Sean Goff | Irish Open 2013
The focus switches to Europe and the Irish Open this week as the countdown to the season’s third Major – the Open Championship – begins.
Home players have dominated in the past six seasons with three Englishmen, two Irishmen and a Welshman getting the over-sized cheque on the Sunday at a tournament that used to be a stopping-off point for some of the US Tour’s leading lights.
This year’s €2m contest has a distinctly British and Irish feel at the top of the market before Thursday’s tee-off at Carton House with only Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn outside the quintet of GB & Ire players being backed by Paddy Power punters.
Of the sextet attracting the most money – four are previous Irish Open winners.
Here are the 6 players you’re backing for Irish Open glory in order…
1. Shane Lowry 22/1
A former winner in 2009 at Baltray as an amateur and the Offaly native has been holding his own nicely since turning pro. Shot the lights out with a final-day 65 last Sunday at the BMW International in Germany – the joint lowest score of the day.
Local knowledge could be his biggest weapon as the portly Lowry lives on the Carton House estate and is the Co Kildare club’s touring pro. All the stars could align to give him his second professional Tour win after last year’s Portugal Masters last October.
2. Ross Fisher 22/1
Won the Irish Open at Killarney in 2010 and finished fifth to Thomas Bjorn on this course in 2006 in his first full year on the Tour. Been playing on the US Tour mainly this season and was T10 at Wells Fargo last month and T18 in Munich behind Ernie Els at the weekend.
His distance and accuracy off the tee and the benefit of a run-out here before could see the Englishman become a repeat contender.
3. Thomas Bjorn 16/1
The 42-year-old is in top form as he chases his 14th Tour title and won the Irish Open at this venue in 2006. Arrives here with three consecutive Top 5 finishes (2-2-T4) in Europe and pushed Ernie Els all the way last week in Germany. The great Dane is well up for this and was out practicing at Carton House on Monday morning. A leading fancy and tipped by Jeremy Chapman in the Racing Post.
4. Rory McIlroy 8/1
One of only two Top 10 ranked players in the line up (GMac is World No9) and desperately needs something to spark his game into life ahead of the Open Championship next month. So much is expected from the two-time Major winning World No2 that the lows get exaggerated when he doesn’t hit the highs.
Four top 10 finishes in the States this season is not too shabby but when the flat stick lets him down all his good work gets undone. The class act but needs to rediscover his sparkle.
5. Graeme McDowell 16/1
Two-time Tour winner this season, three top 10s but GMac has missed the cut in the Players Championship and the US Open (by a wide margin) in his last two starts. Was the man in form but blotted his copybook when a big fancy for the second Major at Merrion a fortnight ago. Needs to sharpen up again and get back to splitting the fairways for fun.
6. Padraig Harrington 20/1
One of seven Major winners in the field and responsible for three of their 11 wins at golf’s top table. The Dubliner’s game has returned after a couple of seasons in the wilderness. Three Top 10 finishes Stateside and T21 at the US Open gives him a fighting chance here.
But Paddy H blamed fatigue for his inability to read the greens after a disastrous final-day 80 at the Travelers Championship last Sunday – after opening with two 66s – and will need to conjure more energy to send the locals home smiling.
- Betting: Drive into Paddy’s golf coupon here