UG Tips: DDF Irish Open at Ballyliffin
The European Tour and its Rolex Series rolls onto Ballyliffin this week and the Rory McIlroy hosted Dubai Duty free Irish Open. Since Rory came on board the event has been played over some really strong courses, attracting equally strong fields. With the weather as it is and a particularly benign forecast for the week we can expect some low scoring. While there is some serious bund in play off the tee, the firm and fast nature of conditions will allow players to employ any number of options to get the ball in play and take advantage of the near perfect greens.
Jon Rahm and McIlroy rightly lead the betting, but with both having extra duties this week the value feels like it is elsewhere. These Rolex events have produced a high quality winner on each and every occasion, and while this week may be no different there is definitely value to be had on some each way action.
Rafa Cabrera Bello 18/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £245
Last week was a minor blip for a man who has become just so consistent. At almost three times the price of the 2 market leaders Rafa is an enticing bet. There is no doubt the same calibre of field hasn’t materialised for the Irish Open this time around and I think everything points towards the Spaniard getting another victory on his CV.
Links is where he has played some of his best golf. A win came at this time last year on a similar flattish Links track in Scotland and he may just re-produce those heroics. He has two top 5s posted here in Ireland and another top 5 in an Open Championship also. He plays these tests well with consistency and I think he will quietly fancy this.
Chris Wood 50/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £520
The Bristolian would have been among a handful of players feeling they let one slip in Paris last week. If nothing else, though, he’s a resilient one and typically maintains form for a decent run when he finds it. Having now gotten over his lengthy wrist injury he certainly looks to be returning to form. While he is renowned for his fantastic ability on a links course, his career record actually stacks up favourably on some of the more scoreable layouts.
Wins in Qatar at 18-under, Austria at 14-under and at Wentworth at 9-under show a diversity that shouldn’t be ignored. Couple that with a strong Open Championship record which includes two top-5 finishes at golf’s oldest Major and we have a player who’s a strong fit for this week. Much of the 30 year-old’s best work has come in the UK and Ireland – aside from his aforementioned efforts, he’s also finished 15th, 7th, 9th and 4th on his last 4 Dunhill Links attempts, was 9th at the 2015 British Masters, has 2 further top-6 finishes at Wentworth to back up his 2016 victory and has 3 top-10 finishes in 7 starts at the Irish Open to his name over the years.
With conditions as they are, I like the fact that Wood can take his sometimes wayward driver out of his hands and bat a 2 iron 300 yards down the fairway instead.
Graeme McDowell 60/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £645
G-Mac may have had a bit of a week to forget thus far with the saga of the missing clubs, but he should feel comfortable. He played some solid golf in Paris last week while not quite getting in the mix and continued his decent form of the season. He’s been threatening to challenge but just coming up short. There is often one fairytale story in the lead up to The Open and this would be right up there for a man who had no clubs 2 days before the event – a good finish and he’ll qualify for Carnoustie. It could have been the perfect distraction for a man who will carry some strong home support.
Matthew Southgate 60/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £770
You may recall that we backed Southgate in last years Irish Open at 400/1 – and what a bet that turned out to be. He went on to have a fine Open Championship and further enhance his links pedigree. He has in face got an excellent record in Ireland and coming off the back of a top 5 in Paris will be super confident and ready to notch up his first European Tour title.
Ryan Fox 80/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £510
Our favourite Kiwi is coming off a reasonable season in which he has firmly established himself on the European Tour. This time last year his game set alight with 3 consecutive top 6 finishes across France, Ireland and Scotland. He is a self-confessed “Links perv” and cannot wait to play what he refers to as his “favourite course in Donegal”. He’s definitely got the game and he loves going deep!
Matthieu Pavon 250/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £1572.50
Matthieu Pavon surprised many with his performance at Shinnecock Hills last month. The Medoc resident got off to a flying start as he sat 6th after the first day and 25th on the final leaderboard – firm and fast conditions seemed to suit him over in New York State and more of the same is expected this week in Ireland. In general, Pavon’s form has been poor – 6 missed cuts in his last 8 starts are testament to that – and at 250/1 he’s undoubtedly a risky play, however fortune favours the brave and there are enough positive pointers for me to have a small investment here this week.