Admit it, the Italian Open has probably never been on your radar.
It's half a world away, and Italy's not exactly known for its bucket-list courses. I didn't even consider bringing clubs on my honeymoon to Rome, Florence and Venice way back in 2001.
But if there's ever a year to pay attention to Italian golf, this is it, from September 2022 to September 2023.
The DP World Tour will host the 2022 DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club for the second straight year on the outskirts of Rome in mid-September. Just over a year later, the newly renovated course will host golf's biggest event, the 2023 Ryder Cup. Rory McIlroy has never played in the Italian Open before until this year, but the reigning FedExCup champion is also plenty curious about what the course plays like. TV coverage will run on Golf Channel from Sept. 15-18.
"Not only is the city of Rome steeped in history but so too is their national open, so I am really looking forward to the Italian Open this year," he told SkySports.com. "It's the first time I have played in Italy, and I've heard the Italian fans are very passionate, so I'm excited to get out there and experience a new challenge."
McIlroy would seem to be a lock to make his seventh consecutive Ryder Cup appearance for Team Europe. Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard beat Tommy Fleetwood by a stroke at the 2021 Italian Open. Fleetwood, also a European Team star, and current U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, who missed the cut, were probably the only other recognizable names in the field, other than several veterans who have moved on to the LIV Golf Series.
Marco Simone's New Look
The new-look Marco Simone, the third course in continental Europe to host a Ryder Cup, is nothing like the Jim Fazio design that debuted in 1989. European Golf Design has completely rerouted the course, leaving only the sixth hole in the same playing corridor. Everything else has been redesigned for spectator flow and risk-reward, match-play drama. Hojgaard's final score was 13-under, which isn't a low score compared to many pro tournaments these days. European Golf Design has been the firm of choice of the DP World Tour to stiffen up the other two Ryder Cup venues that received major facelifts - France's Albatros Course at Le Golf National in 2018 and Wales' Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor in 2010. Both resulted in resounding European victories? Will the 7,300-yard Marco Simone provide the same home-field advantage in 2023?
Lead Architect Peter Sampson stripped back vegetation and trees to open up the vistas of the Italian countryside and across the course. Perhaps the most important innovation was the use of a bowl-like area where spectators can potentially watch three holes - the first, the drivable 352-yard 16th and the 206-yard 17th.
“This area is our little touch on the Colosseum, with the basin giving a view of at least three holes from any one point,” Sampson told GolfCourseArchitecture.net. “When routing the course, we felt this was the key part of the site for a Ryder Cup, and we consciously made sure that we routed holes from different key points within the round back to this basin. Players dip in and out of this ‘valley’, providing a great spot for spectators and hospitality units.”
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