This week the European Tour heads to the picturesque Rocco Forte Sicilian Open at Verdura Golf Club. Here are five things you need to know before the golf gets under way.
Quiros rolled back the years
Spaniard Alvaro Quiros will look to defend his title this week after winning last year – his first European Tour victory since 2011.
Before beating Zander Lombard in a play-off last season at the sun-kissed Verdura course, Quiros’ last victory was the 2011 Dubai World Championship presented by DP World. His win in Sicily last year helped him move into the top 250 in the world – something he had not achieved since the beginning of 2015 following successive top 20 finishes in Dubai and Malaysia.
Now the 35 year old will be hoping to defend his title after a strong performance at the Trophée Hassan II in April where he finished as a runner up to Alexander Levy.
The Rocco Forte Sicilian Open is talked about as one of the most luxurious events on the European Tour International Schedule at Verdura Golf Club on the isle of Sicily.
The resort is set in 230 hectares of stunning scenery overlooking the Mediterranean surrounded by olive groves on the south west coast of the island. The 7,217 yard course is one of two 18-hole courses at one of Europe’s premier golf and lifestyle destinations.
On home soil for the first time in 2018, Italy’s stars will be hoping to deliver the goods for the home support. Former BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero and 2010 Ryder Cup winner Edoardo Molinari will grace the lush fairways of Verdura Golf Club and will be joined by fellow countrymen and European Tour regulars Nino Bertasio, Lorenzo Gagli and Andrea Pavan.
Pavan, born and raised in Rome, is 39th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex – only second of the Italian players behind Francesco Molinari. The 29 year old is in great form for 2018 missing only two cuts out of his ten European Tour events. He has recorded five top 20 results including a tied third finish at Trophée Hassan II in April.
Fellow Italian Gagli has also been impressing this season playing on both the European Tour and Challenge Tour. The 32 year old is leading the way on the Challenge Tour after winning the Barclays Kenya Open and taking a share of second at the Turkish Airlines Challenge, and will be looking to please the home crowds when he plays in his eighth European Tour event of 2018.
Red-hot scoring in Sicily
Last year saw two players shoot a course record at the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open of ten under par 61. Both Michael Hoey and Sebastian Soderberg had blemish-free cards as they set the pace in the opening round of the event.
Northern Irishman Hoey went out in 31 shots and came back in 30 with ten birdies and eight pars in a perfect round. Swede Soderberg shot five under for the first nine holes, including an eagle on the par five ninth hole, and returned to the clubhouse in 31 shots to also sign for 61.
If the sun is shining and the wind is still, there might be the chance of a new course record this year.
Ryder Cup represent
European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn will be teeing off in Sicily along with three former Ryder Cup players.
With less than six months to go until Le Golf National hosts The Ryder Cup Bjørn will be one of the biggest names featuring at this season’s Rocco Forte Sicilian Open. He will be joined by 2016 rookie Andy Sullivan, two-time Ryder Cup winner David Howell, and 2010 victor Edoardo Molinari.