Over the Pond Special Edition: Irish Open

Greetings from Ireland! I am writing this post right now in the same country which is hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this weekend. I thought I’d post some thoughts from “Over The Pond”, literally!

Ireland right now is sports-crazy. No, not totally for the Irish Open, though the folks up in the north of the country are definitely very excited about hosting this week a Rolex event which will count for a lot in the EURO and Ryder Cup placement standings. Hurling is the sport that possesses the Irish this time of year (yes, really!). With Hurling, the World Cup, the Irish Open and Wimbledon, it’s crazy.

In Ireland, there has been a massive heat wave going on. Though Ballyliffin Golf Course is on just about the northern tip of the Republic of Ireland, the rest of the country has been uncharacteristically rain-free with highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s. The sun, too, has been beating down on the relatively tree-free links courses all over the country. Ballylifflin isn’t at risk for 90 degree days, but the weather should be in the upper 50s and dry, which is unusual.

In terms of the Irish Open, this is the first time Ballylifflin has hosted the Irish Open. Last year, at Portstewart, Jon Rahm won by 4 strokes in different conditions on a different course.

Ballylifflin a treeless “links course” that is a Par 72 that goes 7,462 yards and will be a tricky test for all. My question is, which golfers will be helped by this considering its so warm and the greens so fast? Most links golfers are also bad weather specialists, guys that navigate bad wind and rain. It is going to require golfers who can adjust to this unusual condition the best – so guys who have played links courses, but not weather guys.

The folks in the Irish media seem to think this will be a two man race between Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, and I’m not one to disagree. Personally I am going heavier on Rory McIlroy ($11,800 DK) as he’s a native son (he is from Northern Ireland, next door to Ballyliffin) and knows plenty about his home course and all its ins and outs. This will also be Rory’s only tune-up before the Open, so he’s certain to want to make it count in a big way. I think he’s a solid choice for a T10 at worst, and I am also trotting out some McIlroy/Rahm lineups as well. It’s not easy to construct, but it’s possible.

The talk in Ireland about this course is about the locals, and folks here like the chances of Paul Dunne ($9,500 DK) and Padraig Harrington ($7,200 DK) and it might be a good idea to put them on your lineups this week thanks to that familiarity aspect of this course – they are more likely to have played that combination of dry/links that I’m looking for. I’ll have both on the LUs I’ve made this week. There is also huge incentive for them to do well otherwise – the top three non-qualifiers in the Irish Open also qualify automatically for the Open. Both will be angling to make it in the field in this way.

Finally, I am fading poor Graeme McDowell ($8,500) who has had a terrible week after the French Open. On the way to Open qualifying, McDowell’s clubs were lost in Charles de Gaule airport in France, forcing him to withdraw from Open qualifying where he was a decent chance to make it. I just don’t think that distraction will serve him well – even if it would be a terrific story if he bounced back and won the Irish Open to qualify that way. As of Tuesday, he still didn’t have his clubs, and he’s way to risky in my opinion.

Good luck over the pond this week!

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