Prize Fund: €2,000,000
After Martin Kaymer secured one of the most dominant major wins since Rory McIlroy’s 2011 win last week, we now move to the Emerald Isles as the Irish Open comes to our attention.
In our eyes, it sort of signals the start to the swing of tournaments that will prepare players for a rigorous Open Championship next month.
Last year Paul Casey picked up the trophy in a truly wonderful win, carrying on this trend which has seen the last 7 winners of the Irish Open hailing from GB & I.
With the field including the likes of McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Casey and Stephen Gallacher, you would not be foolish to expect that trend to continue this year.
It has been a difficult process in dissecting the field however, because of a serious lack of knowledge about the course. It will be held at Fota Island Resort in County Cork, which has not seen an elite tournament since 2002 (Soren Hansen) and 2001 (Monty came out on top).
It will be playing at 7,043 yards, which is short by today’s standards. Hansen won with a score of -14 in 02’ and you can expect similar scores, if not more birdies on this parkland track that is spacious and has attackable holes throughout both 9s.
The two par 5s on the back 9 are great eagle chances, but over 100 bunkers and abundance of water does mean that the iron players will ultimately come out on top. Not necessarily plotting your way round, but strategically understanding when to attack and grab those low scores. There is a links feel to the track and we are certain the winner will be comfortable with those seaside courses.
We can expect large crowds all week, especially if an Irishman is contending on the Sunday, so it is going to be a cracking way to forget about the US Open!
We are sure that many people will be looking very seriously at Stephen Gallacher this week because there is no doubting his pure class and form in recent months. If you have followed us for a while, you’ll know our admiration for the Scot because to us, there is no better sight than an iron guru strutting his stuff and that is just what Gallacher is. His performances since that win in Dubai have been impressive, especially his T6 at the WGC Cadillac.
You can really see his tee to green abilities coming to the fore on this sort of course and he would have learnt from the US Open experience last week, where he eventually missed the cut.
He is the perfect sort of links players – T21 at the Open last year and his first European Tour win came at the Alfred Dunhill Links back in 2004.
He has shown he has no fears playing up against the big boys and if he is on song this week he will be a real danger.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (33/1 various)
Rafa Cabrera-Bello is our only pick this week that was not born on British shores and that in itself is a high accolade to how we feel about the Spaniard.
He is a flair player that recently turned 30 and he is now entering the time in his career where he needs to really push his talent forward and contend in more tournaments.
There is no denying he has had a mixed season, but 5 top 10s is a very solid return and they seem to come in clusters. 3 of those top 10s came in the space of 4 weeks and we have taken postivies from the fact he sneaked into a tie for 9th in his last outing at the Nordea Masters.
His driving distance and GIR at the weekend was exceptional – he never dropped outside the top 15 in either category and bizarrely he putted incredibly well to begin the week. If he had put all those facets of the game together he would have won at an absolute canter.
He generally likes courses where birdie opportunities are more prominent (all his top 10s have come with scores of -10+) and if the wind does pick up, he is more than capable of shaping his shots and manoeuvring through the conditions like every Spaniard seems to be able to do.
David Horsey (80/1 SportingBet)
One of our perennial favourites. David Horsey has become our go-to-guy if there is even a sneaky inkling of wind and/or a course that has a links feel.
He is a classical tee to green golfer whose only fault is being able to put 4 rounds together. All 4 of his top 10s have included silly 70+ rounds and for someone of his calibre, it can be frustrating. Some of that may be down to the fact he has not won since 2011, but we have seen signs this year that he will be lifting a trophy once again very soon, it is just a matter of time.
If he can find his range off the tee distance wise, then there is no reason why Horsey can’t have a big say in proceedings this week.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (100/1 various)
A real jewel in the English game. Matthew Fitzpatrick is yet to enter his 20s and he has already created a buzz around players and media alike at his potential future in world golf. He is a genuine talent who has the all-round game to compete on any sort of course.
Whilst that is reason enough to consider him here, it will be an interesting few days for the Sheffield-born terrier because it will be his first tournament as a professional.
Last week he was paired with Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, at times looking just as experienced and capable as his elder partners. He then went on to become the first golfer since Bobby Jones to hold the accolade of low amateur in consecutive Open and US Opens – a truly remarkable feat.
With his astute abilities around the greens and surprising distance off the tee, he could be a cheeky outsider to have a punt on here. What a story it would be.