Irish Open 2018: Five to back each-way at Ballyliffin

Matthew Southgate Rory McIlroy
Will Matthew Southgate surprise a strong field in Ireland?
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After a one-two in Italy the column was one shot off a place payout for 60/1 Alexander Bjork last week. Can we get back in the money at the Irish Open? Here are our picks...

"Rafa has developed into a true master of links golf, as evidenced by victory in last summer's Scottish Open and fourth at the Open. Ballyliffin's particular test, with its huge, undulating greens, could make strokes gained approach the key stat to follow. On the PGA Tour, where Cabrera Bello plays most of his golf, he ranks eighth for that discipline."

*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 7 Places

Dave Tindall: Back Russell Knox @ 28/1

Russell Knox came with a late burst to finish tied second in last week's Open de France and I like him to keep the momentum going here. Before his return to European shores, the Scot had reeled off three top 20s in five starts in America so had laid the foundations. Last week's second place, achieved without ever being under the gun, secured his spot in the Open Championship at Carnoustie and now he'll be trying to climb the European Ryder Cup rankings (currently 28th in points table). As a local and wanted by the media, he'll have added pressure on him at next week's Scottish Open so this should be a more relaxed few days for Knox and he can cash in. In his one start in the Irish Open he was runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the K Club two years ago while he hasn't forgotten how to play links golf as shown by T10s at Gullane (2015) and Castle Stuart (2016) in recent Scottish Opens.

Paul Krishnamurty: Back Rafa Cabrera-Bello @ 20/1

While Rafa Cabrera Bello may not be golf's most prolific finisher, it is very hard to see him out of the frame this week. The Spaniard has plenty of incentive regarding Ryder Cup qualification and is very much a tournament specialist, finishing top-eight on four of his last six renewals. Notably, the best of those came on links tracks, when runner-up at Royal Portrush and fourth at Royal County Down. Indeed, Rafa has developed into a true master of links golf, as evidenced by victory in last summer's Scottish Open and fourth at the Open. Ballyliffin's particular test, with its huge, undulating greens, could make strokes gained approach the key stat to follow. On the PGA Tour, where Cabrera Bello plays most of his golf, he ranks eighth for that discipline.

Steve Rawlings: Back Lucas Bjerregaard @ 55/1

The Danes have a very respectable record in the Irish Open with Soren Hanson, Thomas Bjorn and Soren Kjeldsen taking the title in the last 16 years and the one I like this time around is the largely in-form, Lucas Bjerregaard. After securing a place in China for the column at a big price, Lucas has hit the front at some stage in three of his next five events and while he was poor in Paris last week, I'm happy to take a chance that he might bounce back again here. Bjerregaard led the BMW International Open with a round to go two weeks ago and it's perfectly possible that last week's disappointing effort was a result of him getting beat by a couple of strokes in Germany - despite doing little wrong. Bjerregaard hasn't played lots of links golf but he contended at the Scottish Open back in 2014, led after rounds one and two in Sicily recently, at a coastal links type venue, and his sole European Tour win to date came at Vilamoura in Portugal - a course where many a links specialist has thrived.

Joe Dyer: Back Matthew Southgate @ 60/1

Matthew Southgate is a links specialist who comes into the event in very good form thanks to a top five at last week's Open de France and I'm happy to recommend a bet at 60/1. Only Sergio Garcia fired a better round than Southgate's final day 65 at the Open De France, an event that produced the Englishman's best finish since last year's Open, where his -4 total was good for sixth. Two weeks prior to that showing at Royal Birkdale, my man was runner-up in this event at Portstewart (another out-and-out links track) to underline his prowess on blowy, seaside tracks in the UK and Ireland. And if we need furthevidence we can also point to his 12th at the 2017 Open, too. This week's test is another true links so the fast-rising Englishman looks a decent punt to outrun his odds. And even though there is world-class quality at the top of the betting those two high finishes in Open Championships suggests he won't be overawed by McIlroy, Rahm and co. Southgate was injured early on in the season but results since returning to action in May point to a full recovery and given favourable conditions this week, he looks a fair outsider wager.

Mike Norman: Back Eddie Pepperell @ 90/1

This week's Irish Open commences one of the best times of the year for golf fans, especially for those who love links golf, tough tests, and hopefully some coastal wind. Looking at Eddie Pepperell's results in similar tournaments - and his Tweet below - it's obvious that the juices get flowing for the Englishman at this time of the year also. The 27-year-old, already a winner this season at the Qatar Masters - a tournament often dominated by good wind/links players - has finished second and eighth in the last two renewals of the Irish Open in which he participated in (2015 & 2016), and he has also finished fourth in a Scottish Open. But a quick glance at his career-best results (Alfred Dunhill Links, KLM Open, Portuguese Masters, and events in Qatar, Ireland, and Scotland for example) tells us that he usually performs at his best on links courses or courses that have a strong links feels to them. Eddie hasn't been in great form of late - though that win in Qatar came just seven outings ago and he recently played well in Sicily, another windy, links-type venue - but that's why he's 90/1 this week, and not half those odds going into a tournament that he will surely relish.

2018 Season P/L to date: +£253.00

- BMW International Open, Matt Wallace @ 33/1 - WIN (Steve)
- BMW International Open, Martin Kaymer @ 33/1 - PLACE (Joe)
- Italian Open, Lee Westwood @ 45/1 - PLACE (Dave)
- BMW PGA Championship, Kiradech Aphibarnrat @ 45/1 - PLACE (Dave)
- Belgian Knockout, Benjamin Hebert @ 50/1 - PLACE (Paul)
- Belgian Knockout, Jorge Campillo @ 28/1 - PLACE (Mike)
- Rocco Forte Open, Lucas Herbert @ 125/1 - PLACE (Paul)
- Golf Sixes, South Korea @ 16/1 - PLACE (Steve & Paul)
- Volvo China Open, Lucas Bjerregaard @ 200/1 - PLACE (Steve)
- US Masters, Bubba Watson @ 16/1 - PLACE (Mike)
- Hero Indian Open, Andrew Johnston @ 33/1 - PLACE (Dave)
- Oman Open, Jorge Campillo @ 40/1 - PLACE (Mike)
- Maybank Championship, Shubhankar Sharma @ 60/1 - WIN (Joe)
- Dubai Desert Classic, Alex Levy @ 50/1 - PLACE (Steve)
- Abu Dhabi Championship, Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 40/1 - PLACE (Steve)
- UBS Hong Kong Open, Paul Peterson @ 80/1 - PLACE (Paul)

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