourite to back, and this week we would like to draw your attention to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger. He currently lies 74th on the Race to Dubai, much in thanks to a fourth in Ireland and a second at Gleneagles, where he lost in a five man play-off to eventual winner Thomas Björn. He also has two other top 20s in 2011 – Sicilian Open (13th) and the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi (15th) – and if he gets hot this week who is to say he won’t ride the wave of home support all the way to victory and become the first Austrian winner of this event since Markus Brier in 2006.
If you don’t like the look of these, then you can always make up your own mind with the European Tour form guides, which can be found here
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