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Irish Open Preview & Picks
Posted by: Darren Ramowski on Wed 27 Jun 2012
Weekly feature from David Jenkins @ Fettes Management looking at the top players and picks for this week's European Tour event the Irish Open.
Race to Dubai: The Irish Open
They promise us red hair, leprechauns, more pubs than you could ever imagine and more champ with your potatoes and chips than you can shake your stick at. But it’s not all here yet – its quiet, its calm and it’s too early in the week! However with 100,000 tickets sold for golf’s major (home) coming later this week – what a stick shaking carnival this will be. It’s the greatest game on grass and we are here at Irelands second best course (Royal County Down is best!) for the craic at the Irish Open with Guinness on tap and a best guaranteed party atmosphere anywhere on Tour!
Date: 28th June – 1st July 2012
Venue: Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim, Norn Iron
Royal Portrush has one of the most dramatic entrances of any course - quite simply, it’s has a geography that could make you cough up your colcannon and say crikey. The fairways nestle in natural valleys between towering sand dunes, the putting areas are protected by grassy hummocks instead of the usual bunkers and the greens themselves are small and understated – completing designer Harry Colt’s masterpiece. Look out for the 14th hole suitably monickered “Calamity” – a 210 yard par three with a deep chasm to the right!! It will deliver a cliff hanger alright!
Yards: 7,143 yards
Par: Par 72
This week’s rich field includes 10 major champions not forgetting Irish golf’s great quartet of Clarke (67/1), McDowell (51/5), McIlroy (34/5) and Harrington (58/5). There’s yet more locals – a plethora of Brendans, Michaels, Eammons and a Mooney (969/1) including proven Tour winners in Shane Lowry (92/1) and Paul McGinley (49/1)! And finally a sprinkling of Uncle Sam’s winners too with Keegan Bradley (38/1), John Daly (176/1) and Rich Beem (552/1 – all BetDaq) making a welcome appearance on the European Tour.
In my mind this week it is the home crowd and the local players in this most anticipated event to hit the European Tour in years. What could be better than the home support cheering their own coming down the final stretch? And to anyone else threatening to knock them off the pedestal, what pressure to dare to hold your nerve? It’s a tough enough course this, especially in a wind, requiring solid driving, accuracy and course management to give any true competitor a fighting chance.
Ones to watch:
With 3 top ten's in 4 recent outings including a tie for third last week at the BMW in Germany….this Irishman has hit form just at the right time! Scoring low last week with a 65 to start and a 66 to finish (marred somewhat by a 77 on moving (backwards?) day on the Saturday!) McGinley (55/1 with Totesport) is clearly feeling that it is time to play serious – especially with his home crowd around him. Remember his Ryder Cup fight back at the K Club, the winning put in 2002? What inspiration does a player need?
With a welcome return to some semblance of form Chris Wood (47/1 with BetFair) is now stringing some better results together with two podium places in the last two months including at the BMW in Cologne last week. The joint tallest player on Tour is well known for his heroics on the links at the Open Championship as an amateur in 2008 (finishing 5th) and as a pro in 2009 (finishing 3rd) and so entering the links season, expect a few contending weeks in the next 4 weeks.
Ones to win:
In five events, Padraig Harrington (12/1 with BetFred) has delivered three top ten' and in front of his home crowd, this will be like the years fifth major and so expect some significant fighting and effort by the Dubliner… Playing most of his golf in the US in 2012, he has similar standing there – 7 top 25’s and three top 10’s from 10 cuts made. Another links specialist, is this the start of the form that sees 4 weeks of this genre of golf bring Harrington once again to the fore?
With weather looking to include drizzling rain, freshening temperatures and 14 – 18 mile an hour winds, look no further than links and bad weather specialist Paul Lawrie (28/1 with BetDaq) to continue his rich vein of form over the Dunluce Links this week. Well rested after taking a week off whilst others in the top 50 travelled the long way to California and likely disappointed after a tied 20th finish last week – he will be looking at once again striking while the iron is hot to ensure his inclusion in Olazabal's Ryder Cup squad in August.
At 16/1 with SkyBet, Peter Lawries recent return to form may just have you reaching for a fiver to take a punt on him finish as the top Irish man in the field….
Local amateur hero and newly crowned Amateur Champion, Alan Dunbar, could cause a stir this week and for returns of 100/1 everywhere for the first round lead, might just enable you to pay for the Guinness that will undoubtedly ensue!
Finally, in the handicap market, take – 4 from Brandon Grace and see what happens. If he then wins – 9/1 with (obviously!) PaddyPower sees the best possible return in that market.
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