The DP World Tour begins its build up to The Open this week when a huge number of stars from across the globe head to Ireland for the Irish Open, an event which is always popular with those who tee up in it.
Lucas Herbert certainly enjoyed it last year when he won the title and the Australian is back to attempt to keep hold of the crown. He is going to need to beat a pretty decent field if he is to win again though.
2021 – Lucas Herbert
2020 – John Catlin
2019 – Jon Rahm
2018 – Russell Knox
2017 – Jon Rahm
2016 – Rory McIlroy
2015 – Soren Kjeldsen
2014 – Mikko Ilonen
2013 – Paul Casey
2012 – Jamie Donaldson
The tournament is back at the Mount Juliet Estate course which hosted the competition for the first time 12 months ago. This is a Jack Nicklaus designed treat which is such a good course that it twice hosted in a WGC event in the early part of the 21st century. The course is a par 72 but it isn’t overly long by modern standards, registering at 7,250 yards in total so you don’t need to be a bomber to get round here by any means.
This course, which is pretty wide off the tee, sees generous fairways blended in with stunning tree lines but as ever with a Nicklaus design the difficulty of this track come from the second shot onwards with greens probably on the smaller side to what the European Tour have been used to in recent weeks. This tournament usually moves around the country so the fact it has remained here shows how good the test is.
The tournament received a bit of a blow when Rory McIlroy didn’t make himself available for it and it goes up directly against one of the rival tour events s well which probably doesn’t help matters but it is still a competitive field on show this week, one which is headed by the former winner of The Open in Shane Lowry and another Irish star Seamus Power. To add to the Irish influence on the tournament the newly crowned Senior US Open champion Padraig Harrington tees it up here too.
Three members of the top 10 in the Race to Dubai rankings are in the field this week. They are the man who missed out on the BMW International Open title in a play-off last week in Thomas Pieters, Ryan Fox, who himself has lost a play-off in this tournament in the past, and Pablo Larrazabal, while another six members of the top 20 are here too in Jordan Smith, Adrian Meronk, Adri Arnaus, Tyrrell Hatton, Oliver Bekker and Ashun Wu. It is a competitive field that has been put together this week.
Shane Lowry is a pretty hot 17/2 favourite to win his home title this week. You would have to say that he ticks a lot of boxes with the quality of his iron game and his short game as well as being decent with the putter. He’s been in decent form overall this year as well and he never hides his motivate to compete in this tournament. Apart from the price, which is still skinny even if he is a worthy favourite, the only concern would be that he could only register a T23 here last year.
Seamus Power doesn’t play on the DP World Tour a lot so his appearance this week, while largely because it is in his homeland, is certainly an interesting one. He is another who has had a great season on the PGA Tour and has been operating at a much stronger level than the one he competes at here so the 14/1 on him will be very interesting. A lack of course experience and this being only the second time he has competed in the tournament are picky reasons to oppose him but reasons nonetheless.
Tyrrell Hatton and Thomas Pieters are next in the betting at 18/1. If Pieters has got over the disappointment of Sunday then you would imagine he is well worthy of going well around here with the way he is playing. Pieters was T12 around here last year and is clearly playing better coming in this time around. Hatton is another who drops down in class here having been operating on the PGA Tour in recent times but you just wonder whether he would prefer a more exposed track with a links feel to it.
Ryan Fox is the only player who is shorter than 25/1 in the betting this week. He is 22/1 to land a maiden Irish Open title to go with the one he won in the desert earlier in the season. If form alone is your thing then the New Zealander is likely to be your man as he has a couple of seconds and a third in his last five starts, including one in Munich last week. In those weeks his putter has certainly played ball so he’s a leading player although a missed cut last year is hard to ignore.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets with the first of them being on a Thomas Pieters who I have been tracking for a while and just waiting for the right time to pull the trigger. I suspect that time is now because he is playing some brilliant golf this year. He was the first winner on the DP World Tour in Abu Dhabi this season and hasn’t really slid off his form since then. He will be annoyed to have lost out in a play-off in Germany last week but there is the argument that just to be in it in the first place was an incredible effort. That was the third top 10 finish in succession for Pieters on the DP World Tour with finishes of 71 and 27 at the USPGA Championship and the US Open in between. Pieters should go well here. There is no tightness off the tee here so the fact he can just get it out there should set the holes up nicely for him. Pieters has been hitting the irons nicely in recent weeks but the most important thing is he is putting well. I think he’s the one to beat this week.
I questioned how motivated Pablo Larrazabal would be last week after his soiree on the rival tour but the fact he isn’t playing their event in Portland would suggest he isn’t part of the riches which is being chucked around and as such I like him as much second main bet this week. Larrazabal has already won twice on the DP World Tour this season, landing the MyGolfLife Open in South Africa and the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain and he comes in here off the back of a T5 last week. It was that which caught my attention because like I say I thought he might have lost some motivation. In all, the Spaniard has six top 10 finishes on the DP World Tour this season and a lot of the reason for that is the way he is flushing his irons. We know his short game is elite so I think Larrazabal is worth a chance here.
Fabrizio Zanotti was so nearly my outsider bet last week so I’m kind of glad that he stayed in the middle of the pack because I like him just as much this time around too. What I like about the Paraguayan is that his last three strokes gained on approach ratings have been 6-30-5 and on any Jack Nicklaus layout you have to be hitting the irons well. The question mark over Zanotti is always the putter and it is that which has held him back in recent weeks but it is worth remembering that this is only the second competitive spin around here so everyone is still getting the hang of the greens so it might be that his disadvantage on the dancefloors isn’t as apparent this week. Zanotti is hitting the ball well and I’ll pay to see how well he goes this week.
Niall Kearney is the final bet for me this week. He has a couple of top 15 finishes in his last four starts in Belgium and then in Germany last week and on both occasions his strokes gained on approach ranking was 2-1 for those tournaments. He was third in the field in scrambling last week as well which means that everything up to the greens is in good working order for the Irishman. If he can find something on the greens this week then he is going to be right there, especially with the home support he is likely to receive.
Back T.Pieters to win Irish Open (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 19.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back P.Larrazabal to win Irish Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back N.Kearney to win Irish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back F.Zanotti to win Irish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)