European Tour: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Preview

Golfer admires his shot

We preview the European Tour's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open set to take place at Ballyliffin between 5 and 8 July.

Rory McIlroy’s foundation plays host to this year’s Irish Open at Ballyliffin. It officially commences the links season that culminates in the Open Championship. It is also a Rolex Series event and thus a classier field than usual is in attendance. The Irish Open originated in 1927 and was played every year- excluding the war years- until 1950. It then went into stagnation until revived in 1975.

The event has had further significance since 2014, in that it forms part of the Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players this week that haven’t already earned their Open spot already will have booked their spot at the European Tour’s showpiece event.

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open | 5 July - 8 July | Ballyliffin, County Donegal

Ballyliffin is a traditional links-style coastal course that will truly bear its teeth if the wind picks up this week. It is located on Ireland’s Northern Coast in County Donegal. It has rolling fairways, pot bunkers and traditionally sloping putting surfaces. The course was opened as recently as August 1995 and was co-designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock. One can only hope that it provides a slightly stiffer test than Portstewart last season- Jon Rahm would eventually win that event with a score of -24.

While the likes of defending champion Jon Rahm and superstar host Rory McIlroy do add gloss to proceedings this week, I’m a little disappointed that the likes of Stenson, Garcia and Fleetwood have opted to eschew this week’s event. That being said, there are plenty of links specialists that should be able to thrive this week. Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry are dangerous in these conditions while Rafa Cabrera Bello and Andy Sullivan have been in generally solid form this season. You also shouldn’t discount former champion Soren Kjeldsen at a reasonable price.

Past Winners
2017: Jon Rahm (-24)
2016: Rory McIlroy (-12)
2015: Soren Kjeldsen (-2)*playoff
2014: Mikko Ilonen (-13)
2013: Paul Casey (-14)

To Win Outright:
Rory McIlroy 13/2 | Jon Rahm 7/1 | Matthew Fitzpatrick 20/1 | Rafa Cabrera Bello 20/1 | Andy Sullivan 22/1

Soren Kjeldsen- To Win 60/1, To Place 13/1
2016 Champion Soren Kjeldsen is someone to watch on the links circuit. Clearly he has had a tough season, with four consecutive cuts following the Maybank Championship. But it seems as if the 2016 winner may have finally turned the corner leading to his preferred period of the year. He had a top 10 finish at the recent BMW International Open. And his poor early season form makes his price that much more appealing. He had a top 10 at the 2016 Open Championship and also captured a tile at Gleneagles all the way back in 2003.

Ryan Fox- To Win 66/1, To Place 14/1
A winner on the Challenge Tour and Australasia Tour, Fox has yet to have the same impact at the highest level. But one glance at his best results tells you that links golf is an area where he excels. He was T4th at both the Irish Open and Scottish Open last season, while he enjoyed a sixth at the Open de France. He also has a Challenge Tour win at Le Vaudreuil- which has similarities to links. He may not be in the greatest form, though a tie for eighth at the Italian Open indicates that perhaps a change to his favourite terrain may yield better results.

Raphael Jacquelin- To Win 225/1, To Place 46/1
Here’s one from the deep blue. Links style events always do have the habit of bringing out strange results. Jacquelin actually did enjoy a third place finish at the recent Shot Clock Masters, though that was hardly the most stellar field. Though he ultimately finished 37th last week, he flirted with the first page of the leader-board on Saturday. But it is his links form that make him a worthy gamble. He lost the 2015 Scottish Open to Ricky Fowler by a single shot. He also enjoyed a second at the 2004 Irish Open and a third at the 2003 Dunhill links. He also had an 11th place finish at the 2011 Open Championship. In fact, he has five top 25 finishes in 11 starts at the Irish Open.

The Man to Beat- Rafa Cabrera Bello- To Win 20/1, To Place 44/10
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello has had a very solid season without picking up that tent-pole victory. He also has the ability to perform well in the wake of a disappointment- he missed the cut at last week’s challenging Open de France. He will be defending the Scottish Open next week and he also has a recent top five in the Open Championship. Bello also managed a fourth at the last Rolex Series event: the Italian Open. Bello looks like great value towards the upper reaches of the betting pool.

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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