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Big Jon Rahm's the man to beat


You might be a little surprised that big Jon Rahm, the defending champion and, at No 5, the World's highest-ranked golfer in the field, is not the British bookmaker's favourite to win this week's Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open which is being played for the first time at Ballyliffin Golf Club.

It's only by a whisker, sure. On Tuesday the 7/1 odds on him winning were only marginally bettered by the 13/2 of Tournament host and World No 8 Rory McIlroy.

But in truth, outside of being the sentimental favourite, McIlroy doesn't seem to have enough going for him right now to be up there with Rahm.

The 27-year-old Ulsterman, whose duties this week are likely to consist of doing a lot more than merely teeing-off and setting his sights on winning, has won the Irish Open once, yes, this by three shots two years ago at the K-Club, but in the last five years he has also missed the cut in it four times which puts something of a question mark against him.

Rahm, on the other hand, can claim one win in just one start in Ireland. And what a start that was.

The burly 23-year-old Spaniard from the Basque country took Portstewart apart, posting a record 24-under and winning by all of six shots.

His recent record is also a lot better than McIlroy's for while the 27-year-old Northern Irishman can claim to have only won once since September 2016, this in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, Rahm, during the same period, has won twice in the US - the Farmers Insurance Open (Jan 2017) and the CareerBuillders Challenge (Jan 2018) - and three times on the European Tour - The Irish Open (Jul 2017), the DP World Championship (Nov 2017) and the Open de Espana in April this year.

It might also matter that he'll come into the Irish Open for the second of the European Tour's three consecutive big-buck, mid-season Rolex Series events that started with last week's Open De France and will end with next's week's Scottish Open with both form and the some good memories of his strong performance in the Open de France - his only other and most recent performance in a European Tour event.

The only difference between him finishing 5th at Le Golf National and making the play-off was a watery 18th hole bogey instead of a birdie.

Yet, in a strong field missing only a handful of Europe's elite, it's unlikely to be enough if Rahm and McIlroy don't bring their 'A' games to Ballyliffen.

This not so much because this seaside links can be wild and savage, but more so because with a million-euro first prize and high Ryder Cup points at stake, the many other quality players in the field are going to be teeing off on Thursday with plenty of focus and a lot of ambition.

Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello is one of them, Americans Peter Uihlein and Julian Suri are two more.

And what about and England's Lee Westwood, Chris Wood, and Matthew Fitzpatrick or Ireland's Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne?

Ballyliffin in County Donegal, Ireland, has been used only once before on the European Tour, this for the 2002 North West of Ireland Open when only five players broke par after battling howling winds of 40 mph on day one and then seeing play suspended for a spell by vicious gusts on day three.

Described by McIlroy as "pure links and beautiful" but also as "one of the toughest Links courses in the World", Ballyliffin's Glashedy Links (as opposed to its second course, The Old Links) is a 7,462-yard par 72 course with just three par 3s and three par 5s.

And to those who know it best, it can revert from being one of the games most unforgiving into something of a sitting duck for the professionals when the wind doesn't blow.

The weather in this part of Ireland can be unpredictable, but if's forecast is as right as it so often is, it's hardly going to blow at all this week.

From a maxim of 10mph on Thursday, this light northerly breeze is expected to drop even lower to around 4mph at the weekend when Glashedy Links which wends its way up, around and over a series of sand dunes, is expected to be bathed in bright sunshine.

And because this takes away the element of luck which so often becomes a factor when good and bad start times depend on the vagaries of the weather, the hands of the most competitive players like Rahm are considerably strengthened.

This, of course, doesn't preclude the possibility of a 'sleeper' like the talented but currently-invisible Thomas Pieters of Belgium from suddenly rediscovering himself - and he will need to do just that pretty soon if he wants to have a chance of once again starring in this year's Ryder Cup as he did in the last one two years ago.

A final point. With the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie following only seven days after next week's Scottish Open. you can expect the standard of tuning by most of the bigger guns to have reached a fairly lofty level, which further seems to preclude the chances of a complete outsider stunning the golfing world at Ballyliffen

(Tuesday a.m. July 3, 2018)

Rory McIlroy 13/2
Jon Rahm 7/1
Rafael Cabrera Bello 20/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick 20/1
Andy Sullivan 22/1
Shane Lowry 30/1
Russell Knox 30/1
Thorbjorn Olesen 28/1
Paul Dunne 33/1
Chris Wood 35/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 40/1
Thomas Pieters 33/1
Peter Uihlein 40/1
Hao-Tong Li 35/1
Julian Suri 40/1
Graeme McDowell 50/1
Matt Wallace 50/1
Alexander Bjork 35/1
Adrian Otaegui 55/1
Jorge Campillo 55/1
Lee Westwood 55/1.

NOTE: For all the odds, go to

Visit BetWay for other bet results.  

Neville Leck

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