With the final Major of the 2019 golfing calendar, the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, only two weeks away all attention now turns firmly to Europe and to what I guess can be called ‘The Links Swing’ (well I’m calling it that anyway!).
Next week the focus will be on Berwick for the Scottish Open, however this week all eyes are on Lahinch GC, in Co Clare for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by Paul McGinley.
In addition, we have another new event on the PGA Tour to look at, the 3M Open, which we’ll come to later. Firstly, though let’s take a look at the action in Ireland.
Lahinch GC, often referred to as the St Andrews of Ireland, is a par 70 measuring 7036 yards set on the West Coast of Ireland alongside the Atlantic Ocean.
Offering spectacular scenery, Lahinch is a traditional links course with rugged terrain, blind tee shots and undulating fairways and greens.
With the thought of getting in plenty of links course ‘reps’ in prior to the Open firmly in the mind of the leading Europeans we have a strong field on display and it’s headed up by Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Wallace and home favourite Shane Lowry – who memorably won this event when still an amateur ten years ago.
With no course form to go on, the natural starting point this week is with players who have pedigree in this event elsewhere, or of course on links set ups in general. The 2017 champion of this event Jon Rahm (8/1) certainly appeals on that basis, however without an individual title in over a year, I will pass at single figures.
Following his victory in Dubai last November, Willett has chosen to base himself full time in the US this year and it must be said up until recently things had not been going quite to plan.
In his last two starts though he has finished eighth in Canada and 12th at the links layout of Pebble Beach and he’s returning to an event that he has finished in the top 10 at four times over recent years, so he’s primed for a big week.
Another player who I am keen to have onside this week and who finished fourth in this last year is South African Erik Van Rooyen at 35/1. Van Rooyen has shown in his time on Tour that he likes a links-style track and the anticipated firm conditions should suit him.
It is also quite possible he will take inspiration from fellow South African Bezuidenhout clinching his first tour title at Valderrama last weekend.
Casting our eye further down the odds and I shall wrap up my team for Lahinch with another Englishman and a Scotsman in the form of Andy Sullivan (70/1) and Robert MacIntyre.
Sullivan has produced some strong performances in this event over the years and played very solidly last week to finish 13th at Valderrama, while 22-year-old MacIntyre is having a cracking debut season on tour.
Brought up on the West Coast of Scotland, you would expect MacIntyre to be perfectly at home on a links set up.
He demonstrated this when coming close to victory at Hillside, and he is fancied to go well at a juicy each-way 50/1 this week.
Taking a brief look at the 3M Open and like last week on the PGA Tour we have a brand new event and venue to get our teeth into as the Tour heads to TPC Twin Cities a 7500yd Par 71 in Blaine, Minnesota.
With nothing to go on history wise and with another birdie fest predicted, comparable to last week, it makes sense to side with guys who have shown they can ‘go low’ in the past, who performed well last week and can continue to push forward.
On that basis, I will side here with Patrick Reed at 20/1 who appears to have turned a corner finishing fifth in Detroit and JJ Spaun (80/1) who was 13th last week and always seems to produce his best stuff in low scoring events.
To win: Danny Willett 28/1.
Each-way chances: Erik Van Rooyen 35/1, Robert MacIntyre 50/1, Andy Sullivan 70/1
To win: Patrick Reed 20/1
Each-way chances: JJ Spaun 80/1
* All odds correct at time of posting.