Not everybody was entirely blown away with the PGA Championship at Wentworth last week. The course was not in the best condition it’s ever been in with many players especially unhappy with how the greens were running. There will be no such concerns this week at Royal County Down. The Championship Course in Newcastle, Northern Ireland is regularly voted as one of the best courses in the world.
Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Murlough Nature Reserve, the par-71, 7,200 yard course has narrow, sloping fairways littered with dunes and bunkers. Postage stamp greens are well guarded and so take some very good approach shots to be hit in regulation. Many links courses play out-and-in, meaning the wind direction is relatively stable on the front nine and then changes for the back nine. That is not the case with Royal County Down. It was specifically designed so that the holes change direction and so does the wind. Only the best links golfers will consider themselves to have a chance of lifting the trophy come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy had a poor week at Wentworth. He missed the cut last week but it’s not a course he loves, whilst the opposite is true of Royal County Down. He grew up not far away and plays the event for fun regularly. The 26-year-old’s Rory Foundation is hosting the event this week and he’s responsible for many of the brilliant players making up the field. The world number one can control his ball flight and won the Open last year around a links course. He is, then, a deserved favourite at odds of 10/3 with Bet365, although you won’t get rich at that price.
At Royal Liverpool last year McIlroy kept Rickie Fowler at bay as the American finished tied for second with Sergio Garcia. All the talk then was of a rivalry between two friends that was going to dominate world of golf for years to come. Similar talk resurfaced after Fowler won the Players Championship at the start of May. Fowler is comfortable playing links golf and also played much of his formative golf in windy environments. Royal County Down holds good memories for the world number nine who played here in the 2007 Walker Cup. He must be considered for a good week at 12/1 with Coral.
The final pick for this week is Thongchai Jaidee. The most successful Thai golfer of all time has a good record at links courses and has shown himself capable of performing well in the wind. At 45, Jaidee showed that his game is still solid last week when he finished second at Wentworth. In the end he was unable to live with the scoring power of Byeong Hun An but he was his old, stable self. Jaidee will need to make sure that the distance of the course doesn’t trouble him but his approach play is so solid that he makes a great case for an each-way bet at odds of 66/1 with Bet365.