When the going gets tough…
David John previews this week’s Irish Open, and says the Baltray course will suit Paul McGinley among others.
With wind and rain to contend with all four days at the 3 Irish Open, it looks like being survival of the fittest at Co. Louth Golf Club.
Skill and artistry on the course are always a necessity these days but a healthy dollop of grit, determination, resilience and a decent set of waterproofs could count greatly towards who will gets his hands on the trophy come Sunday afternoon.
‘Baltray’, as the venue is affectionately known, is one of Ireland’s premier venues and was used to stage this event five years ago when Aussie Brett Rumford came out on top by four shots.
One of the players in the mix that week was James Kingston, who was two shots off the pace at halfway after successive rounds of 68.
Alas, rounds of 72-74 over the weekend saw him slip down to a tie for 11th place but there are sound reasons to believe he could get in the shake-up.
First up, his overall record in Ireland is sound.
From six starts in the event, he has four top 25s – three of those inside the top 11 – displaying an aptitude for conditions which are very much likely to prevail this week.
Secondly, Kingston has become a winner since then on the European Tour (2008 South African Airways Open) so dispelled the theory that he can’t get across the finishing line.
He should be nice and fresh after a break since China in the middle of last month and I reckon the South African can battle his way into contention at 125/1.
At even bigger odds, Maarten Lafeber has prospects of going well at 225/1.
The Dutchman has endured a couple of moderate years on the European Tour with injury the root cause but the signs in 2009 are that he is going in the right direction once again.
He admitted in Qatar (where he finished T5) that a decent break over the winter has helped no end and it would not be a huge shock to see him end a winless spell stretching back to his sole success in the 2003 Dutch Open.
He arrives on the back of a couple of missed cuts but what appeals is that he is a very good player of links courses (third-round 64 in Portugal last month) while his record in Ireland over the past three years is T5-T45-T3.
It remains to be seen if he can string four rounds together but the signs are promising enough this season to take a chance at very big odds.
Padraig Harrington won this event two years ago at Adare Manor and heads the home contingent and the betting.
2009 has not exactly gone to plan for him so far and the tinkering he has been doing to his swing has had an adverse effect on results.
He has not broken 72 in his last nine competitive rounds and a blustery, wet event is unlikely to give him the chance to find some rhythm once again.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will have a huge following too but I think Paul McGinley can make a splash with conditions to suit.
He was a member of Baltray when an amateur and used to play his winter golf over the course – so four days of grinding it out in nasty weather should not be much of an inconvenience.
T5 here back in 2004, the argument against McGinley as usual is his lack of victories in such a long career but he still pops up once or twice a season with a high finish – his chances look good all things considered up against some of the sexier names in the field.
1pt e.w. Paul McGinley at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 totesport, Betfred) Knows this venue very well and well suited by a tough test.
1pt e.w. James Kingston at 125/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Betfred) Showed form here for two rounds in 2004 and should be raring to go.
1pt e.w. Maarten Lafeber at 225/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Paddy Power) Flashes of form during 2009 and boasts good record in Ireland.
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