BMW International Open: More big names sign up for the only European Tour event in Germany. Donaldson, third in the Race to Dubai, BMW PGA Championship runner-up Lowry, and crowd favourite Daly take on world number two Stenson.
Munich/Cologne. Golf fans in the Rhineland region of Germany have many good reasons to look forward to the BMW International Open, which will be held for the second time in Cologne from 24th to 29th June. Jamie Donaldson (WAL), Shane Lowry (IRL), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (Spain), Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium), Alex Cejka (GER) and John Daly (USA) are the latest additions to the stellar line-up. Aside from crowd favourite Daly and Cejka, who plays his golf in the USA, all of the above have ambitions of qualifying for the Europe Ryder Cup team. The second of three BMW tournaments on the European Tour offers an opportunity to impress Paul McGinley (IRL), the captain, who is also playing in the tournament.
Donaldson is currently third in the “Race to Dubai”, behind BMW PGA Champion Rory McIlroy (NIR) and leader Thomas Björn (DEN), who has his sights set on completing a hat-trick of BMW International Open titles in Cologne. Mathematically there is still a lot to play for in terms of Ryder Cup qualification, but both Donaldson and Björn have enjoyed an impressive season so far and are highly likely to take their place in the European team that will defend the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles. Björn was in outstanding form at the BMW PGA Championship, setting a course record and leading the field for three rounds at the Wentworth Club.
Fernández-Castaño, an outstanding winner of the BMW Masters in Shanghai in 2013, will be hoping to add a second BMW crown to his impressive collection. “BMW has been one of the biggest supporters of the European Tour for 25 years – and they just know how to organise tournaments,” he said. “The atmosphere is great. As players, we don’t need to worry about anything.” Lowry, who impressed en route to second place behind McIlroy at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday, will be looking to go one better in Cologne.
Molinari was also in dazzling form at the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. Like the younger of the two Molinari brothers, Nicolas Colsaerts was also a member of the European Ryder Cup team two years ago, which completed that remarkable comeback at the “Miracle of Medinah”. Colsaerts, the first Belgian to appear in the competition, was called into the team as a wildcard, but impressed with a courageous and nerveless display. Qualities McGinley will demand from his team.
Two-time Major winner John Daly is always a crowd favourite, thanks to his colourful outfits and thunderous drives. His best performance at the BMW International Open came in 2001, when he won the tournament with an incredible score of -27.
The German players are certain to enjoy strong support from the spectators at the BMW International Open – the only European Tour event on German soil. Martin Kaymer, who won the recent Players Championship in the USA, Marcel Siem and Maximilian Kieffer are hungry for success at their home event in the Rhineland. Cejka, who has finished runner-up twice and third on two occasions at the BMW International Open, completes the quartet of top home-grown players.
BMW Golfsport Ambassador Kieffer and Siem both qualified for the US Open during Monday’s qualifying tournament in Sunningdale, and will consequently travel to Cologne full of confidence on the back of the Major. “I think it is good that the tournament alternates between Munich and Cologne. However, it is never easy to play at home,” said Kaymer. “That is particularly true in Cologne. The expectation is huge. You want to do your best, so as not to disappoint the fans. That makes the tournament all the more challenging. On the other hand, it is a great event and always fun to play.”
The battle for the winner’s trophy is set to be a fierce one. There is every chance that Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who made an early commitment to play in Cologne, will tee it up as the world No1. Currently lying second to Adam Scott, of Australia, the Swede could move to the top of the rankings with good performances between now and then, particularly in the US Open at Pinehurst two weeks before the BMW International Open gets under way.
Also playing in Cologne will be Spaniards Sergio García, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and rising young star Victor Dubuisson, from France. It promises to be a week to remember.