Rory McIlroy is the short-priced favourite for this week's Irish Open, but Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying eight places...
"His best golf in the last year has come at north European parkland courses with trees, most of them are hotel-type designs too. All in all, a lot like this week."
Main Bet: Andy Sullivan each-way @ 33/1
There's a bit of me which frets that my liking for Englishman Andy Sullivan this week is a bit too bleeding obvious - in the sense that he won't win because everything is just too neat.
Let's start with his tournament form: tied second at Lahinch two years ago, tied sixth at Royal County Down in 2015, and tied sixth again at Ballyliffin in 2018.
Then there's his current form: tied sixth last month at the Belfry and tied fifth last week in Munich. In-between he got off to a sluggish start at HimmerLand (T103rd after 18 holes) before shooting 66-70-69 for T40th.
I'm also very keen on his recent form playing on Nicklaus designs, which this week's venue Mount Juliet is, because he not only won last summer's English Championship at Hanbury Manor (by a massive seven blows), he also did so by gained 11.592 strokes on the field with his approach play.
That's a part of the game which Nicklaus layouts always seek to test and, when Sullivan hits his straps, it is the part of his game that shines - he's also heading in the right direction with it in recent weeks, recording his best numbers of the season.
There's also the question of where he's played well since the return from lockdown: tied fourth at Close House, the win at Hanbury Manor, tied ninth and tied sixth at The Belfry, tied third at Wentworth, tied fifth last week at Eichenried, tied second at Jumeirah Fire.
In other words, with the exception of the latter example, his best golf in the last year has come at north European parkland courses with trees, most of them are hotel-type designs too. All in all, a lot like this week.
I feel the need to find something bad to weigh against so much good stuff and here's some: the three efforts in this tournament that would have earned a place payout all came on the linksland, rather than inland.
I also didn't include a missed the cut at Kiawah Island in the above discussion of his current form, but that result is pretty typical of his efforts across the Atlantic.
They are some dents in the argument, therefore, but they're small ones and almost reassuring.
Next Best: Adrian Otaegui each-way @ 80/1
The case for Adrian Otaegui is relatively straightforward: the Spaniard is a three-time winner on the European Tour, his last win was relatively recent, and he was a runner-up just two starts ago - I'm not sure he should be as a big a price as he is.
The first two of his three wins were claimed in match play and he admitted himself that he was keen to make the third a strokeplay tournament lest his get lumbered with notions of being a one trick pony.
He put that to bed with an accomplished final round performance at last October's Scottish Championship.
He'd led by three after 18 holes, was tied for the lead at halfway, fell four back of Matt Wallace on Saturday, but thrashed an apparently fearless 63 in round four to hunt down the pace-setter and then secure the win by four shots.
That result started a run of 17 cuts made in 20 starts, but prior to this month he'd made only one very brief appearance anywhere near the top of another leaderboard.
That changed in the Scandinavian Mixed when weekend scores of 66-67 allowed him to claim second and he really ought to have forced a play-off, but missed a short-ish putt at the 72nd hole.
Last week he looked set to contest again, lying tied ninth at halfway only for an errant 74 to derail his challenge before he closed with a 69 for T29th.
The clincher is that he not only finished second behind Sullivan at the Nicklaus-crafted Hanbury Manor last summer in the English Championship (he was the winner of the "other" event after the winner lapped the field), but that his approach play has been superb in those last two starts: ranking first in Sweden (+11.116) and ninth in Germany (+5.016).
Final Bet: Shaun Norris each-way @ 90/1
I'm quite keen on Wilco Nienaber this week, thinking that sooner or later the enormous hitter will join his fellow South African youngster Garrick Higgo as a European Tour winner, but the compiler likes his chances too.
So, instead, I turn to another Rainbow Nation representative, but one who didn't thrive especially quickly.
In fact, Shaun Norris was banging around the Europro Tour some 17 years ago and I happened to be in the vicinity of one event, later writing up a report for a group of like-minded golf nerds with a fondness for arcane trivia.
One line read: "Kim Wilde's younger brother Marty was playing. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a shocker and there was no sign of his sister. Was more impressed by a lad called Sean (sic) Norris, a South African youngster who hit it miles and holed everything."
Yours, Adrian Mole.
Four years after that prophecy, Norris landed a first win on the Sunshine Tour, but it was a false dawn. He plodded on, earned another win in 2011, but progress beyond South Africa was proving difficult.
Head down, he ventured to Asia, got wins in 2015 and 2016, but still struggled to assert himself at the top level.
So he went further, to Japan, and it is not just wins (five of them) he's found there, he's also developed a consistency that has earned him major and WGC starts.
He's also started to transfer his form to the European Tour. Indeed, his last 10 starts in regular ET events have earned him six top 25 finishes, including three top sixes.
The last of those came last week in Germany and, while he didn't find a spark on Sunday, he looked very far from out of his depth. Moreover, the most recent of his wins in Japan was last month.
He might be a slow learner, but he might also have been a little under-estimated this week.
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts
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