The Punter

ISPS Handa World Invitational: MacIntyre the worthy favourite

Golfer Robert MacIntyre
Robert MacIntyre at the Scottish Open

Almost a month after Brian Harman won the Open Championship, the DP World Tour resumes with the ISPS Handa World Invitational and our man has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...


Tournament History

Having been elevated to the DP World Tour for the first time in 2021, the ISPS Handa World Invitational has been in existence on the Challenge Tour since 2013, when formerly known as the Northern Ireland Open.

The ISPS Handa World Invitational is a mixed event again co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour and it's again staged over two courses (as it was in 2019, 2021 and 2022), with the field playing both Castlerock Golf Club and the host course, Galgorm Castle, over the first two days before the weekend action is played out at Galgorm.

The men and women play the same courses at the same time with equal prize funds but unlike the recent Scandinavian Mixed event, they play two separate tournaments.

Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena has been the host course since the event's inception in 2013 and it also staged the 2020 edition of the Irish Open, won by America's John Catlin.

Venue

Galgorm Spa & Golf, Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

Course Details

Par 70 - 7,151 yards

Stroke Average in 2022 - 70.86

The five-time DP World Tour winner, Michael Hoey, used to play out of Galgorm Castle Golf Club and this is what he had to say about this week's venues prior to the 2019 edition.

"They get the rough thick at Galgorm," Hoey said. "They set the course up really well and make it difficult for the players if you're in the rough.

"They grow the rough quite thick for the tournament, which is good, but you do have to hit the fairways. It's quite easy if you do hit the fairways, you can make birdie because it's not that long. The greens are very true so you can hole putts."

GALGORM 2022 1.jpg

There were a couple of 62s around Galgorm in 2021 (Jordan Smith in round one and Daniel Hillier in round two) and the winner, Ewen Ferguson, shot an exceptional 61 around Galgorm on day one.

Massereene Golf Club was the other course used in rotation for rounds one and two for the first three editions but Castlerock Golf Club - a genuine links layout - is being used for the first time this year.

Northern Ireland Open Winners at Galgorm

  • 2013 - Daan Huizing -13 (playoff)
  • 2014 - Joakim Lagergren -13
  • 2015 - Clement Sordet -17
  • 2016 - Ryan Fox -19
  • 2017 - Robin Sciot-Siegrist -3
  • 2018 - Calum Hill -19
  • 2019 - Jack Senior -11 (ISPS Handa World Invitational)
  • 2020 - Tyler Koivisto -13

Event Winners with Pre-event Exchange Price

  • 2021 - Daniel Gavins -13 140.0139/1
  • 2022 - Ewen Fergoson -12 27.026/1

Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 13:00 on Thursday.

What Will it Take to Win?

There were no stats produced for the Northern Ireland Open here so we only have numbers to evaluate for three events. Here are the traditional stats for the top-six in the two editions of this event and for the top-six at the 2020 Irish Open staged here.

ISPS HANDA World Invitational -2022

Ewen Ferguson -12 DD: 54, DA: 58, GIR:8, Scr: 3, PA: 2

Connor Syme -9 DD: 26, DA: 36, GIR: 15, Scr: 41, PA: 4

Borja Virto -9 DD: 15, DA: 30, GIR: 15, Scr: 49, PA: 5

Marcus Helligkilde -8 DD: 24, DA: 30, GIR: 28, Scr: 5, PA:10

Richard Mansell -8 DD: 3, DA: 15, GIR: 37, Scr: 28, PA: 38

Renato Paratore -8 DD: 64, DA: 18, GIR: 45, Scr: 6, PA: 6

ISPS HANDA World Invitational -2021

Daniel Gavins -13 DD: 56, DA: 10, GIR:22, Scr: 2, PA: 30

David Horsey -12 DD: 48, DA: 59, GIR: 22, Scr: 21, PA: 35

Alejandro Canizares -11 DD: 52, DA: 41, GIR: 38, Scr: 5, PA: 24

Daniel Hillier -11 DD: 7, DA: 12, GIR: 2, Scr: 52, PA:41

Masahiro Kawamura -11 DD: 24, DA: 26, GIR: 1, Scr: 52, PA: 20

Jordan Smith -11 DD: 18, DA: 49, GIR: 3, Scr: 30, PA: 11

IRISH Open - 2020

John Catlin -10 DD: 55, DA: 6, GIR: 6, Scr: 2, PA: 26

Aaron Rai -8 DD: 39, DA: 16, GIR: 27, Scr: 5, PA: 7

Maverick Antcliff -7 DD: 36, DA: 16, GIR: 4, Scr: 51, PA: 19

Jazz Janewattananond -7 DD: 33, DA: 32, GIR: 18, Scr: 14, PA:6

Joakim Lagergren -6 DD: 6, DA: 10, GIR: 64, Scr: 4, PA: 9

Oscar Lengden -6 DD: 23, DA: 10, GIR: 9, Scr: 54, PA: 4

DD - Driving Distance

DA - Driving Accuracy

GIR - Greens In Regulation

Scr - Scrambling

PA - Putting Average

Driving Distance is clearly not important, and I'd definitely favour accuracy over length, despite the fact that Ewen Ferguson managed to win ranking only 58th for Driving Accuracy.

We haven't got much to go on but the first and third ranked sixth and fourth for Greens In Regulation at the Irish Open, the top-three in the GIR rankings were all in the top-six in this event two years ago and Ferguson ranked eighth 12 months ago.

The first three home last year all putted extremely well but with all three winners ranking third or better for Scrambling, that may well be the best place to start.

Is There an Angle In?

Both tracks are tree-lined and tight so form at Rinkven - home of the Soudal Open - is well worth consideration and form at Valderrama is also worth looking at given John Catlin has won at both venues but the course that appears to correlate best is Muthaiga Country Club, which has hosted the last two editions of the Kenya Open.

Last year's Galgorm winner, Ferguson, led the Kenya Open by four with a round to go five months before winning here and he's far from the only one to advertise the link between the two venues.

Spain's Borja Virto only has two top-five finishes on the DP World Tour - his tied second here 12 months ago and his fifth-place finish in Kenya in March - and since he finished 10th at Valderrama in September 2020, David Horsey's second in this event two years ago and his fifth in Kenya in 2022, are his only top-ten finishes.

Santigo Tario finished seventh at Galgorm in the Northern Ireland Open and this year in Kenya and this year's Kenya Open runner-up, Masahiro Kawamura, finished third in this event in 2021.

Markus Kinhult shot the best round of the day around Galgorm in round two last year, after sitting second with a round to go at the Kenya Open in 2021, and the 2021 winner of this event, Daniel Gavins, led the Kenya Open after round one last year before eventually finishing sixth.

Given so many players have performed well at both venues, and that a few of them rarely contend anywhere, that looks like a really strong correlation.

Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round 4

  • 2020 - John Catlin - tied 8th, trailing by four 29.028/1
  • 2021 - Daniel Gavins - tied 8th, trailing by seven 240.0239/1
  • 2022 - Ewen Fergoson - leading by three 1.9520/21

In-Play Tactics

In eight editions of the Northern Ireland Open here, nobody won from any more than four strokes back at any stage, suggesting making up ground here is tough, but converting from the front has proven hard to do and two of the three winners of this event have won from some way back after three rounds.

Winning scores have fluctuated greatly so there's been varying weather conditions to contend with but whatever the circumstances, and on any Tour, third round leaders have a fairly poor record and as many as ten players having been beaten having led or co-led here through 54 holes. And the four that have converted all held commanding leads...

Like last year's winner, Ferguson, the 2020 Northern Ireland Open victor, Tyler Koivisto, led by three after 54 holes, whilst Daan Huizing beat Oliver Wilson in a playoff, having led by six with a round to go of the inaugural staging of the NI Open and Joakim Lagergren held on to win by one a year later, having also led by six through 54 holes.

John Catlin trailed by four with a round to go in the Irish Open in 2020 and Daniel Gavins was miles back in this event in 2021.

Daniel Gavins.jpg

Having been matched in-running at 1000.0999/1, Gavins began the final round trading at 240.0239/1 and trailing by seven but his five-under-par 65 on Sunday was enough to see him lift the trophy after three players lost their way with victory in sight.

The halfway leader, Daniel Hillier, who this year won the British Masters from off the pace at the Belfry (another tree-lined track), was matched at just 2.285/4 on Sunday, the 54-hole leader, Jordan Smith, was matched at 1.51/2 before he lost his way after a fast start and poor David Horsey hit a low of 1.454/9 before coming home in 40!

Although it didn't work out last year, opposing the leader or leaders through three rounds may well be worthwhile and taking on anyone that goes odds-on in-play may prove a profitable exercise too. Having at least two players trade at odds-on before losing is not a rare occurrence on the DP World Tour.

Market Leaders

Robert MacIntyre heads the market and I'm a little surprised how big he is.

No bigger than 12/113.00 on the High Street, the Scotsman's been matched at as high as 18.017/1 on the exchange and that's far too big given his credentials.

MacIntyre finished down the field at the Open Championship last time out but that was hardly surprising given he was such an unlucky loser at the Scottish Open the week before.

Matched at a low of 1.141/7 after posting a six-under-par 64 in tricky conditions around the Renaissance Course in round four, to post what looked like a winning score, MacIntyre sat in the clubhouse watching Rory McIlroy birdying the last two holes to deny him.

He'll be nicely refreshed after three weeks off and, although he missed the cut here back in 2018 on his only previous visit to Galgorm, his seventh-placed finish at Muthaiga (sat second with a round to go) back in April suggests the venue should suit him.

Add in the fact that he gets to play a links course in round one or two and his chance just gets stronger. He's one of best links exponents around - as he showed in the Scottish last month - and he's a very worthy favourite.

Matt Cooper makes a strong case for the second favourite, Victor Perez, who's another fine links player.

Perez was fourth at Galgorm back in 2018 so he has course form to boast too but his current form is a slight concern.

Since finishing 12th at the US PGA Championship in May, his figures read an underwhelming MC-MC-18-MC-35-41.

Ewen Ferguson in Ireland.jpg

Although he missed the cut in the Open last time out, the defending champ, Ewen Ferguson, was in fair form before that, finishing fourth in the British Masters and 12th in the Scottish Open. But defending is never easy and I'm happy to swerve him at 20.019/1.

Selections

I was more than happy to back Robert MacIntyre at 16.5 and I've also backed a couple of outsiders for the Find Me a 100 Winner column, which will be published later today, and I've also backed Grant Forrest at a juicy price.

Back Robert MacIntyre @ 16.5

Bet now

Although he missed the cut here last year, Forrest has played Muthaiga twice previously - finishing 38th and 11th - and he really caught the eye there this year when he shot 67-65 over the weekend to move from 50th to just outside the top-10.

Back Grant Forrest @ 55.054/1

Bet now

Forrest was 11th in the Scottish Open last time out so playing a links course in round one or two won't do his chances any harm and I thought 55.054/1 was fair.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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