Prize Fund – €2,500,00
Winner’s Share – €416,660
Course – Royal County Down Golf Club (7,186 yards Par 71)
Our 2014 Picks – Stephen Gallacher – MC, Rafa Cabrera-Bello – T26, David Horsey – T49, Matthew Fitzpatrick – T29
One of the most highly anticipated events on the European Tour has arrived and what’s even more special is the fact it comes straight after the flagship tournament at the BMW. Rory McIlroy and his foundation are hosting the event and as the posters state – ‘creating history’ in the meantime. It is undoubtedly a stellar field – Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, GMAC, Jamie Donaldson and the best of European Tour. But everyone will be drooling at the prospect of seeing the two young starlets battling it out – McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. We’d be shocked if they aren’t paired together for the opening two days because ultimately, that’s what everyone wants to see.
In terms of betting, it’s clearly going to be difficult because only a handful of tournaments have been played here and not many players will know the track particularly well. ALTHOUGH, the top two boys both played here at the Walker Cup in 2007 – McIlroy both won and lost against Billy Horschel in the singles, whilst only picking up a half in the foursome. Fowler won his first 3 matches with absolute ease, before being defeated by Rhys Davis on Sunday afternoon. Only Danny Willett and David Horsey will be in this field who played during that week, whilst Graeme Storm actually won the Amateur Championship round here in 1999… Only other names of note during that week were Simon Dyson and Marcel Siem.
But from our research, there’s plenty to ponder and you can envision the sort of player that’ll potentially conquer this jewell of a course. Firstly, how this isn’t an Open venue we will never know. Royal Portrush is due to enter the rotation, but this is another cracking track that will get the global attention it deserves this week. The infamous Old Tom Morris painted and weaved out this gem in the Murlough Nature Reserve, sitting on the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne. Running alongside Dundrum Bay, few consecutive holes go in the same direction, as the fairways intertwine and bend from the shoreline back to the clubhouse. Harry Colt and Donald Steel have both overlooked redesigns, leaving behind very fast greens that will test even the best putters on Tour.
There’s an abundance of blind tee shots, which make it imperative everyone teeing off is prepared for the wind and understand the course during the practice days. You can’t just turn up and play round here. The thick, long grass and heather is synonymous with traditional links venues and here it’s no different. Some of the layered greens are surrounded by ‘proper’ rough and will destroy anyone who tries to hack their way out. The bunkers are pretty horrendous to deal with as well – if you find any on the fairway, you’ll be staring down the barrel of a bogey. So, accurate, scrambling, wind-loving, links specialists will be the kings of Royal County Down.
DON’T FORGET – Our weekly competition with renowned magazine Golf Monthly continues, take a peak at the end of our selections to see how our stakes have been distributed this time.
You can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!
Shane Lowry (22/1 Stan James)
With so much value at the bottom end of our picks, we can afford to throw in one of the main contenders for the week, big Shane.
He’s someone who’s grown up on links tracks and is an ideal fit. He’s spent most of the season over in America and certainly hasn’t disgraced himself, we’ve even backed him a few times! So it’s no surprise the first time he comes over on European soil, he starts producing his best stuff. Very similar to Francesco Molinari in Spain. Wentworth has been good to Lowry down the years and last week was no different, finishing T6.
It was clear over the first couple of days he was adapting to being back on Britain and his short game really bailed him out. But once things started clicking into place, we saw what Shane is all about. The Irish Open in 2009 was the scene of his first victory, as an amateur, so the week will definitely bring back happy memories. Really good to note his recent links form as well – T9 2014 Open, T4 2014 Scottish Open.
Chris Wood (50/1 Coral)
We watched plenty of the tall Englishman last week up close and personal and it’s safe to say he’s back right at the top of his game. He’s had a few niggles over the past season or so and that’s obviously reflected in his form. But he’s a player that loves to string big finishes together, so now is the right time to get on board.
Stat-wise, he was arguably the most consistent in the field last week. 15th driving accuracy, 2nd driving distance, 15th GIR, 4th putts per GIR. Everything is firing on all cylinders. Like Lowry, always good to check their recent links performances too – T23 2014 Open, T8 2014 Irish Open.
Robert Karlsson (125/1 Coral)
Good value this one. Without doubt last season Robbie’s best stretch was when the Tour hit the links courses. He was T8 Scottish Open, T12 Open and even a T4 over in France where the wind gets up.
So it was really interesting to see Karlsson playing well at Wentworth a week prior to the Irish. He finished day 1 tucked in behind Molinari and ranked 3rd driving accuracy and 3rd putts per round. Okay he dropped off from then on but it’s safe to say the BMW has never been on the Swede’s Christmas card list, with just one top 10 in over 20 years. So he won’t mind a T27 at all. He still managed to finish the week 19th GIR and 12th putts per GIR, the latter really important given his well documented putting yips.
David Horsey (150/1 Paddy Power)
We actually chatted with Horsey a couple of weeks back and we have to say he looked and spoke about how good his game was at the moment. Tough, horrible, windy conditions are where Dave’s game comes to the fore, he’s just one of those players who loves it in that weather.
So a MC at Wentworth doesn’t fill us with confidence but a T15 at the Spanish Open does. His short game in particular was working well, 8th putts per round. Like Karlsson, Horsey has only ever had 1 top 10 around Wentworth so the MC won’t be a bitter blow.
Most interesting about this long shot was his appearance here for the Walker Cup. He beat Webb Simpson TWICE in the singles and looked imperious throughout the week (apparently). It might not be the best course form we’ll talk about coming into a tournament but it will be advantageous and invaluable none the less.
Graeme Storm (300/1 Coral)
You won’t get many 300/1 shots better than this. He won the Amateur Championship played around here back in 1999 so he more than anyone will have happy memories coming back. That alone is interesting. But, as if by magic, the week prior to the Irish Open the Geordie finds a bit of form, T22 at Wentworth. The finish itself is good but in spells Storm was ripping it up last week, at one point he had 8 birdies in 11 holes during round 2. His stats were more than impressive too – 1st driving accuracy and 10th putts per GIR. Get on this one.
John Parry (250/1 Coral)
Always interesting to look at the major qualifying and this week at Walton Heath, US Open qualifying has taken place. At the time of writing this, Parry sits T3 at 9-under which is an impressive couple of rounds given the prize at stake.
This alone shows he’s playing well. 2015 has been okay, T5 in Mauritius and T6 at the Africa Open. But one thing we really remember about the Englishman was his display in the 2013 Scottish Open. It was the first time we had really seen what John was all about and his game seemed to suit links golf perfectly, his game around the greens was particularly impressive. Sadly he found himself up against an American called Phil Mickelson…
Kristoffer Broberg (250/1 Paddy Power)
An interesting final pick that we have followed for some time. Three years ago he was an exciting prospect on the Challenge Tour and big things were expected when he made the step up to the Europe’s elite tier. It’s been undeniably tough but last season’s displays on links tracks made us sit up and think. He was T2 Scottish Open, T23 Open, T3 Irish Open and T12 Open De France. That was some going. Just like this week, he came into that period with no form whatsoever. Except this week we do have some form – he currently sits T17 in US Open Qualifying at Walton Heath…
Every week we’re running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly. It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters! We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so keep an eye out.
It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets. Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.
Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –
£2.25 e/w on Shane Lowry at 22/1 (Stan James 6 Places)
£1.00 e/w on Chris Wood at 50/1 (Coral)
£0.50 e/w on Robert Karlsson at 125/1 (Coral)
£0.35 e/w on David Horsey at 150/1 (Paddy Power 6 Places)
£0.30 e/w on Graeme Storm at 300/1 (Coral)
£0.30 e/w on John Parry at 250/1 (Coral)
£0.30 e/w on Kristoffer Broberg at 250/1 (Paddy Power 6 Places)
Each way bets ¼ odds for top 5 finish unless stated otherwise.
Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/tour-news)
Current Standings after 19 weeks
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £-71.95 European Tour: £-50.62
PGA Tour: £-25.94 PGA Tour: £23.75
Total: £-97.89 Total: £-26.87
Golf Monthly leads by: £70.02