The European Tour’s ‘links swing’ kicks off in Northern Ireland this week as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is staged in the home country of defending champion – and tournament host – Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy produced a brilliant finish to win at The K Club last May after threatening to squander a three-shot lead, the world number four making a birdie on the 16th and an eagle on the last to claim the first prize of £515,000, which he promptly donated to his own foundation.
After a closing 64 on his last start in the Travelers Championship, McIlroy is a 7/1 favourite to defend his title, but has often struggled in the type of wet and windy conditions which are forecast. And with the tournament moving to a sixth new venue in succession, there is precious little course form to go on for our Irish Open betting tips as we try to identify the winner of the latest Rolex Series event.
The Strands Course hosted one of the two strokeplay rounds for the 2014 Amateur Championship, with nearby Royal Portrush staging the other and the matchplay stages.
Rising Spanish star Jon Rahm shot 75 at Portstewart and lost in the first round of the matchplay, while Renato Paratore exited at the same stage after a 71 in qualifying.
South Africa’s Zander Lombard made it all the way to the final at Portrush before losing out to Scotland’s Bradley Neil, but Lombard is not in the field this week.
All of which means that links pedigree and current form could be the defining factor, and you can’t get much better in the first category than double Open champion Padraig Harrington.
Harrington will relish the test posed by Portstewart, especially if it’s wet and windy, and his current form is pretty impressive considering he underwent a neck operation earlier this season and then suffered what he feared was a career-ending elbow injury after being struck by an amateur during a clinic.
At 45 the Dubliner admits his best years are behind him, but he finished alongside McIlroy in the Travelers Championship and, at 66/1, is available at almost 10 times the price for his second Irish Open title.
At a slightly shorter price, 60/1 shot Soren Kjeldsen is our second Irish Open selection as he looks to repeat his 2015 triumph at Royal County Down, when miserable conditions resulted in a winning total of two under par.
Kjeldsen’s form has not been anything special since getting to grips with life on the PGA Tour at the start of the year and he missed the cut in France, but the Dane is a class performer who will not be afraid to grind out a score.
It is tempting to give Shane Lowry – who was still an amateur when he won at Baltray in 2009 – another chance giving his links credentials, but the Irishman was a major disappointment in France last week after a good start.
So instead our final selection in our Irish Open betting tips is another Irishman in Paul Dunne, who has turned down the chance to win Open Qualifying at Woburn for the third year in succession to focus on his national title.
Dunne famously led the Open at St Andrews after 54 holes in 2015 and also shared the lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links two months later, while he lost a play-off in Morocco earlier this season and was 13th in France last week. Dunne can be backed at 60/1.
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