The Irish Open at Lahinch this week provides plenty of players heading to The Open in Portrush in a fortnight with the opportunity to fine-tune their links game, with Jon Rahm, Martin Kaymer and Tommy Fleetwood among the stars hoping to impress on the west coast.
Despite the absence of all of the current world’s top-10 players from the field, the action in County Clare could provide us with plenty of pointers for the final major of the year in Northern Ireland from July 18.
Even though somewhat disappointingly Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka are among the players who have decided against taking in Lahinch as part of their Open preparations, there are still household names in the field and Rahm (8/1) stands out as a worthy favourite.
The Spaniard won this event two years ago when it was at Portstewart, so has proven he can handle links golf in Ireland, even though his Open record leaves plenty to be desired, with a T44 his best display in 2017.
Rahm should be respected and is in form, tying for third at the US Open last month before then tying for second in last week’s Valderrama Masters, and another top-five finish definitely looks achievable here.
Fleetwood is second favourite, at 12/1 in the outright market, and will be determined to put on a good show as he gets ready for Portrush, where he will be chasing his first major. However, it’s further down the outright list with 30/1 shot Kaymer where better value may lie.
The German was third when hosting the Memorial Tournament in late May and early June and was then well in contention at the halfway stage in last week’s BMW International Open before falling away, eventually finishing five shots off the lead.
The two-time major winner has won the Scottish Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links in the past, to underline he can perform on this type of course when things come together, and appears to be moving in the right direction.
Russell Knox (35/1 – Outright) is the defending champion after triumphing at Ballyliffin 12 months ago and the Scot will hope to challenge again, although his 2019 form has not suggested a victory is around the corner given he’s failed to build on the encouraging signs of last summer when he made it back into the world’s top 50.
Of the rest, Oliver Wilson is an interesting outsider at 125/1 to win and 10/1 for a top-10 finish. The Englishman has managed five top-10 finishes already this season and won in Ireland as recently as October when taking the Irish Challenge in Carlow on the Challenge Tour.
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