Irish Open Each-Way Tips: Lagergren can be king of the Castle

Joakim Lagergren
Joakim Lagergren can revive memories of past success at Galgorm Castle.

It's the Irish Open this week and Matt Cooper has inside knowledge of the Galgorm Castle track to help him make his three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying eight places...

"His success on this track in 2014 was built on a magnificent first round of 62 which earned him a two-shot lead over the field and he expanded that advantage to six before holding firm on the final day to clinch the title."

Back Joakim Lagergren each-way @ 40/1

Main Bet: Joakim Lagergren each-way @ 40/1

Following the successful hosting of eight Northern Ireland Opens (once played as the World Invitational) on the Challenge Tour, Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena has stepped in as a late replacement for Mount Juliet as the 2020 home of the Irish Open.

Rather unusually, all eight past winners on the course tee it up this week with Ryan Fox well fancied, Robin Sciot-Siegrist, Jack Senior and Calum Hill all arriving with snippets of form during the season, Clement Sordet and Daan Huizing less so, while American Tyler Koivisto will be making his full European Tour debut after his shock victory in the most recent edition of the event last month.

The eighth name on the honours board is that of Sweden's Joakim Lagergren, who is first pick this week.

His success on this track in 2014 was built on a magnificent first round of 62 which earned him a two-shot lead over the field and he expanded that advantage to six before holding firm on the final day to clinch the title.

It was a breakthrough moment for the 28-year-old who has never looked back, making it to the European Tour later that year and he's been there ever since.

What has been quite apparent during his spell on the main circuit is his fondness for certain venues.

He's a three-time top four finisher at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (and even has another finish there of T12th), two top 20s at The Dutch and another pair of top 20s at Dom Pedro's Victoria Course in the Portugal Masters.

The latter of those Portuguese efforts came in his last start when he followed rounds of 69-69-68 with a fast-finishing 65 in round four which briefly looked like setting a target that would prove beyond the final few groups.

Some might note that he missed a good birdie chance at the last, but I prefer to be impressed that he had no fear in attacking the pin with his final approach; it demonstrated faith in his form and willingness to chase the win.

He very nearly broke his European Tour duck in the 2017 Qatar Masters, overcoming a five-shot 54-hole deficit to make a play-off, but lost out to Jeunghun Wang.

Instead the first win arrived just over a year later when he bested Michael Lorenzo-Vera in extra holes at the Sicilian Open.

He endured a bit of a slump after that, but he's been in better fettle for a while now and that finish on the Algarve hinted that he's hungry to land win number two.

Next Best: Min Woo Lee each-way @ 55/1

This time last year the young Australian Min Woo Lee was struggling with his game, having limited opportunities on the European Tour and not quite making the most of them.

He headed to the land of his ancestors, landed tied sixth in the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour and ever since has been in much better shape, albeit with the proviso that he's a little boom or bust.

Since and including that effort he has played 16 times, missed seven cuts, twice made the weekend and had little impact, but otherwise he's been impressive.

After that effort in the far east, which incredibly included a third round 81 which he immediately reacted to with a 68, he added a pair of thirds on the Australasian Tour and T15th in the South African Open, when he was just four blows back heading into the final round.

The following month he claimed success in the Victorian Open, a first win on the European Tour, and since lockdown he has been tied sixth in the English Championship at Hanbury Manor and T11th in the UK Championship at The Belfry, again having an outside sniff on Saturday night.

The 21-year-old has huge potential but in his early forays to Europe itself he has tended to perform better at courses offering a straightforward test.

That's understandable and the good news is that, in that regard, Galgorm Castle could well suit.

I've actually played the track and two factors stand out: the first that the restaurant is outstanding, the second that there is nothing to fear for new arrivals - it's not tightly tree-lined, there are no tricky lines, the greens won't frighten good players.

Final Bet: Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez each-way @ 125/1

News last week that Matteo Manassero had claimed victory on the Alps Tour brought a smile to the face of just about everyone in golf, as we all hope it's the first step on the road to recovery for the affable Italian.

Spain's Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez was never remotely in Manassero's league as a teenager, but he did rehabilitate his career on that third tier circuit and is this year reaping the rewards.

Between 2012 and 2016 the 31-year-old was resolutely banging his head against the door on the Challenge Tour and even when, in 2017, he triumphed on the Alps Tour (albeit in Spain) it bore no fruit back on the second tier in 2018.

Undeterred, he continued his quest, landed two Alps Tour wins in early 2019, and he was finally away. By season's end he had six top tens on the Challenge Tour and grabbed the final graduation spot in the rankings.

Since the return from lockdown he has landed fourth in the Austrian Open, thrashed a first round 62 to lead by two after 18 holes of the Hero Open (he remained at the top of the leaderboard at halfway before ending the week tied tenth), grabbed T27th in the Wales Open and last time out he was tied sixth in the Portugal Masters, this time getting into contention and staying there.

Thirteen months ago he carded a pair of 67s to find himself second at halfway on this week's course. A Saturday 74 derailed him before he bounced back with a 69 for a share of 14th.

So he's had experience of getting into contention on the course and knowledge of leading the field at the highest level; both times he didn't quite seal the deal.

But his last performance saw him right the ship - if he can maintain that learning curve and revive memories of his fondness for the course he could give us a run for our money at a big price.

Staked: 36pts
Returned: 27pts
P/L: -9pts

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