The devil's in the detail
David John previews the Irish Open at Carton House and makes home hope Damien McGrane his headline selection.
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It has been seven years since the magnificent Carton House estate was last used to stage the Irish Open and with winning totals of -9 and -5 in 2005 and 2006, the Colin Montgomerie-designed layout looks set to ask some stern questions.
The weather is forecast to be a bit more amenable this week on a course that is described as an "inland links" and inspired by some traditional, great venues like Troon, Turnberry and Royal Melbourne.
As you would perhaps expect from Monty, driving with accuracy is a key requirement around here while some cavernous bunkers are strategically placed to catch out the errant.
"The best players will come to the top," was the most notable sound bite from the Scot so in theory, the winner should be relatively easy to find!
Four of the top five in the betting are from the home team with Shane Lowry doing little to play down expectations by saying in a newspaper interview that it was vital for an Irish player to contend this weekend.
And with Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Lowry all teeing it up, there is enough to star quality on offer from just that quartet to expect the galleries to have something to cheer come Sunday.
To summarise though, McIlroy and McDowell hardly have compelling recent cases in terms of form to recommend them at the prices while Harrington's closing 72-80 at last week's Travelers Championship, having got himself right into contention, may take some getting over for a player who has a habit of analysing every little detail in his game.
Past winner Lowry could be the best option but his odds truly reflect that. A closing 65 in Germany last week plus the fact he is attached to the Carton House club gives him a racy profile that looks too good to be true.
So perhaps one of the lesser lights from Ireland can make an impact with the experienced and consistent Damien McGrane rather flying under the radar at 150/1.
The Co. Meath native has been a regular fixture on the European Tour for a decade now but still has just the one title to his name after running away with the Volvo China Open in 2008.
But he has managed to produce his best efforts of 2013 on his last two outings in Austria and Sweden with a couple of T14s while he also managed to win a pro-am with former Ryder Cupper Philip Walton in the run-up to this event.
"Hoping to continue and build on a recent run of form and with the backing of a local crowd who knows what's possible!" he said on his website which suggests to me he is primed to rise to the occasion.
I am going to put up Ross Fisher again as the 25/1 with Paddy Power does include a sixth place on the each-way terms.
I thought for a moment last week at the BMW International Open he was going to sneak into the frame but bogeys on 14 and 15 in his final round set him back and he eventually he finished just inside the top 20.
Nonetheless, it continued his good overall spell of form back in Europe and I see no obvious reason why he won't go well once more as his game is suited to this course design with its hints of Turnberry, where he played so well for a long period in the Open Championship back in 2009.
He is a past champion in Ireland and I can see him bouncing back from narrowly missing out on Open qualification at Sunningdale on Monday when beaten in a play-off for the final spot.
Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen has been threatening to deliver a really big performance and this could be about to happen on the back of compatriot Joost Luiten's recent success in Austria.
Derksen's best effort this season was a T4 in China behind Brett Rumford at the start of May but hinted he was coming back to the boil again with a T10 last week in Munich.
His strike rate certainly leaves something to be desired on the European Tour and he has not managed to get over the winning line since way back in 2005 in Madeira.
But I have no doubt that Luiten's exploits will have helped to focus his efforts while he admitted he was going sidestep Open qualifying to concentrate fully on here, France and Scotland in the coming weeks.
Derksen has felt that it has been silly errors that have held him back and after last week's closing 69 he said: "If I get completely rid of them, I might be in for a nice three weeks."
If that is the case, he can start the above run of tournaments in good shape at 150/1.