With only a couple of weeks until the Open Championship, players will have the chance for some excellent preparation for Royal Portrush at the Irish Open. Paul McGinley hosts this week’s tournament, the second Rolex Series event of the season, which is taking place at Lahinch Golf Club.

The 7,036 yard par 70 will offer a test for the field, although the breeze is not expected to be too strong in County Clare. Links specialists are preferred this week with players comfortable in the wind expected to fare best in Ireland. McGinley has set Lahinch up to be as close as possible to the set-up at Royal Portrush, so this week could provide some significant clues ahead of the Open.


Rahm ready for more Irish success

Jon Rahm is a worthy favourite and the Spaniard could be set for more glory in Ireland this week. Rahm absolutely loves playing in the country and his record speaks for itself. In his first full year on tour, Rahm shot 24-under-par to obliterate the field and win the 2017 Irish Open by six shots. He produced a strong title defence, recovering from a slow start to finish in a tie for fourth.

Rahm comes in this week with his game in excellent shape and the confident 24-year-old has a big chance at Lahinch. A tie for third at Pebble Beach in the US Open was another impressive major performance and he followed this up with joint second at Valderrama, a tight course which does not play to his strengths. The world number 11 is the outstanding player in this tournament and should threaten a second Irish Open title at 8/1.

Danny Willett is another player trending in the right direction and fancied to feature on the leaderboard this weekend. After several years in the wilderness, following his Masters triumph in 2016, Willett is heading back towards the upper echelons of the sport. He ended last season with a superb win at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and is starting to peak this summer.

Willett has based himself in America this year and the 31-year-old finished eighth in the Canadian Open last month before a tie for 12th at the US Open. The six-time European Tour champion has an encouraging record in the Irish Open, finishing third at Fota Island in 2014 as well as sixth last year and in 2015. Willett brings momentum from across the Atlantic and should contend on the links at 25/1 each way.

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Danny Willett of England smiles on the 13th hole during the third round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 15, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)


Olesen could be on course for big summer

Thorbjorn Olesen has had a quiet season by his standards but the talented Dane could be poised to hit top gear over the next few weeks. Olesen was seventh at the Dubai Desert Classic but has lacked a spark until his closing round of 65 in Germany last month. This gave him a share of tenth at the BMW International Open and is the confidence booster he needed heading into a big run of events.

Olesen is a five-time European Tour winner and his victory at the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship highlights his suitability to this type of challenge. The 29-year-old was sixth last year in the Irish Open – at Ballyliffin, another links course. He was also tenth at the K Club in 2016 and there is no doubt he is comfortable playing in these conditions. Olesen is a potent closer, his last title coming in a Rolex Series event at the Italian Open, who is worth backing this week at 35/1 each way.

Eddie Pepperell is another links specialist capable of challenging for the Irish Open this weekend. The Englishman landed his maiden European Tour title last season at the Qatar Masters – a tournament which is frequently won by proven wind performers. Pepperell added another notable victory last year at the British Masters after success at Walton Heath.

BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - MAY 14: Eddie Pepperell of England plays a shot on the second tee during a practice round prior to the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 14, 2019 in Bethpage, New York. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Pepperell secured his best finish on the PGA Tour with third place at the Players Championship in March. The 28-year-old also produced a strong title defence at the British Masters, with a tie for second in May and comes in well rested after six weeks off with a back injury. Pepperell, who finished sixth at the Open in Carnoustie last year, should not be discounted despite his recent layoff and deserves support at 40/1.

Robert MacIntyre has enjoyed an impressive first season on the European Tour and could be on course for another big week in Ireland. The 22-year-old looked at home on the links at the British Masters after finishing in a tie for second place at Hillside in May. He backed this up immediately with another runner-up spot at the Made in Denmark.

MacIntyre is extremely comfortable playing this type of golf and also has form in the country, finishing fourth at the Irish Challenge back in October. The Scot refused to back off during his performances in England and Denmark, which bodes well as he looks for a breakthrough title. A links course should give him his best chance of success and MacIntyre can continue his rapid rise with another bold showing in Ireland at 66/1 each way.


Jon Rahm Each Way

Danny Willett Each Way

Thorbjorn Olesen Each Way

Eddie Pepperell Each Way

Robert MacIntyre Each Way

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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