The European Tour has really had to hustle in recent seasons, often relying on the generosity of illustrious benefactors. Gareth Bale was instrumental in last week’s Wales Open and its now Niall Horan’s turn to ramp up the razzmatazz.
2021 European Tour
ISPS Handa World Invitational
Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Club, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
July 29th – 1st August
The One Direction star will be hosting this week’s event though his agency Modest! Golf. The seven-week ‘British Isles Swing’ now makes its way to Northern Ireland. This week’s event is really something unique. The ISPS Handa World Invitational- otherwise known as the Northern Ireland Open- began life on the Challenge Tour in 2013.
Not only has it been elevated to European Tour status, this year’s event will be co-sanctioned by both the Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour. The men and women will play concurrent events over two beautiful courses in County Antrim.
I will only be covering the men’s event (I think it would be disrespectful to bluff my way through the ladies’ review without the requisite knowledge).
Galgorm Castle and Massereene will alternate hosting duties over Thursday and Friday, with host venue Galgorm assuming sole responsibility for the weekend action. Galgorm will offer an interesting tactical test. Much like Royal St Georges, Galgorm only features two par 5’s. Players will need to strategically map their way around this sneaky layout. Massereene has four par 5’s and will likely promote the best scoring of the week. It’s a beautiful tree-lined parklands, with wonderful views over Lake Neagh. Both courses are fairly tight and accuracy from the tee could prove essential this week. This week’s event will also be using an intriguing cut system. The traditional Friday cut will reward the top 60 players and ties. There will be a further cut on Saturday evening, with the top 35 and ties making it to Sunday’s finale.
This isn’t exactly the crème de la crème of fields (especially with the Olympic Golf event being held in Tokyo this week). Andy Sullivan looked excellent at Royal St Georges and he is the logical favourite this week. A multiple winner, Sullivan is a birdie machine who could really fire this week. Justin Harding has been the model of consistency of late while Marcus Armitage has really matured this year. Nacho Elvira picked up his first victory last week in Wales (making it 195th time lucky on the European Tour). He is currently trading at a very generous 90/1.
Betting Favourites (To Win): Andy Sullivan (10/1), Justin Harding (11/1), Laurie Canter (20/1), Marcus Armitage (25/1), Jordan Smith (25/1)
Jacques Kruyswijk- To Win (35/1), To Place (15/2)
I’m having a gander on another South African this week (they are really in sensational form this year). Kruyswijk picked up a top 10 finish at the Cazoo Wales Open last week. In fact, he has finished inside the top 35 in five of his last six starts on tour. Kruyswijk also currently sits 1st on the European Tour for Stroke Average this season. He should benefit from the fairly poor field in Northern Ireland this week.
Francesco Laporta- To Win (80/1), To Place (17/1)
This one just screams value at 80/1. Laporta, who topped the Challenge Tour rankings in 2019, finished 4th at the Irish Open earlier this month (clearly, he doesn’t mind mixing it up in Ireland). Laporta’s game is based on precision and this should suit this week’s test. Laporta actually has form at Galgorm, finishing 5th in the Challenge Tour event held here two years back. I think he could use that knowledge to mount a charge this week.
The Man to Beat – Adrian Otaegui- To Win (28/1), To Place (6/1)
Spain’s Adrian Otaegui looks a little undervalued this week at 28/1. This is largely due to his missed cut at Celtic Manor last week. But prior to that he had shown some solid form. He finished 2nd in the Scandinavian Mixed before consecutive top 30 finishes in the BMW International, Irish Open and Scottish Open. He has been particularly good in Strokes Gained Approach (which could prove vital this week). He has also enjoyed considerable success on tree-lined parkland courses, with a win at Rinkven International and runner-up finishes at courses like Valda and Diamond CC.