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Irish Open Tips & Predictions: Five selections for Mount Juliet challenge

Irish Open Tips: Andy Sullivan features
Irish Open Tips: Andy Sullivan features

With a little over two weeks until The Open Championship, we first have the double header of the Irish and Scottish Opens, where many of the world’s top players will be hoping to tune up for that final major of the year. Mount Juliet is the stage of this year’s Irish Open, the first time it’s staged the event since 1995 and the first time it’s staged any men’s event since the WGC: American Express in 2004.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, with the help of Ron Kirby, this parkland course is a 7250 yard tree-lined par 72. It’s generous off the tee, with water well in play throughout and heavy bunkering around the greens. Four par 5s, with only one measuring over 570 yards and a collection of scorable par 4s. I expect birdies to be the order of the week, unless the weather plays its part, which is backed up by the last couple of events staged here.

In 2002, Tiger Woods won the WGC event with a score of -25 and four other players shooting -20 or better. Further evidence of the scorable nature of the course was on show in 2004 when Ernie Els won on -18, with Thomas Bjorn runner-up on -17. 17 years between that last event and now, it’s tough to be certain of how the course will play but I expect the modern players to fare every bit as well as their predecessors, if not better.

The one thing that could throw a spanner into the works this week is the aforementioned weather. With rain predicted throughout the week and a strong breeze from Friday through Sunday. On the one hand, if the rain doesn’t impact much during play, it will soften up the course and potentially make it more scorable. On the other hand, players hate to play in rain and with the constant breeze it would make for a much trickier event if the rain did indeed arrive during play.

Rory McIlroy will tee it up in the event for the first time since 2018 and is the standout in the field. He’s joined by Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood, both returning to the European Tour for their first start since the Saudi International at the start of February.

Irish Open Tips

British Open Odds

Rory is predictably a very short price favourite and was easy to ignore this week. Shane Lowry has been in good form of late and was tempting but at 12/1 is just a little on the short side for me and Tommy Fleetwood isn’t playing well enough to warrant considering at 16/1 here. Instead, I’ll start this week’s selections with a couple of Englishmen, firstly with the talented but volatile Sam Horsfield.

I put up Horsfield in the British Masters where he finished a solid but never nearer 21st and he has continued to show good form since. Finishing 49th in the PGA Championship, 19th in the Scandinavian Mixed Invitational and 5th last week in the BMW International Open, where he really could’ve run Viktor Hovland close if it wasn’t for a poor 2nd round 77.

His good form is the result of a pretty stellar all round game but particularly in approach and putting. He’s the 5th best player on tour this year in approach, also ranking 11th for greens in regulation and ranks 23rd in putting, as well as an even more impressive 1st in putts per GIR. He makes more birdies than anyone on tour and is 5th in par four scoring, which I feel will be important this week.

He’s already notched up three top 5s this year, one of note being the Grand Canaria Open, where he finished 4th. The course that week was designed by Ron Kirby, the man who had a helping hand in developing this week’s venue.

He’s a proven winner at this level, winning twice in quick succession last year in the UK swing on similar parkland designs to this and if he can keep that one poor round off his card this week, he’s playing and scoring well enough to go close.

Another player I put up at The Belfry in the British Masters was Andy Sullivan, though he paid out for us with a 6th place finish. The thought that week was that whilst he hadn’t been in great form so far this year, he wasn’t playing terribly either and when he does start to find that extra few percent to have him contending it would be at a course like The Belfry. I think the same applies this week.

Since that 6th at The Belfry he missed the cut in the PGA Championship and finished an underwhelming 40th in Denmark but bounced back last week to bag his first top 5 of the year in Munich.

That typically stellar ball-striking seems to be creeping back and he was 22nd in the field last week in approach. As well as being top 15 in both putting and around the greens. He’s another who features high in par four scoring, ranking 17th.

He also won in that UK swing last year in the English Championship, a win of particular note, seems the venue, Hanbury Manor was designed by Jack Nicklaus II, the son of the legendary golfer and architect, the designer of this week’s venue. He is very much carrying on the legacy of his father and that course has a distinctly American design, something which can be attributed to this week’s venue. 

A class player who’s getting back to his best form, I expect Sullivan to keep that improvement up this week in Ireland.

Golf betting odds

Talented Thai, Jazz Janewattananond appealed after a good performance with his irons last week, as did Englishman, Matthew Southgate but there are questions to answer as to his ability to win. Instead the longshot selection this week is Scot, Connor Syme.

Syme’s form this year is littered with inconsistency. Eleven events played with six missed cuts but in the five events he’s made the cut he’s recorded four top 20s, two of them top 5s, including the aforementioned Gran Canaria Open, where he finished 5th. He also recorded a top 20 at Hanbury Manor last year in the English Championship.

He ranks high in numerous stats we’re looking at this week. 17th in birdie average, 20th in par 4 scoring, 24th in putts per GIR and a solid 55th in approach.

He’s a player still finding his feet at this level but has plenty of potential. He was a quality amateur, where he ranked 7th and has already shown an ability to win, albeit in the lower echelons of the Euro Challenge Tour. He’s regularly getting himself into challenging positions and think this week represents another great chance for him to do so.

I was tempted by Antoine Rozner this week at a good price but the approach play last week was just poor enough for me to leave him alone and Finn, Mikko Korhonen matched up well in most aspects but just missed out to my final few selections, starting with Rasmus Hojgaard.

After a good start to the year, the talented young Dane hit a bit of a rough patch in the middle part of his 12 starts so far but there was promise last week that he’s getting back into his stride. Now over in Europe again and feel he can go well here this week.

He posted a 17th place finish in Munich last week after a series of underwhelming results, most notably he showed a return to form in his approach play, where he ranked 6th in the field. Also posting all four rounds under par.

He played particularly well in the UK swing last year, winning at The Belfry and following it up the next week, finishing 3rd behind Andy Sullivan in the English Championship. Already a two time winner on tour, he’s shown he isn’t scared of winning and looks an appealing price this week as he looks to be getting his game together.

The final selection is another with a quality showing at Hanbury Manor in the English Championship last year, where he finished 2nd and has produced a couple of really eye-catching performances in his last couple starts with his irons, Spain’s Adrian Otaegui.

He missed a great chance to win a few weeks ago when he finished 2nd in Sweden, after three-putting the final green and could’ve been forgiven for taking a bit of time to recover but returned after a week’s break last week to finish a respectable 29th in the BMW International. Shooting three rounds in the 60s. In both events he ranked top 10 in approach play, 1st in Sweden and 9th last week. He’s also very good in par four scoring, ranking 24th. 

Though the putter can be a concern, as shown in Sweden, he’s a proven winner, winning three times on the European Tour, as recently as last year in the Scottish Championship. If he can continue to hit his irons as well as he has in recent weeks, this accurate player should put up another good showing here.

Golf betting tips
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