24th - 27th September
You want to chew on something depressing? This week was originally nailed down as Padraig Harrington’s attempt to retain the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
Obviously, the world had other plans. Instead, Harrington will be making the much shorter trek from Dublin to Ballymena to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
This event was originally scheduled for May. It now returns to the calendar with considerably reduced prize money (It will not be a Rolex Series event this year). This means that we will not see the likes of defending champ Jon Rahm teeing it up this year.
Galgorm Castle Golf Club will play host its first-ever European Tour event. The rivers Maine and Braid lie close to the course, leaving quite a few watery graves out there for errant shots. Five lakes add to the aquatic danger, which sees water in play on 12 holes. The course will reward accurate approach play and solid scrambling abilities.
2007 champion Padraig Harrington - one of the main attractions in the field - will be making his first appearance since the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Current Open Champion Shane Lowry has braved all the travel permutations to play in his beloved event. Clearly, he will be disappointed that he never got to play in front of fans as the incumbent Open champ. Lowry won this event as an amateur in 2009 and will enter as joint betting favourite (George Coetzee sits alongside him on 9/1). Another South African, Garrick Hugo, will look to make it back-to-back titles after winning in Portugal last week.
Recent winner John Catlin will also look to enhance his reputation this week.
2019: Jon Rahm (-16)
2018: Russell Knox (-14) *playoff
2017: Jon Rahm (-24)
2016: Rory McIlroy (-12)
2015: Soren Kjeldsen (-2) *playoff
Shane Lowry (9/1)
George Coetzee (9/1)
Ryan Fox (20/1)
Wilco Nienaber (22/1)
Connor Syme (25/1)
To Win (60/1)
I fancy the South African to make it a potential hat-trick of Mzansi winners on the European Tour.
This week could be the perfect opportunity for him to add to his one European Tour title.
He ranks 3rd in Driving Distance - which could come in handy on a course that can certainly be overpowered.
The occasionally erratic Burmester had made four consecutive cuts, including a tie for 6th and a tie for 21st.
I think there’s enough in that to suggest he could contest this week.
Joachim B Hansen
To Win (80/1)
Here I’m opting for a slowly improving player.
Hansen won three times in 2018 but has certainly lost his way somewhat in recent times.
But since the restart he seems to have re-established himself. At the UK Championship he finished inside the top 25. He improved on that performance at the notorious Valderrama, finishing in a tie for 17th.
His form seems to be trending in the right direction and I like him as an each way bet.
To Win (40/1)
I think that American John Catlin represents amazing value in this fairly benign field.
He recently tasted success at the hardest course on the European Tour: Valderrama.
This week will clearly not be quite so devastatingly severe. But his ability to withstand multiple charges in that event bodes well this week.
Furthermore, he followed that victory up with another top 10 in Portugal.
Catlin just looks horribly undervalued at 40/1.