Despite being given a medical extension to help his recovery last year, Richard SterneÂs back problems hampered him throughout the start of this season, yet last week at the KLM Open he showed no signs of stress
In fact, his highest round of the tournament came on day one, during which he shot 70. At the start of the season he would card low scores pre-cut and faded come the weekend. Things were very different in the Â1,802,700 tournament this weekend: his results only improved as the week got on and he went on to shoot three rounds in the 60s.
By the close of Sunday he shared eighth and looked like the three-time European Tour winner of old. Add to this his hold on 39th in the Race to Dubai and Sterne is beginning to look very good as the season heads for its twilight.
And that brings us to the BMW Italian Open, which gets underway on Thursday. With his latest result marking his fifth top-10 this season, the Pearl Valley Professional could just surprise amongst a field including four major winners.
He faces further competition from the 15 European Tour winners in the field, which includes compatriot Thomas Aiken. Add to this the local element Â there are plenty of young Italians looking to dominate on home soil Â and you have a solid challenge for Sterne.
This year he has made the cut in 12 of his 18 starts on the European Tour and he holds 39th in the Race to Dubai. The next step is clear Â Sterne must look for victory and, in so doing, announce his return to golfÂs top tier. This week could be his chance.