2016 Irish Open Golf Preview from The K Club

Frazzled takes a look at the Irish Open Golf from the K Club and he is backing Rafa Cabrera Bello and Thomas Pieters. More bets may be added.

Event:

The resurgence of the Irish Open since being associated with The Rory Foundation continues in 2016 when the event will be hosted at the 2006 Ryder Cup venue, which is the Palmer Course at The K Club. It is hard to believe that a couple of years ago, the event was struggling to find a place on the schedule, struggling for a sponsor and the venues were also uncertain. This has all changed now and the field this week is just about as strong as there will be in Europe in 2016, outside of The Open Championship, especially with names like Rory missing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next week.

The Palmer course has previously staged the European Open from 1995-2003 and 2005 and it was also the famous venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup when the visitors got a battering on and off the course; the United States were beaten 18.5-9.5 by the Europeans and the tourists had their wallets emptied with the prices that were being charged for accommodation anywhere that could be deemed close to the event.

There are a number of previous winners of the European Open in the field, most notably Lee Westwood who won the event in 1999 & 2000 and also Darren Clarke, who won the event in 2001 and who was also the face of the 2006 Ryder Cup and very nearly ran off with the trophy later that year in a memorable SPOTY contest only to be pipped by Zara Philips.

The course is said to have changed quite a bit since the 2006 Ryder Cup, which is no surprise as the trees will be mature at this stage and this parkland course should be seen in all its splendour in its 25th year. It is set to measure 7,35o yards and will play to a Par 72. The fairways are still said to be quite generous, although there is water in play on 15 holes. The rough has been described as not that penal and with the course looking very soft on the Wednesday practice, it will really come down to whether the wind blows, to provide a defence to a venue that looks set to yield plenty of birdies otherwise.

The greens are poa annua, which might well provide a challenge to these players, as they are generally bumpier and a little bit more difficult to read and Fota Island might act as a guide, given that the greens there were a cross between bentgrass and poa annua. They are set to run to 11.5 on the stimpmeter which is reasonable without being unduly quick. Given that the Irish Open has been played on different courses for the last number of years and they have varied between links and parkland venues such as Killarney and Fota Island, it may not be worth placing too much emphasis on previous form. However form in Ireland is still worth considering and form at some of these Parkland courses might be worth looking at closely, although with the K Clib measuring over 200 yards longer than Killarney and 300 yards longer than Fota Island, there will be a greater premium on length in soft conditions and the likes of Graeme McDowell (6th at Fota and may have won if he holed any putts) and Simon Dyson (winner in 2011 at Killarney) may not feature, or that type of accurate shorter hitter might not feature this week.

This looks like a venue where power off the tee could be important, although from a study of previous renewals of the European Open, finding GIR will be key. Unless the wind really blows, we could see a winning score of around the -18 mark being required this week as this is a course that could be there for the taking.

Rafa Cabrera Bello:

Rafa Cabrera Bello missed the cut last week at The Players Championship, but that could be a blessing as it meant that he missed out on a gruelling weekend and he should have dealt with any jet lag issues and freshened up since. Up until that event, he was having an outstanding season with runner up finishes in the Qatar Masters and the Desert Classic and a 3rd place finish in the WGC World Matchplay. He has also been 4th in the Houston Open, 11th in the WGC Cadillac Championship, 14th in Abu Dhabi and an excellent 17th in The Masters.

Cabrera Bello is also a player that has continually played well in the Irish Open and this has been on a variety of courses. He was 2nd to Jamie Donaldson at Royal Portrush in 2012, 5th to Paul Casey at Carton House in 2013 and he was 4th last year to Soren Kjeldsen in very difficult conditions at Royal County Down. He is playing at a consistently higher level this year and his tee to green game has been very solid and he remains one of the best iron players on the Tour. The course will be long enough for him and there is always a concern about how he closes out an event in the heat of battle, but it is hard to see him not contending this week and he looks good value at 33/1 with Paddy Power with 7 places being paid each way.

Thomas Pieters:

Thomas Pieters has no form to speak of in this event with placing of 36th and a missed cut from two appearances. However he is improving fast and this soft course with generous fairways should be ideal for him. He has cooled off a little since he put in some excellent displays at the start of the season, when he was edged out by Rickie Fowler in Abu Dhabi and was 3rd in the True Thailand Classic, but his price has started to drift out in events as a result and 55/1 with Paddy Power, with 7 places being paid each way is worth a dabble.

It was in mid/late summer last year that he produced his best golf with wins in the KLM Open and the Real Czech Masters and he is coming here fresh after taking a break since a steady display in the Open De Espana and missing the long trips to the Far East and to Africa over the past fortnight. He has used some of this free time to prep for The Open Championship at Royal Troon, but he should be very much ready to fire this week and should be eager to put in some big displays now that the European Tour is close to home. He is 12th in Driving Distance this year and his GIR stat of 84th is a big improvement on last year. With the softer conditions made for him and wind not likely to pose any problems, he looks worth backing this week.

Advised Bets:

1.5 points each way Rafa Cabrera Bello at 33/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds - 7 places)

1 point each way Thomas Pieters at 55/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds - 7 places)

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