Hoover up the Dyson value

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: June 26 2012, 11:52 BST

Simon Dyson with the Irish Open trophy


1.25pts e.w. Simon Dyson at 35/1 (Blue Square, 888sport 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1.25pts e.w. Branden Grace at 35/1 (Paddy Power, bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Chris Wood at 40/1 (Ladbrokes, sportingbet 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6).

1pt e.w. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at 45/1 (sportingbet 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6).

0.5pt e.w. Stephen Gallacher at 100/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6).

Royal Portrush Golf Club plays host to the Irish Open this week and offers an opportunity for home fans to welcome back their heroes.

Major winners Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke get their first real chance to play a home game on Tour as the event moves north of the border for the first time since its inception, and ticket sales have gone through the roof as a consequence.

Understandably, two of the above three head the betting, but McIlroy is a 7/1 favourite we can certainly look to get beat as he looks to come out of the biggest slump he's endured since lifting the US Open title just over a year ago.

McDowell, however, very nearly made it two US Opens in three years at Olympic Club and unlike McIlroy is perfectly suited to the challenge that this course presents.

McIlroy of course shot 61 here as a 16-year-old, but I wouldn't read too much into that especially as he's gone on record as saying that, now at least, his game is much better suited to tree-lined courses shielded from the wind.

As an honorary member, look for McDowell to make a big title challenge this week, but our advice is again to leave him out of the staking plan at 10/1. After all, it's approaching two years since he last won and he's yet to finish inside the top 10 in this event, which has to rate a real concern.

Padraig Harrington's record in the event is significantly better, and the 2007 champion is the one I really fear towards the head of the betting.

As a dual Open Championship winner there's no denying his ability to flourish on any Links layout, he's started to find real consistency of late and has an abundance of winning form in Ireland, albeit most of that is in the low-key Irish PGA Championship.

But just like McDowell he's found winning tricky of late and I couldn't bring myself to back him at 12/1, so pride of place at the top of the staking plan goes to Simon Dyson.

The defending champion might've been forgiven for hoping this event would stay put but I reckon he's perfectly suited to a track like Royal Portrush, a typical Links set-up that offers no great advantage to those who stripe it off the tee.

Instead we're looking for players effective in the wind, with excellent short games, who can cope with the tough par fours that offer this course's greatest defence, and Dyson is just the man.

First of all, let's look at where he's won: three KLM Opens, an Irish Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship make up five of his six European Tour titles, and all of them require an ability to cope with gusts of wind.

Those three KLM Opens, which encompass two courses, demonstrate that as well as being a player who can develop a strong liking for a particular course, Dyson is one who can develop an affinity for a tournament too, wherever it goes.

That's particularly encouraging ahead of this week's event, Dyson having been so impressive in reeling in Richard Green to win the 2011 Irish Open at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.

I also like the fact that, unlike some, Dyson has shown an ability to go close when defending titles. His first ever victory came in the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open and he returned a year later to share 11th, while his defence of the Alfred Dunhill resulted in a fifth-placed finish.

The Yorkshireman has put together a solid season so far, missing the cut just once in the Masters when he'd just become a father, and was in front with 18 holes to go at the wind-swept Open de Espana before falling to 12th after a disappointing final round.

Last week's share of 12th in the BMW International Open continued his solid form and I fancy Dyson to take to this Harry Colt-designed track and go close to landing yet another European Tour title.

That mention of the course designer leads me nicely to Branden Grace, who I have to have on-side at 35/1.

The South African is enjoying an incredible season on the European Tour with three wins in his last 12 strokeplay starts, and those who still doubted whether he can really mix it with the big boys must've been impressed with his fifth-placed finish in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, perhaps Colt's most famous masterpiece.

Further evidence of how comfortable he now is playing alongside the best came in the US Open, when Grace got to three-under through nine holes of his first round and eventually finished in a respectable share of 51st, alongside Dyson.

Despite being among the longest hitters on Tour, Grace has shown an abundance of form on courses that don't require him to unleash the driver, including a pair of 67s in the Trophee Hassan II and a pair of 69s at Wentworth.

His Volvo China Open victory came on an inland Links, as did his win in the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt, but perhaps the biggest pointer towards his ability in the forecast conditions can be found on the 2009 Open Championship leaderboard, when Grace sat in a share of 10th after the first round.

The 24-year-old went on to finish just outside the top 40 at Turnberry and having made five of his seven birdies at the US Open on par fours, I expect him to challenge by taking care of those and demolishing this course's short par fives too.

Last week saw Danny Willett and Marc Leishman finally deliver on their undoubted promise, so in a season of first-timers I see no reason why Chris Wood shouldn't add his name to the list.

The Bristolian will have been disappointed to finish third in last week's BMW International Open having held every chance during the final round, until a double-bogey on the 14th effectively cost him the title.

However, it was impressive to see him birdie both 15 and 16 to undo that damage to an extent, and he made an excellent putt for par on the last hole. Wood insists he hadn't looked at the leaderboard and thought that putt might sneak him a play-off, so it's encouraging that he was able to make it.

Hopefully, that will provide a springboard for him to go a couple of places better this week, and we know he has the game to do it.

Wood finished fifth in the Open Championship as an amateur back in 2008, then he tied for third a year later to further demonstrate that this sort of test is exactly what he wants.

He has put together finishes of 10th and third in just three starts in this event too and closed with a stunning 64 to chase home Thorbjorn Olesen in the Sicilian Open earlier this season, an event also played on a Links layout.

Wood has made his last six cuts and hasn't finished outside the top 25 in any of his last three starts. He's also hitting more greens that ever before and at 40/1 makes plenty of appeal with conditions absolutely ideal.

Next on the list is Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, one of the hottest golfers on the European Tour right now.

The Spaniard, seemingly back to full health, has finished second and third in his last two regular starts, either side of a forgiveable missed cut in the US Open.

Nobody towards the top of the leaderboard played the last three rounds better in last week's BMW International Open, when he shared third alongside Wood, and that can provide the platform for another strong challenge as he bids to further cement his spot inside the Ryder Cup qualification list.

Fernandez-Castano is an expert in the wind, as we saw when he finished second to Thongchai Jaidee in the ISPS Handa Wales Open and when he won the KLM Open back in 2005.

If we take his last 15 starts, he's got a win, two seconds, a third and four further top 20s, and as a player who has reproduced his best form in certain events I'm hopeful that he can build on his third-placed finish in this event back in 2010.

Having won in England, gone close in Scotland and Wales, the British Isles have been kind to him before and Fernandez-Castano looks overpriced at 45/1.

Last spot on the list was almost a toss-up between Robert Rock and Stephen Gallacher but although the former is respected, the Scot gets the nod.

One of the best ball-strikers on Tour, Gallacher is more able than most to control his ball-flight to suit the conditions which makes this sort of test ideal.

He confirmed as much in an interview with The Scotsman recently, when he said that playing in the wind doesn't faze him, and having missed out on Monday's Open Qualifier play-off by just a shot his game is clearly in fine shape.

Indeed, he opened with a round of 67 to sit 10th after day one in Germany last week before falling to 33rd, and the stats show that he has total control of his ball. Gallacher ranked 10th for driving accuracy, seventh for distance and fifth for greens hit, so a good week with the putter will see him once again go close.

He's done so twice this season already with a brace of runner-up finishes, was third in this event last year and won the Dunhill Links back in 2004, so at 100/1 he looks a solid each-way investment.