The European Tour staged the Italian Open in Rome last week for the first time since 2002. And the tournament reportedly will remain in the Italian capital for the next three years, leading up to the city hosting its first Ryder Cup in the fall of 2022 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
The Italian Open has come a long way since its last visit to Rome. The tournament has become part of the Rolex Series with a prize fund of $7 million. Ten past major champions, including Italy’s own Francesco Molinari, and 26 Ryder Cup players were in the field last week at Olgiata Golf Club.
“Things have changed massively since 2002 when the tour was last here,” Molinari (above) told the Associated Press. “The buildup (to 2022) is going to go quicker than we think it will. It’s going to be a crescendo of emotions.”
Olgiata is likely to host the Italian Open again next year, the AP reported, before its expected move to Marco Simone in 2021.
“Francesco Molinari has been doing a fantastic job personally in raising the profile for Italian golf globally,” Guy Kinnings, the European Tour's Ryder Cup director, told the AP, “but the fact that the national open will be in Rome, that the interest levels will start to grow and now the next time the Ryder Cup is played on European soil will be in Rome will hopefully capture the imagination of the golfing and the sporting public in Rome and in Italy. It helps just build the anticipation.”
The European Tour announced last week that the 2022 Ryder Cup will be contested from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. In preparation for the matches, Marco Simone is undergoing a reported $12 million renovation to its course, clubhouse and practice facility that began last September. Nine holes have been constructed and are in the growing phase. The construction of the remaining nine holes began last week and is expected to be completed by next May.
Bernd Wiesberger began his march to victory at the Italian Open with a bogey-free, 5-under-par 66, but it wasn't without a misstep on his second hole.
Wiesberger, a 34-year-old Austrian, said he “just tripped over my ankle. I’ve had it before. … It was a little bit uncomfortable walking, especially pushing off side slopes and stuff, so I had my physio come out and the guys from the physio unit helped out as well to tape it up.
“I had no pain walking or anything, it’s just a little uncomfortable pushing off the right leg. I’m sure we’ll sort it out.”
Wiesberger, who missed the last eight months of the 2018 season because of a wrist injury, moved from third to first in the Race to Dubai rankings with his victory.
Italian soccer legend Andrea Pirlo played with Englishman Matt Wallace in the Italian Open pro-am last week.
Pirlo, 40, played for many club teams and the Italian national team, helping his country win the 2006 World Cup.
Before teeing off in the Italian Open, Eddie Pepperell shared his humorous bent over a three-course Italian meal captured by European Tour cameras.
The 28-year-old Englishman, who finished T48 in Italy, no doubt garnered plenty of laughs with his gastronomic commentary.
Staff and Wire Reports