Niall Lyons picks out three first round tips for the Irish Open 2022.
Irish Open First Round Leader
The Irish Open heads to Mount Juliet for the second year running and this will be the third year on the trot that the event has been held on a parkland course. That slightly damages the field as this should definitely be part of a links trilogy given what Ireland has to offer in terms of an Open preparation. Instead the heavyweights will make the trip to Scotland next week and that promises to be an interesting affair.
For now we have the Jack Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet and with no outright bets being had this week I'm concentrating on a few to go well early doors. What is most notable looking back at recent Irish Opens is that five of the last six winners were all coming to Ireland after recent PGA Tour outings.
McIlroy, Rahm (twice), Knox and Herbert all landed their Irish Open titles having recently played in much stronger events in the States. There are a handful coming from across the water that heads the market but I'm prepared to take the chance on a few bigger-priced runners going well enough to take the early lead.
Aaron Rai at 40/1 (Six Places)
Aaron Rai looks the most interesting of the bunch coming off a run of solid events. 26th at the Memorial (Jack Nicklaus design), 13th in Canada then 40th last week in the Travelers is a host of form in much stronger events that would be more than good enough to compete here over the space of four days. Earlier in the year he even showed what he could do on a brute of a golf course at Torrey Pines when finishing 6th at the Farmers.
The Englishman's game is still underrated and I expect to see him taste success in America on the right tracks. Jaunts back to Europe remain a huge opportunity and having won the Scottish a few years ago and finished 2nd at Galgorm in the 2020 Irish Open he should find these tasks much easier than they once were.
He leads at the Galgorm after round 1 and has five top 10s in his last 12 round 1 starts. I was tempted to back him outright but given his playoff defeat in the Open qualifying on Tuesday, he may struggle to keep going all week after making the trip from the Travelers. He could have fire in his belly after not qualifying at Fairmount and looks a decent round one prospect.
0.75pt each-way A.Rai 40/1 (1/5 6)
Marcus Armitage at 80/1 (Six Places)
Marcus Armitage tasted success earlier in the week when winning the Open qualifying with an -8 under par total for two rounds at St Anne's Old Links. After a few weeks off where he enlisted the help of short game coach James Ridyard things may be looking up for the Englishman who has only missed two of 12 cuts this year.
His short game has always been a problem in his career and his lessons at the Belfry last week may just have made the difference. He beat a decent when winning the Porsche last year and a continuation of the positive vibes from Tuesday can not be ruled out.
0.75pt each-way M.Armitage 80/1 (1/5 6)
Ryan Fox to win Three Ball
Ryan Fox to win Three-Ball
I'll also have a few quid on Ryan Fox to win this three-ball on Thursday morning against Adri Arnaus and Thomas Detry. The New Zealander has been flying of late finishing 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in his last three DPWT outings. His approach game deteriorated slightly last week in Germany compared to how he has been performing, but his short game more than made up for it and he went close once again despite some setbacks during the week.
He won up the road in Galgorm on the Challenge Tour a number of years ago but has since elevated his game and a second victory in 2022 looks on the cards at some stage. The next few weeks hold a huge opportunity for him and he'll no doubt be a dark horse in the Open in a few weeks time. For now, I expect his good form to continue and get the better of his two opponents.
1pt R.Fox to win three ball 6/4