The DP World Tour returns from a sabbatical this week as it heads to Northern Ireland for the ISPS Handa World Invitational, a tournament which came onto the circuit just after the pandemic and has remained on the schedule.
Ewen Ferguson is glad that it stayed on the schedule as it will be the Scot who bids to make a successful defence of the title this week. A pretty good field has been assembled to try and deny him that opportunity.
2022 – Ewen Ferguson
2021 – Daniel Gavins
We are at Galgorm Castle in County Antrim for the third time this week. We have two courses on the go in the opening two rounds of this event as the men and the women are both here once again. Unlike in the Scandinavian Mixed, they are not competing in the same tournament however. We have the Galgorm course which will stage three of the four rounds this week and the other track in use is the Castlerock one. The main course is a par 70 which stretches to 7,151 yards.
The rough is usually a bit of a challenge around here and the winning scores have had a touch of the normal about them. There has been a lot of rain around in the last six weeks or so which is sure to have that rough nice and juicy. Looking at the past stats, there is nothing really revealing off the tee but those who come to the fore in this event generally rank high on GIR, scrambling and putting so this is a second shot and in track.
The FedExCup Playoffs are still going on across the pond so we need to wait for the true global stars to come back over to Europe but we do have three members of the top 100 in the world rankings here this week. They are Robert MacIntyre, Victor Perez and Adrian Otaegui, for whom the next few weeks are huge as the Ryder Cup team spots really begin to come into the spotlight. All three would be live runners to be on the Luke Donald team for that competition.
MacIntyre and Perez are the sole members of the top 10 in the Race to Dubai who tee it up this week so they have a chance to move up in the standings, while Romain Langasque is the only other player in the top 20 in those rankings so this could be a big week for him. Ewen Ferguson defends the title this week while former winners here Daniel Gavins and John Catlin are also in a field which includes the likes of Laurie Canter and Eddie Pepperell.
Robert MacIntyre is around a 12/1 general favourite to win the tournament this week. He went so close at the Scottish Open last month and if he is in that sort of ball striking form then he is going to be very tough to stop here. This will be the first time he tees it up since The Open but most of the leading lights in this event will be in the same boat as that. He is teeing it up here for the first time which suggests he is here to prove his worth ahead of the Ryder Cup and he shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Victor Perez is 16/1 to win the tournament this week. He is the highest ranked player in the Race to Dubai standings who is teeing it up here but his really recent form hasn’t been fantastic and he has never played on this course which is a bit of a negative. He is another who is clearly here for Ryder Cup points so he certainly isn’t going to lack for motivation but I’m not sure this is a track where he can bring the best part of his game out in. He isn’t for me.
Ewen Ferguson certainly knows how to get it done around here having won the tournament a year ago and he is 18/1 to make a successful defence of his title. He probably doesn’t have Ryder Cup standings to worry about so he can just concentrate fully on making a successful defence. Ferguson was coming into form prior to The Open so if the break hasn’t got him out of his rhythm then he could be dangerous. I’m no fan of backing defending champions though so I’ll sit this one out.
Romain Langasque and Laurie Canter come next in the betting at 20/1. The latter wouldn’t be a popular winner within the DP World Tour offices given his links with the LIV Tour but he was inside the top 20 at The Open last month and would look to have a fair chance based on that. Langasque has been solid without being spectacular in terms of his results in recent times and he’ll be out to win this event at the first time of asking. He does have five top 10s on the season and that form should be relevant here.
Romain Langasque is actually my first main bet this week. There is a serious correlation between this tournament and the Kenya Open where the Frenchman has three top 10 finishes in five starts. One of the reasons for that is because he is very good at scrambling and that is a big part of the test this week. Langasque is a very solid driver of the ball so he should be in play for the majority of the week and if he has the sort of form with him that he had in Wales a few years ago when he won at Celtic Manor then he could take a lot of beating here. The favourites this week might have their eye on other things but I don’t think that will be the case with Langasque and he can take advantage accordingly.
Jayden Schaper is the other bet that I like this week. The South African finished in the top 10 in Kenya earlier this season, one of three top 10s he has picked up along with another five top 20 finishes. Schaper is yet to win on the DP World Tour but you sense he will win many times at this level and he showed that when he finished T16 at the Barbasol Championship over in the States last month. The field there was certainly no worse than it is here but it might even have been better. Schaper sits second on the DP World Tour for strokes gained around the greens this season and 17 for driving accuracy so if he can get the putter to work he should go well too.
John Catlin doesn’t have much in the way of form this season so it might be relevant that one of just two top 20 finishes he has so far this term came in Kenya. While the American might not have much form to go at this season, he does know how to get the job done around here having won here three years ago when the Irish Open came to this course. It remains to be seen what role form plays this week given that few in the field have played for a month so it might be that course form carries a bit of extra weight to normal. I’ll pay to see if that is the case here.
Speaking of course form, Borja Virto was the closest challenger to Ewen Ferguson here last year and that might be significant. Virto is still flirting between the Challenge Tour and the DP World Tour but in his last two outings at this level the Spaniard was T31 at the BMW International Open which would have been so much better had he not carded a four over first round. He was also T17 in the Made in Himmerland event where again he started slowly so if he can get off to a better start here, which with the confidence of going well here a year ago he should be able to do that, then he could go well enough to stay relevant this week.
Back R.Langasque to win ISPS Handa World Invitational (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back B.Virto to win ISPS Handa World Invitational (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 111.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back J.Schaper to win ISPS Handa World Invitational (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back J.Catlin to win ISPS Handa World Invitational (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Unibet (1/5 1-6)