Alexander Bjork should be quick from the Gardagolf gates
Padraig Harrington struggling in twilight of career
Sky Sports Golf, 9.30am Thursday
Italian Open favourite Francesco Molinari is due to tee off at 7.40am UK and Ireland time in the first round at Gardagolf Country Club, Brescia, with Thomas Pieters and Ross Fisher for company.
Molinari, who won the BMW PGA Championship in awesome fashion at the weekend, should edge that contest, but better threeball value comes in the shape of Alexander Bjork in the 12.20pm match.
Bjork is bursting with confidence, having followed third place in the Hassan Trophy with a maiden European Tour victory in the China Open, then 27th spot at Wentworth on Sunday. Gardagolf looks an excellent fit for the accurate Swede and he should prove too steady for playing partners Joakim Lagergren and Padraig Harrington.
Lagergren also has a spring victory to his name – winning the Rocco Forte Open in a playoff – but he appreciates room to manoeuvre off the tee. Tree-lined tracks like Gardagolf are not ideal for him, as highlighted by a missed cut at Wentworth last week.
Harrington occasionally shows glimpses of his old magic, but the 46-year-old Irishman is 234th in the world rankings and a fading force. He does not even have a top-60 finish to his name this year and Bjork should boss the group.
A Bjork to win threeball
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