This week’s Irish Open (July 4-7) kicks-off three weeks of links golf on the European Tour, which reaches its climax at the Open Championship.
Lahinch Golf Club is the venue for the 2019 Irish Open and this stunning Par 70 is often referred to as the “St Andrews of Ireland”. An impressive field of players line-up, and the course should provide them with a decent test, especially as the tournament is being hosted by former European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley.
Lahinch may only play at just over 7,000 yards, but there are plenty of par 4s measuring over 440 yards that can play much longer if the wind blows. There are also only two par 5s, with the first of those being the twelfth and the second being the eighteenth.
There are lots of players in this week’s field that have an abundance of top-class form at past Irish Opens, but the bookies have unanimously installed world number 11 John Rahm as the favourite. The Spaniard is a best-priced 8/1 after finishing second at the Andalucia Masters and third at the US Open on his last two starts. He also won the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart and made a valiant defence of that title when fourth at Ballyliffen in 2018. Rahm is unlikely to be far away, and it’s just a case of whether you want to take single-figure prices about him.
World number 20 Tommy Fleetwood is the second favourite at around 12/1 but, whilst he will surely hit top form again at some point this season, he hasn’t been playing anywhere near his best lately. His Irish Open record of four missed cuts out of six tournaments, with a best finish of tenth, also means he doesn’t look a value bet at his current odds this week.
Matt Wallace is up to 24th in the world rankings and, though he’s yet to win in 2019, he’s shown his class and tenacity with recent top-three finishes in the British Masters, USPGA Championship, and the BMW. Another big effort could be on the cards, but 16/1 is about the right price.
The other two players that the bookies have priced-up at under 20/1 this week are Louis Oosthuizen and Shane Lowry. 2010 Open Champion Oosthuizen plays in the tournament for the first time since 2009 but, as is the norm with the South African, we may not see the best of him until the Open Championship, as tends to only have eyes for the majors
Lowry already has one Irish Open Title to his name, with his win as an amateur in the event in 2009 proving the launchpad for a successful professional career. This event and the Open Championship in Ireland will have been high on his agenda this season, and two top 10s in his last three events suggest he won’t be far away if he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself.
However, this week’s selections start with a 33/1 shot in Danny Willett. The former Masters Champion has an excellent all-round record on links golf courses, including three top-six finishes in his last five Irish Opens. He’s also come back to form in recent weeks, with two top-12 finishes in big events. The Englishman will be relishing the prospect of playing links golf for the next three weeks and he could give us a good run for our money.
Another Englishman that loves links golf is Tyrell Hatton and he will have tried to peak for this three-week stint of links golf in Ireland and Scotland. He has good form in the event too, as he finished fourth in 2015 and fifth in 2016. His recent 21st at the US Open came against all the star players, and he has reportedly spent the last two weeks practicing hard.
Russell Knox may have spent most of his professional golf career playing on the PGA Tour, but his last two appearances in the Irish Open have been very lucrative. He was second in 2016 before winning in 2018, and he has been working hard with his coach this season to recapture the sort of form that saw him win a WGC event a few seasons ago. Three top 30s in his last three events suggest that hard work is paying off and he should relish this return to a type of course he often excels at.
At an even bigger price, it could be worth taking another chance on Robert McIntyre this week. The young Scotsman has a decent links pedigree from his amateur days, and he looks overpriced on the form of his two second places earlier in the season, one of which came in the British Masters on another classic links golf course at Hillside.