THE Irish Open moves from Portstewart, County Londonderry, to Ballyliffin on the northern tip of Donegal.
The course is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the best courses in Ireland and at 7200 yards is a true test of golf with stunning scenery. The signature par-five 13th hole is one of the best around.
Jon Rahm is returning to defend his title and if he manages to do that he will be among some illustrious names such as Seve Ballesterosn, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Mark James. There are two courses on its grounds, the Old Links and the Glashedy Links, which the pros will play this week.
As the Irish Open is a qualifying event for The Open those who have not got their invitation yet this is their chance to grab their spot. Also it will be a great chance for those who already have qualified to hone their links game for Carnoustie.
- COURSE: Ballyliffin Golf Club, Donegal: 7200 yards, Par 72.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
One player I fancy quite strongly this week is Spaniard Cabrera Bello. He plays well on links courses and is having a good season with five top 10s from 11 events on the European Tour.
At the moment he is sitting 11th in the Ryder Cup standings and still has a bit to do over to get his place. The Gran Canarian missed the cut here last year but then went on the following week to win the Scottish Open and finished T4 in The Open.
In 2016 he finished T8 in the Irish Open and was T4 the year before. So he has good form on links courses and with his overall form this year I have confidence in this selection.
- Scrambling: 64.6% (9th). Strokes Gained Putting: 0.726 (26th).
Although a three-time winner on the European Tour I’ve always expected a bit more from the 6ft 6in Englishman. He has a good record on links courses, including three top 10s in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (over St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns), a couple of top 10s in the Irish Open and who can forget his brilliant showing in the 138th Open at Turnberry in 2009 when he finished T3.
He also finished T5 the previous year at Royal Birkdale. Hasn’t won since the 2016 BMW PGA Championship, which to be honest I find hard to explain. In fact he probably should have won last week or at least be in a play-off with my selection Alex Noren.
He dropped a shot at the 17th and needed a birdie to tie with Noren but his second shot landed in a bunker and that was that. It does show his game is in relatively good condition and with the next three competitions all on links courses looks a good bet.
- Scrambling: 52.5% (176th). Strokes Gained Putting: 0.617 (40th).
Englishman Sullivan has not a bad links game. In 2015 he finished 6th at this event, the following year he was T6 at the Scottish Open then followed that up with a T12th at The Open. In 2017 he had a T9 at the Scottish following a T20 at the Irish. Since April this year he has had four top 10s from his six tournaments and I expect a win to be not far away.
- Scrambling: 57.5% (79th). Strokes Gained Putting: 0.774 (23rd).