Ahead of the 74th Italian Open, the fifth Rolex Series event in 2017, europeantour.com profiles host venue Golf Club Milano with the help of two-time champion Francesco Molinari...
Located 18km north of Milan, the second most populous city in Italy after capital Rome, the course lies within Parco Reale di Monza which at 688 hectares is the fourth largest walled park in Europe. Also home to the Autodromo Nationale of Monza, long-time venue for the Italian Grand Prix, the course was designed by James Peter Gannon and opened in 1928.
After staging Italy’s national Open for a first time in 1951, and again in 1952 and 1956, a luxurious clubhouse and a further nine holes were added in 1958, since when Golf Club Milano has hosted the tournament on a further five occasions, including both of the last two years.
Only Circolo Golf Villa d’Este in Montorfano has hosted the Italian Open more times than Milano since its first staging in 1925 (12 times).
A tree-lined, often narrow Parkland course, the layout will this week play at 7,156 yards and to a par of 71 and should once again present a lot of scoring opportunities, with the winning score coming in at 19 under and 22 under par in the 2015 and 2016.
Last year, Molinari went 64-65 over the weekend at Milano to triumph by one shot from Danny Willett and with it became just the seventh player to win the Italian Open twice since the event became part of the European Tour in 1972.
“Last year was amazing,” said Molinari, who became just the third home winner of the event since 1972 when he returned victorious at Castello Tolcinasco 11 years ago. “The crowd got behind me, supported me the whole way. It was nearly the perfect week.
“It was a tough finish, coming down the stretch against Danny Willett. That was not easy at all.
“But I managed to get it done and it’s a memory I’ll treasure forever.”
“It’s a course that allows you to be quite aggressive,” he continued. “There is a premium on hitting fairways because the greens are very small targets.
“It’s not too long so you can create quite a lot of birdie opportunities and then that obviously all comes down to the putting.
“Even though the chances are always there, you still have to play shot-by-shot and stay in the moment. But you will always be trying to fire it close to the pins here, you’ll take a few more risks off the tee. You can definitely go low here.”
The 404-yard par four eighth
“Eight is a good hole. It’s a tricky tee shot because you have to shape it a lot from left-to-right to hit the fairway.”
The 459-yard par four 13th
“Another good par four. It’s an iron or a three wood off the tee for accuracy and then a mid to long iron into a small green.”
The 489-yard par four 16th
“This is usually a par five for the members but we play it as a par four. It’s a long, demanding par four with a narrow fairway so not easy by any means.”
How it’s played in previous years
Want to win here? Get ready to go low.
Of courses on the European Tour schedule, Golf Club Milano has played the easiest to par in its history at -1.9 strokes under par on average.
In the last two years, the course average has been 69.7 strokes, while the winners have gone 19 under par (Rikard Karlberg, who won after a play-off) and -22 (Molinari), so it’s likely that getting to 20 under will be required to win outright.
The layout is also the easiest course on the European Tour on which to get up and down after a missed green (64.4 per cent) and also ranks as the lowest for three putts (1.7 per cent). Based on those stats, it’s not surprising to find that the lowest bogey per round average is also here (2.29 bogeys per round).
Of regular European Tour courses, only the West Course at the Joburg Open has easier par fives (4.40) than Golf Club Milano (4.47). 54 per cent of the field made birdie on the par fives over the last two tournaments.
Most likely to be birdied – 14th hole (73 per cent birdie or better)
Most likely non-par five to be birdied – 11th hole (25 per cent birdie or better)
Most likely to be bogeyed – 13th hole (23 per cent bogey or worse)
Easiest Green in Regulation – 14th hole (94 per cent)
Toughest Green in Regulation – 16th hole (46 per cent)
Easiest fairways to hit – 13th hole (66 per cent)
Toughest fairway to hit – 15th hole (41 per cent)