Irish golfers have long talked about the Irish Open as their fifth major. There is always a special sense of occasion when playing in your home open and the likes of Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington are all at Portstewart this week for another crack at the title.
However, this is the biggest Irish Open ever. The event is now being hosted by Rory McIlroy’s Rory Foundation and was included as one of the eight Rolex Series events. It’s also been moved about in the European Tour schedule to sit a week before the Scottish Open and two before the Open.
The desire to offer players vital links golf experience in the build up to the Open is a major reason why the Irish Open is being held at Portstewart’s Strand Course. It’s a well-regarded coastal links course which will pose many of the same tests that Royal Birkdale will in a couple of weeks. The winning player will need to show great control of their ball flight, they must have a rock solid game plan from tee to green and a world class short game is always important in links golf.
Fleetwood Poised to Pounce Again
Tommy Fleetwood is many people’s pick for the Open. The Englishman grew up close to Royal Birkdale and won his second European Tour event of the year last week at the Open de France. Despite being put under great pressure at an incredibly tough golf course, Fleetwood put on a clinic of golf last week and a performance of similar class will make him tough to beat at Portstewart.
Few players have won in consecutive weeks on the European Tour but Fleetwood is showing no signs of strain brought on by his increased status and he can finish at the top of another top quality field at odds of 16/1 with Bet365.
Combination of Strategy, Touch and Power Makes Pieters Dangerous
Thomas Pieters looked like a very silly boy in the early stages of his third round at LE Golf National last week. The Belgian snapped his driver in a fit of rage which saw his odds lengthen on the betting exchanges. However, Pieters was not disadvantage by having just 13 clubs. His power meant that he was able to hit a variety of irons and fairway woods off the tee while his ball striking, short game and confident putting saw him rack up the birdies and climb the leaderboard.
By finishing in a tie for 13th at the Open de France, Pieters showed that there is much more to his game than unbridled power. He’s got the lot and could be challenging come Sunday once more at odds of 25/1 with Bet365.
Dredge Set for More Irish Form
You have to go back all the way to 2006 for the last time that Bradley Dredge won on the European Tour. The Welshman is popular with his fellow pros on the tour and many of them would have been cheering him on when he got into a strong position during the Open de France. He couldn’t hold on last week but he finished second at last year’s Irish Open and can challenge again at 100/1 with Betfred.