GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Irish Open from Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena.
On the week it should have been the Ryder Cup, we instead head to the Irish Open on the European Tour as Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena plays host for the first time ever.
It's a short, flat parklands track; a par 70 measuring just over 7,000 yards. There is water in play on 12 holes. Some players will have played it before as it's been a fairly regular stop on the Challenge Tour.
Rough is expected to be up and the wind could well pick up making it quite a tough test, though it has often been a bit of a birdie-fest that tends to suit bombers. A recurring comment from players that have indeed had a trip around here is often that you ‘have to drive it well' and to ‘keep it straight.'
I was tempted to go with Ryan Fox here – a former winner on this track and course record holder but his form recently just hasn't been good enough to warrant that 22/1 on offer. He does love Ireland, but for me, I'm happy to pass up.
Instead, I will go back to Laurie Canter who should have won us the Portugal Masters last time out but for a poor putting display. This will be the third time and shortest we back him but he's evidently trending towards that win and that's why I see him as value over the likes of Fox, the winless Jason Scrivener and rarely-seen Lucas Herbert.
Canter is 3rd on Tour for SG: Off-The-Tee, 5th for Birdies and 12th for Par-4 scoring, he's also enjoyed a 14th round here in the past. The Englishman seems like the best play up towards the top.
I backed Joakim Lagergren earlier in the week with the hope to tip him in this column. However, I am not the only one and that 50/1 is now 33/1 at a push whilst I'm not going to advise a bet at those odds, I wouldn't deter you from joining me. I really like his credentials as another former winner here.
I will go to back John Catlin, a recent winner at the super-tough Valderrama. He followed that up with a T8 at the Portugal Masters, so clearly his game is right in nick yet he's further back than a handful of players that haven't won or haven't won in a long time. The American has eight professional wins to his name, so he can certainly hold his nerve. Perhaps it took him far too long to pick up that elusive trophy on the ET.
He ranks 1st for Scrambling, 3rd for Driving Accuracy, 17th for SG: OTT and 31st for Par-4 scoring. I don't see any reason why he can't continue his rich vein of form here at Galgorm.
A player who always contends well in the wind is Min Woo Lee and I think he's worth a chance here this week. He's often a tough cookie to crack but a T6 in the English Championship (Hanbury Manor) and a T11 on his last appearance at the UK Championship (The Belfry) is enough to convince me he could contend over in Ireland.
The Aussie gains strokes off-the-tee (14th on Tour) and racks up a lot of birdies (7th on Tour), especially on those Par-4s (31st on Tour). He's not far outside the top-50 for Greens in Reg and Scrambling, so he has the all-round game to compete at this sort of test.
His maiden win was only nine starts ago too. The 21-year-old has so much potential and I'm hoping we get to see some of that in Ireland this week.
Another winner at Galgorm is Clement Sordet and he's another I'm backing to triumph again this week. He's also shown up during the Challenge Tour's Le Vaudreuil event, which I think could have a couple of correlations to this track. He only has limited status on the ET and he's far too good a player to not be a regular, especially as he's shown up plenty of times since the start of 2019.
The Frenchman has enjoyed a runner-up and T10 at the Oman Open, a T8 at the Vic Open, a T14 at the Trophee Hassan and a couple of T20s across the UK Swing events. Sordet is a classy ball-striker that hits a lot of greens (17th on Tour) and certainly has the ability to rack up the birdies if his flat stick is on fire. I think he's well worth a chance this week.
Someone who loves a links test is Callum Shinkwin and at these odds, he's worth a punt. It's easy to forget that he agonisingly missed out on the Scottish Open in 2017 to Rafa Cabrera-Bello in what should have been his event to win.
He's not been seen since The Belfry where he missed the cut, but prior to that, he went T11-T8, which is still very encouraging. Strong finishes in France, Netherlands and Italy are also positive.
As one of the bigger hitters on Tour, he'll need to find the fairway but these are the sorts of conditions he usually thrives in.
To end the plan this week, we'll back another Englishman in Marcus Armitage. Despite missing three cuts since the return to action, the 33-year-old has been in pretty good form, recording finishes of T15, T14 and T7 during the UK Swing. His form during the Iberian events can be disregarded as he clearly feels at home in his own country.
On Tour, Armitage ranks inside the top-55 for everything we like to see – SG: OTT, SG: Approach, GIR, Scrambling and Birdies. He also, perhaps, has the most experience of anyone competing at Galgorm this week having enjoyed a 15th and 8th around here on the Challenge Tour and that's excluding the handful of other times he's played it but has just not enjoyed the best of weeks.
That's something hugely on his side in what isn't a strong ET field at all, so maybe he can outperform these odds this week.