Before reading, please do check out our first weekly write up for Golf Monthly Magazine – its a different look at Rose and his US Open win…
Here we are, entering the final stretch before one of the greatest tournaments in world golf – The Open. The Irish Open will be the first of the British and Irish courses that the Tour does the rounds in. Expect vocal support, huge crowds, superb golf and plenty of smiles!
The Carton House facilities have two golf courses, one designed by 2-time major champion Mark O’Meara and the other by Colin Montgomerie OBE.
The Colin Montgomerie course will be the one used for the tournament and has only ever hosted 2 European Tour events – the 2005 and 2006 Irish Opens. The 05′ edition was won by Stephen Dodd, whilst Thomas Bjørn came out on top in 06′.
The course itself is 7,301 yard Par 72 with a parkland feel, featuring the classic British head high pot bunkers. There are 130 of these sand traps – all strategically placed in and around the undulating, fast paced greens and the narrow fairways. It will take good ball striking and clever plotting to overcome the challenge. If you are off your game the horrors that will follow will bite you and ruin any potential victory.
Even though it is a relatively long course, we do not feel short hitters will be overshadowed, you just have to be straight and avoid the daunting bunkers and rough. Scrambling will certainly come into play, because you will not see everyone hitting the greens consistently, but obviously the more often you do, the more birdie opportunities will arise. All of this said, the winner will most likely be in the top 10 putting stats for the week, because they are not easy surfaces at all, every putt will be tough and the a-game will need to brought.
What is exciting about this tournament is the expected 100,000 fans who will be in attendance, obviously screaming for their local heroes, but as the knowledgeable folk they are, cheers will be heard for every quality shot. Especially on the grandstand par 3 17th, purpose built for the week.
Naturally, the field does include the biggest names in Irish golf, that of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke to name but a few. This really will be a fascinating week of golf and we personally cannot wait for it all to tee off.
Because of the relatively unknown nature of the course, we decided to write a hole-by-hole guide to really show who could prosper, but if you want a 3D video look with the dulset tones of Shane O’Donoughue then you find it here:
1st 419 yards Par 4 – The first hole is quite tight, guarded by bunkers and water. Good approach shot needed with bunkers on the left of the green.
2nd 415 yards Par 4 – Tough tee shot with 2 right sided bunkers and 2 on the left. The longer hitters may attempt to carry the 2 on the right, but this will be risky with the thick rough surrounding the sand. The green slopes on either side and has 2 bunkers protecting it, so 2 very good approaches are needed.
3rd 219 yards Par 3 – Another tough hole, with cavernous bunkers on the left side of the green, players should be looking for the middle of the surface wherever the pin position.
4th 590 yards Par 5 – First great opportunity for birdie. Dogleg from right to left and will require a straight drive with the minimal fairways, but both long and short hitters should have a putt for at least birdie if the hole is played well.
5th 470 yards Par 4 – Considered one of the toughest holes on the course, the thin fairway and approach requires 2 superb shots to a green that has run-offs into both bunkers either side. As Shane O’Donoughue says, “Par is a very good score here.”
6th 394 yards Par 4 – Strategic play will be needed to score on this hole, with bunkers and trees protecting the fairway on the right and a green sloping to a deep left-sided bunker. What is very interesting is the fact it is in the complete opposite direction to the 5th, which will disorientate players with wind and rhythm. A real ‘plotters’ hole.
7th 186 yards Par 3 – 5 bunkers carefully guard the green, with a ridge in the middle of the surface, meaning club selection is paramount. A thoughtful shot is needed to have any chance of birdie.
8th 552 yards Par 5 – For the first time on the front 9, there are no bunkers to contend with off the tee. For those laying up, the decision must be made whether they can carry the cross bunkers, whilst the green slopes from back to front with bunkers waiting on either side. For a birdie opportunity, players will need to hit their approach below the hole, with less undulation and an uphill putt possible.
9th 391 yards Par 4 – A dogleg from right to left, with a blind tee shot. Although not a long hole, the green is elevated and slopes towards 6 bunkers that surround the surface.
10th 465 yards Par 4 – The start of the back 9 brings about a long par 4, with bunkers strategically placed down the left side of the fairway. Players with a tendency to shape the ball left to right will be more at ease over their tee shot. The length is extended with an elevated green and 2 deep bunkers awaiting anyone who strays to the right with their approach. A really tough start to the final stretch.
11th 477 yards Par 4 – Another long par 4 and a dogleg from left to right. Bunkers surround the right side of the fairway, so anywhere down the left will the prime tee shot. The green is at an angle, with a pot bunker catching anyone who comes up short – birdie would be a bonus on this hole.
12th 210 yards Par 3 – The green is surrounded by 5 bunkers, with the one closest on the left, being the deepest on the course. Another ridge separates the green, meaning pin positions will completely change the outlook of the hole. A different shot will be needed day to day.
13th 338 yards Par 4 – The longer hitters will contemplate trying to drive the hole, but there are 3 bunkers carefully placed 50-100 yards before the green and 2 pothole bunkers surrounding the front edge.
14th 405 yards Par 4 – A straight drive is needed with 4 bunkers on the right. If you have not found the fairway, the approach shot will be incredibly difficult. The front of the green has a severe slope, so that will need to be avoided.
15th 554 yards Par 5 – It’s a left to right dogleg, with two pot bunkers guarding the lay up, if players choose to do so. The green is elevated, therefore a smart shot will be needed whether going for the green or laying up. It seems like a good birdie opportunity.
16th 462 yards Par 4 – Another left to right dogleg with a challenging approach. The green is long and narrow and to make birdie, the 2nd shot must be below the hole.
17th 176 yards Par 3 – A couple of deep bunkers guard the front of the green, but the main challenge of this penultimate hole will be the carnival atmosphere. €50,000 was spent on a ‘stadium feel’, much like the 16th at TPC Sawgrass. Will be intimidating and nerve-racking.
18th 513 yards Par 5 – The tee shot is crucial if an eagle/birdie opportunity is made. If hit to the left, then the 4 bunkers and humungous tree will halt anyone attempting to go for the green. If the tee shot has gone right, then there will be a line to a sloping green, which cannot be missed right because of the severe drop to thick rough. A great finishing hole, with a birdie just as likely as a bogey.
Shane Lowry (25/1 Various)
There was always going to be at least one Irishman in our picks this week, because the local support will be ferocious and to have that crowd behind you, can only be a lift. Let alone the fact that the last 9 consecutive Irish Opens have resulted in at least one local finding the top 10. The obvious choices are not only far too short, but the appeal of Lowry really gets you interested.
He is a former champion of this tournament back in 2009 at County Louth when he was still an amateur! (For not winning the tournament, Robert Rock received the first place payout. Lucky sod) He obviously went on to turn professional straight after and has since won the Portugal Masters. This is someone who will definitely have a big career if he can push on – to have 2 wins under your belt at 26 is an incredible achievement.
This season he has switched between the States and Europe, with a varying degree of success. T9 at the WGC Accenture Matchplay, (Remember him beating McIlroy?!) whilst a T15 at the Valero Texas Open was an impressive performance. But in Europe he was T12 last time out at the BMW PGA Championship and T9 at the Volvo World Matchplay the week before. The young Irishman is in good form and will be hopefully of continuing that in his home country AND on what is his home course. He has lived just overlooking the O’Meara course for the past 18 months, using the pristine tracks as his practice venues. If that doesn’t prepare him better than anyone else in the field, nothing will.
As for his stats, they don’t particularly jump out and excite, but the fact he is 27th in putts per GIR and 46th in putts per round show he has the abilities to take advantage on the greens. On the PGA Tour he is 44th for driving distance and the fact he is 44th in right tendency off the tee is exciting considering the amount of left to right shots that will need to be hit. Being in play down the right on many of the holes could be the difference between birdie and bogey. We have real faith in the youngster and the hope of him reclaiming the trophy is certainly not dumfounded.
Ross Fisher (28/1 Coral)
We did back Fisher last week and were very confident he would produce the goods. Yes, he may not have given us any returns, but he was still playing well and plugged away to a T18 finish.
That surely now proves that he is finding his feet and form once again, having struggled for a while, especially across the pond this year. The T10 at the Wells Fargo Championship was the first big signs and it was a joy to watch and hear commentators professing their awe at this naturally gifted golfer. 8th at the Nordea Masters a few weeks ago was another indicator and having backed him for the BMW, we have this feeling that it was one week to soon.
This is a course that will suit the Englishman, the marshland nature and distinct British feel will stand him in good stead. His stats complement the idea that he is tailor-made for the track – 13th in driving accuracy, 42nd for GIR, 18th in putts per round and 2nd in putts per GIR. He also proved his potential here with a 5th place finish in 2006, so will have course history on his side. This week Fisher, this week.
Richard Sterne (50/1 Ladbrokes)
When we saw Sterne at 50s, we had to stand up and have a proper look considering this is a guy who was one of the form men in golf for most of this season. He obviously won the Joburg Open back in February (Our first win of the season may we add!) only the week after coming 2nd at the Omega Masters. It is not as if he has fallen completely out of sync since either. Yet to miss a cut and a worst finish of T57 at Wentworth, even finishing T25 at The Masters.
The South African is having a superb year after finding the wilderness for a few years and to find someone like this at such high odds, it would be foolish not to get involved.
Especially when he was 9th here back in 2005 and to think how far he has come in that 8 year gap is scary. 64th in driving accuracy, 47th for GIR, 57th in scrambling, 22nd in putts per round and 13th in putts per GIR all prove how consistent he is tee to green – these stats are scary when you consider what is needed for this course.
With most bookmakers offering 6 places, we feel the value of Sterne is too good to turn down and as a player, he is perfect.
Alejandro Cañizares (125/1 PaddyPower)
We have been keeping track of Cañizares for a while now, waiting for the right moment to gamble on him before he makes a breakthrough. It may seem like an odd time considering he missed the cut last week, but the Spaniard could be a perfect fit for the challenge that Carton House will offer. The 30-year old has integrated himself into the European circuit after trying to give the PGA Tour a go and has not had a great deal of success, but now he looks more mature and determined to win his 2nd Tour event. That T4 at the BMW PGA Championship was very impressive, even though some may say that he ‘bottled’ it on the final day. That experience would have only helped him grow even more and with the proof he likes it on British courses, we feel this test could suit the nature of his game. 51st in driving accuracy, 48th in scrambling, 47th in putts per round and 49th in putts per GIR all add to his appeal and with odds as high as 125, it is only sensible that you take a punt on a straight hitting Spaniard such as Alejandro. What an incredible name by the way, you can just keep saying it and every time you wish that was the name on your own birth certificate. Alejandro Cañizares.
Damien McGrane (150/1 WillHill)
McGrane is as low as 80s with some bookmakers, which shows the lack of transparency and knowledge in where he should be in the market.
The 42-year old journeyman has not won since the Volvo China Open in 2008, but his form in 2013 is starting to become rather impressive. He has not missed a cut in 7 appearances and has 2 consecutive T14 finishes, all of which will give him huge amounts of confidence going into his home tournament, where he did manage a T19 finish back in 2006.
He will plot his way round a familiar course and work twice as hard as anyone else to achieve a high finish and with solid short stick abilities, he could be in with a chance come Sunday. 62nd for putts per GIR and 19th in putts per round prove his talent on the greens whilst 71st in driving accuracy and 6th in scrambling add to the evidence that this is one heck of an outsider whose Irish following will only aid his challenge.
So all we ask is don’t buy a 99p McDonalds burger and save those pennies for a better cause – Damien McGrane e/w at the Irish Open.