- Full preview of the Irish Open with The Golf Insider
This week on the PGA Tour, we head off to the Caribbean for the Corales Puntacana Championships in the Dominican Republic. In Europe we have a trip to a rather less exotic (albeit suitably picturesque) location in Northern Ireland where this week we have the Irish Open. Sadly, not quite the spectacle we would expect to see in a “normal” year. But 2020 is proving to be far from that!!
The Irish Open
There’s long been an Irish Open… in fact, the first staging of the event was in 1927. A moveable feast, the tournament is regularly played in both Northern Ireland and the Republic (this year it’s in the North). With the success of Irish golfers, and its proximity to the UK, the event has always attracted a field full of well-regarded British and European players, plus plenty of homegrown talent. It’s not quite the same this year, as with no natural progression from this week’s event to the Open Championship (which usually follows a week or two after this tournament, but has been postponed to next year) the field looks much different from the usual high-quality turnout we see in the Emerald Isle.
This year the players visit Galgorm Castle, situated north-west of Belfast. According to the official literature it is… “one of Northern Ireland’s finest parklands. The Championship layout is nestled in the heart of the historic 220-acre Galgorm Castle estate. Consistently rated as one of the best championship courses in the leading industry golf publication rankings”. So there you have it. It was designed by Simon Gidman, opened in 1997, and is a par-70 layout, spread over 7,105 yards. It should prove a test of precision over power with tight fairways and some penal rough for those who stray off the tee.
264: Jon Rahm (2017)
62: Joakim Lagergren (2014)
2019 Jon Rahm
2018 Russell Knox
2017 Jon Rahm
2016 Rory McIlroy
2015 Soren Kjeldsen
A standard European Tour field this week with 150+ players lining up. Shane Lowry is the $17 favourite with TopSport.
There’s rain forecast for Thursday and Friday, around 40% on each day, but the weekend looks clear and dry. Temperatures though will be below the seasonal norm, somewhere in the mid-50s! The wind will pick up late in the day on Thursday through to Saturday, but even then the speeds will be around 15mph.
Outright / Each-Way Value Bets
Wilco Nienaber (currently $34 with TopSport)
Nienaber has burst onto the scene and has looked a future superstar since the return of golf post lockdown. He was fourth at the English Championship, sixth at the Andalucia Masters, and on his last start finished 14th at the Portugal Masters. His results are impressive but his stats are even more spectacular. He’s gained a staggering 28 strokes on the field from tee-to-green on his last six starts, which is nearly five strokes an event. His long game is world class, and he’s the longest player on the European Tour which is a huge weapon in the modern game. Plenty of players will be seeing Galgorm Castle for the first time this week so a lack of course form isn’t much of a negative. This young South African has a high ceiling and I still think despite his price, that Nienaber is worth siding with in this relatively weak field.
Ben Stow (currently $81 with TopSport)
Stow has had a pretty encouraging season so far making six out of eight cuts since the restart. His best finish came at the British Masters where he finished 10th. Stow ranks fifth this season on Tour for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee, which is incredible when you consider who he’s up against. Driving the ball this well means he’s continually giving himself good birdie opportunities, and last time out at the Portugal Masters he was ranked No.1 off-the-tee, and recorded his best approach play numbers in five weeks – so if he can produce anything like this again, he’s likely to be in the shake-up. One final positive for Stow is the fact that he’s played Galgorm Castle three times and has three excellent finishes here of 11-31-14. There are plenty of positives for Stow this week which makes the odds too appealing to ignore.”
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