Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of the DP World Tour’s Genesis Irish Open.
2021/2022 DP World Tour
Genesis Irish Open
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, Ireland
30th June- 3rd July
Haotong Li’s stunning win still fresh in the memory
Last week’s BMW International Open entered in a barely believable fashion, with Haotong Li holing a 50-foot putt to beat the resurgent Thomas Pieters in a playoff.
I was slightly miffed after picking Pieters to win last week. But the aftermath of Li’s victory generated some real controversy, with many deriding Haotong Li’s ‘overexuberant’ celebrations.
This is where European golf can sometimes kick itself in the backside. Look at the context. Li hasn’t won in four and a half years (he memorably held off Rory to win the 2018 Dubai Desert Classic). But his game has been in freefall since then (he even considered retiring form the game).
The tour mustn’t drag all the theatre and emotions out of proceedings (especially with the LIV Golf tour using every gaudy trick in the book).
This week’s event has been perfectly set up by Padraig Harrington. The Irish legend got a smidge of revenge for his Ryder Cup humiliation last week, holding off rival captain Steve Stricker to win the US Senior Open.
It gives him great momentum for his tilt at this year’s Irish Open (he won the title way back in 2007).
Irish Open losing its lustre
The Irish Open is an event that has gone through many ups and downs on the European Tour. It has been an ever-present on the tour since 1974. But it lost its lucrative Rolex Series sponsorship in 2020 due to changes wrought by Covid. And it has yet to regain that status.
We suddenly went from Jon Rahm as champion to John Catlin. No offence to the plucky American but he isn’t exactly box-office. In fact, the event has been damaged more by the DP World Tour’s decision to go all-in on next week’s Scottish Open.
Not only is it a Rolex Series event; it is also now a co-sanctioned event with the US PGA Tour. That has really sucked all the air out of this event. Still, the presence of Open champion Shane Lowry will offer some solace to golfing enthusiasts.
Mount Juliet Estate
Generally played as a nomadic event, this year’s Irish Open will return to the Mount Juliet Estate in Co Kilkenny for the second successive year. This Jack Nicklaus design is a parkland course that was opened in 1991.
It played host to the WGC- American Express in 2002 and 2004, with Tiger Woods and Ernie Els emerging victorious. Last year it was Aussie Lucas Herbert who walked away with the title.
I would favour accuracy over power this week. Sure, the airways do look very generous at tee level. But if you miss the fairways there are some ugly oak and bench trees to contend with.
Players will have to scramble well this week and some Irish Open form doesn’t hurt (11 players have won the Irish Open more than once).
Lowry favourite this week
As I noted earlier, this is far from the highest quality field. But Shane Lowry and Seamus Power will be keen to become the first home winner of this event since 2009 (Shane Lowry memorably won this event as an amateur at Royal Portrush).
Thomas Pieters has shown signs of his former glory and will be keen to exorcise last week’s demons. Tyrell Hatton adds a bit of razzmatazz to proceedings and will look to reignite his flagging fortunes.
Elsewhere, the likes of Ryan Fox and Jordan Smith have been uber-consistent of late. And lest we forget defending champion Lucas Herbert.
2021: Lucas Herbert (-19)
2020: John Catlin (-10)
2019: Jon Rahm (-16)
2018: Russel Knox (-14) *playoff
2017: Jon Rahm (-24)
To Win Outright:
Shane Lowry 9/1 | Seamus Power 16/1 | Thomas Pieters 18/1 | Tyrell Hatton 18/1 |Ryan Fox 22/1
Aaron Rai- To Win 28/1 To Place 6/1
I’m liking the look of consistent hitter Aaron Rai. The Englishman really rose to prominence with that stunning 2020 Rolex Series win in Scotland (where he beat Tommy Fleetwood in the playoff). His trip Stateside has had its ups and downs. But he has started to play more consistently of late, making five consecutive cuts on the US PGA Tour (including a T13 at the Canadian Open). He was actually shaping up well at TPC River Highlands last week before fading in the final round. He could enjoy this return to slightly less rarefied competition.
Thomas Detry- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
There was a time when Detry was always amongst the favourites to win. But the Belgian has underperformed in 2022. But he does tend to play his best golf in the UK and Ireland. He was runner-up in last year’s Scottish Open and he was 2nd at Celtic Manor. He started well here last year with a 67 before falling away. But that course familiarity could be useful this year. Back-to-back top 30 finishes could indicate a return to form for the young Belgian.
The Man to Beat- Jordan Smith- To Win 25/1 | To Place 11/2
This week should reward consistent all-round play. And there haven’t been many players more consistent that Jordan Smith of late. The Englishman just needs that one week where everything goes right. He has finished in the top 25 in seven of his last eight appearances. He faded last week with a final 72, eventually settling for a highly creditable T8. He should thrive in this fairly average field.