Atzenbrugg - Austrian golfer Bernd Wiesberger did his best to downplay his chances at the Lyoness Open, two days before his home event starts.
Few were willing to believe him.
"In a strong field like this, there is no real favorite," Wiesberger said on Tuesday. "I'll wait with thinking about the words 'home victory' until Sunday afternoon."
He's world-ranked 37th. A week before the U.S Open, the European Tour event features only one other top-100 player, Richie Ramsay of Scotland, in 76th.
However, five of the last six winners will be present, including 2012 champion Wiesberger, when the event gets underway on Thursday.
Runner-up to Mikael Lundberg of Sweden in a playoff last year, Wiesberger returns in even better form, with five top-six finishes since mid-January, earning him fifth place in the Race to Dubai standings.
The results have cemented his status as the face of Austrian golf, a role Wiesberger is comfortable with.
"I am not the pioneer of Austrian golf," he said. "That was Markus (Brier), who paved the way for the next generation with (Martin) Wiegele, (Florian) Praegant, and myself."
Brier, who retired two years ago, became the country's first champion on the European Tour by winning the Austrian Open in 2006, when the event was still at the Fontana club in Oberwaltersdorf. It's moved to Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg.
Just as Wiesberger once looked up to Brier, many Austrian talents regard Wiesberger as their role model.
"It's incredible how Bernd has been improving," said Challenge Tour player Lukas Nemecz, who hopes to gain useful experience at the Lyoness this week. "He manages to get better and better. I can learn a lot from him. There is still a huge gap behind Bernd. I hope to fill it one day. My ambition is to be on the European Tour in two years' time. I want to compete against the best every week."
Wiesberger said upcoming players like Nemecz motivate him.
"I am proud to be a role model for young Austrian players," Wiesberger said. "It's important for golf in Austria to be represented at the highest level."