July 8:Scotland’s Chris Robb will hit the first tee shot of the Austrian Open, marking the European Tour and European Challenge Tour’s return to golf after the season was suspended four months ago due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Robb will be joined in the first group by English pair Andrew Wilson and Matt Forde and they tee off at 7 am.
Miguel Angel Jiménez, a veteran of over 700 starts on the European Tour – actually 704 – will start in the company of Belgium’s Thomas Detry and Sami Välimäki, who won the Oman Open just a week before the suspension of the 2020 season. “I’ve come here because I like the golf course, and my wife is from Austria. I’m here to compete. After four months I feel ready. Diamond Country Club is a very nice golf course, very flat – which is good for me,” said Jimenez
The 2020 Race to Dubai was suspended after the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on March 8 and resumes almost four months to the day with the first of two events in Austria, before moving on to the six-event UK Swing through July and August.
Former Austrian Open champion Joost Luiten returns to Diamond Country Club, the site of his second European Tour victory in 2013, and is joined by one of the Tour’s most recent first-time winners in Oman Open champion Sami Välimäki.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, winner of the 2019 Open de France, and Swede Anton Karlsson, who won the RAM Cape Town Open on the Challenge Tour in February, are also in the field, alongside Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, who is making his 705th European Tour start this week, just one appearance behind Sam Torrance’s record which has stood for a decade.
Meanwhile, Scot Connor Syme recorded his best European Tour finish so far at this golf course in 2018, finishing runner-up to Finn Mikko Korhonen at the innovative Shot Clock Masters.
As per all events on the reshaped 2020 Race to Dubai, the Austrian Open will be governed by the European Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which will see healthcare specialists Cignpost deliver rapid on-site COVID-19 screening.
In order to help mitigate risk, all players, caddies and on-site personnel will be tested, and participants will operate within national public health guidelines, including social distancing and following enhanced hygiene directives.
Joost Luiten, a former champion in Austria, said, “I started to play well at the last two events before the break. I was up the leaderboard two weeks in a row but couldn’t finish the job, but at least I was giving myself chances. It wasn’t great timing but, at the end of the day there’s nothing we could do, we had to accept it.
“It’ll be great to have these tournaments on again. We’ve been practising without having any events on the schedule – it’s been a bit weird and you find it difficult to find the motivation. Now we’ve been able to get ready for tournaments there’s some adrenaline and excitement going.
Veteran Miguel Angel Jiménez, whose wife is Austrian, was happy to be playing the event, as he said, “It’s strange when you see a golf course with no ropes or hospitality, but it’s nice that they’ve made the effort to put on tournaments and bring people here to play golf.
“When I finished playing at Newport Beach in March, I spent two weeks in my house in the Dominican and they said everything was locked. We stayed there for four months and I arrived here last night.