Padraig Harrington’s thrilling first victory since joining the over-50s, in the US Senior Open no less, staving off his arch-rival Steve Stricker and gaining a measure of revenge for the hammering captain Stricker’s team inflicted on Pod’s in the last Ryder Cup, leads us nicely into this week’s Irish Open at Mount Juliet.
The Dubliner will be there trying to regain the title he won in Adare Manor back in 2007 when he was the first home champion since John O’Leary a quarter of a century earlier and has a far better chance than the odds of 110/1 (now 80/1) suggest in a field lacking McIlroy – such a pity Rory couldn’t fit his national Open in but he has played four weeks in a row and looked tired when wasting a brilliant start at the Travelers.
Don’t fret about Pod being exhausted, though, after his efforts at Saucon Valley – his first victory since 2016, and in a senior Major to add to his hat-trick on the main tours. Winning often counteracts fatigue and he looks super-fit – but there are a few younger legs, not least compatriots Shane Lowry and late bloomer Seamus Power, barring his path.
With added power from his new speed-swing exercises, similar to what Matt Fitzpatrick adopted to get the extra 20 yards so crucial to the Sheffield star’s Major breakthrough, Harrington looked different gravy to all bar Stricker in California – and don’t forget it was only last year that he shared fourth place with Lowry in a “real” Major, the PGA Championship.
If he can conquer a tough track like Saucon Valley, set up to USGA Major specifications, Mount Juliet, the 7264-yard par 71 where Australia’s Lucas Herbert putted like a demon to rack up a 19-under winning score last year, should hold no terrors for him.
Mention of Fitzpatrick leads the conversation to his kid brother Alex’s appearance among the entries. The 23-year-old college star was one of six top amateurs approached by the LIV crowd to join their circus but big brother was watching and talked him out of it by all accounts.
Alex caddied for Matt when he won the 2013 US Amateur and has similar short-game skills. He missed the cut at the Valspar when given his first chance against the big boys but 71-72 was no disgrace and it won’t have escaped his notice that Lowry won the Irish Open in 2009 at Co. Louth while still an amateur. Alex isn’t but the scenario is much the same and he’s a similar price, 500/1.
Herbert went on from winning this to break through on the PGA Tour in October, not a great tournament in Bermuda and he’s been patchy since. 2022 highlights have been seventh at Bay Hill and 13th at the PGA. A Mount Juliet repeat isn’t out of the question but he did miss the cut by a long way last time out at the US Open.
Class act Lowry has been super-consistent in the US but often lets himself down on Sundays. It is dangerous to rule out a man whose first tour win came in this tournament and his one most important one too, the 2019 Open at wild Royal Portrush but that was big Shane’s last victory and punters have to ask themselves whether to take single-figure odds about a golfer who wins so infrequently.
Because the big names withdrew from Ireland’s squad for the 2016 Olympics due to the Zika virus threat, Power, then barely known outside Korn Ferry Tour circles, represented Ireland by default in Rio and surprised many by finishing a decent 15th.
That was shown to be no flash in the pan, this 35-year-old from Waterford winning the Barbasol last year and regularly contending against the world’s best. His ninth at the PGA and 12th at the US Open were big hints to Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson that Power is a big-occasion player he will want in his squad for Rome next year.
The Las Vegas resident has joined the DP World Tour in order to qualify for the Italian job and will be trying his butt off in the Irish and Scottish Opens as well as St Andrews. A birdie machine when he’s on song, he’s well worth an each-way interest against expensive-to-follow rivals like Tyrrell Hatton, Robert MacIntyre, Jordan Smith and Rasmus Hojgaard who keep failing to deliver.
Thomas Pieters may need time to get over the shock of Haotong Li’s 45ft birdie winner in Munich just as the Belgian ace was thinking he had his own ten-footer for victory but is obviously in form and it was good to see Sami Valimaki, Rookie of the Year a couple of years back after winning in Oman on his sixth pro start, rediscovering his dash when finishing fourth at the BMW. The Finn is an exciting bet at 150/1 if that was no fluke.
Other outsiders to note: Guido Migliozzi who followed tenth in the Dutch with 14th at the US Open and Antoine Rozner, looking more like the man who won two good tournaments in past years when 15th in Germany at the weekend.
Pablo Larrazabal, already a dual winner this campaign, turned in another good shift when right behind Valimaki on Sunday and Aaron Rai, a double winner in Europe before going off to make his mark in the States, played nicely for three days at TPC River Highlands. He deserved better than the 40th place he slipped to on Sunday and can make a bigger mark here.
But wouldn’t an Irish 1-2-3 be nice?
Irish Open Golf Betting Tips 2022
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