Links-loving Bristol boy can take Irish Open by storm

After last week’s BMW PGA Championship attracted some of the biggest names in golf to Wentworth, the European Tour moves to Ireland with some of its magnetism from that Surrey event seemingly left over.

Over a dozen of the world’s top 50 ranked players will tee it up in Northern Ireland for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, with Rory McIlroy, whose charity sponsors the event, the leading light.

After a disappointing effort at Wentworth, where the world number one missed the cut, McIlroy has been eased in the betting slightly. His odds of 3/1 still sit on the skinny side of backable though, despite expectations that he will bounce back to form.

With the betting dotted with household names from Rickie Fowler at 12/1, Sergio Garcia at 14s and Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell at 33/1 and 50s respectively, there are plenty of high-class entrants to pick a winner from.

Course form isn’t much of a guide in the task though, with Royal County Down GC playing host to the event for the first time since 1939 and holding its first tournament of note since the 2007 Walker Cup.

Despite that, the course’s links-like conditions mean examining other tournament performances could prove profitable and one Englishman in particular catches the eye.

Chris Wood enjoyed a return to something near his best at the BMW last week, finishing in solo fourth after failing to crack the top 25 in any of his previous three starts.

While that return is certainly encouraging, it is his affinity with links golf that really makes the 33/1 shot stand out.

The Bristol boy took like a duck to water in the Open Championship seven years ago, finishing in a tie for fifth in 2008 and claiming the Leading Amateur honours in the process.

Twelve months later he went better again with a share of third place and, after injury disrupted seasons beyond that, returned to better days last season with a T23.

Silver medals in coastal tournaments in both Italy and Spain reinforce the thinking that Wood handles the challenges of links golf superbly and, with both his driving and putting in supreme form at Wentworth, this is one selection that really excites.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.