Although the Irish Open switches venue every year, there are strong correlations between the conditions and form. Wind and rain have been more of a frequent factor in this event than any other on the European Tour schedule, and the forecast suggests more of the same this week. We may escape with a few showers, but strong winds are predicted for at least part of every day.
 
The results haven’t always been predictable, though. Shane Lowry’s victory as a 1000/1 amateur last year was one of the all-time great golfing shocks, and Richard Finch was hardly easy to find in 2008. Nevertheless, this tournament has produced four world-class champions this century, and there is no shortage of such candidates this time around. In addition to bang-in-form PGA Tour winner Justin Rose, this line-up includes all of the Irish golden generation, representing the strongest ever home challenge.
 
Course and key stats
 
Killarney Golf and Fishing Club last hosted an Irish Open in 1992, but was used on the Challenge Tour in 2005 and 2006. Though the layout is tree-lined, with water a threat on most holes, the course may be more forgiving than usual with the rough withered after a dry summer. Scoring rather depends on the strength of the wind. In calm conditions, very low scores look possible, so the draw could be pivotal. Unfortunately, identifying who that draw will most likely favour is far from straightforward.
 
Given the penalties, and emphasis on high-class iron play, greens in regulation could be the most important statistic. As usual in this event, the best clue could lie in studying previous form in this event, and others where strong wind was a factor.
 
Betting selections
 
3pts ew PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 18/1 (VCBET, CORAL, 20/1 SPORTINGBET)
 
Padraig always claims this event is his season’s leading priority outside the majors, and the return to home soil could provide the spark required to deliver a first title in nearly two years. Naturally, there is a question mark after a strangely awful Open performance, but previous top-ten finishes against world-class opposition at River Highlands, Wentworth, Quail Hollow, Copperhead and Doral still read well enough. Harrington’s record in windy Irish Opens, (and British Opens for that matter), is markedly superior to all his main rivals.
 
1pt ew ALEJANDRO CANIZARES @ 50/1 (GENERAL, 55/1 TOTE)
 
Canizares remains prominent in the minds of many punters as a winner-in-waiting, as very few players have been more consistent this season. He’s already gone close three times, twice losing play-offs, and a result of 27th in the Open disguises the fact that he was in contention for three days. The fact Canizares coped so well with very strong winds at St Andrews must bode well for this week’s test.
 
1pt ew BRADLEY DREDGE @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
 
While he is a player I’m normally loathe to support with cash, having seen him bottle several winning chances over the years, everything does appear in place for a big run. Dredge loves this event, making the top-ten in three of the last four renewals. Recent form is also pretty solid, registering four top-25s from five events prior to a respectable Open performance. Critically, Dredge’s average scores in windy conditions are superior to almost anyone in this line-up, including most of the favourites.
 
1pt ew JAMIE DONALDSON @ 70/1 (GENERAL, 80/1 BETFRED)
 
Another Welshman with good form in bad weather, Donaldson remains overdue for his first European Tour success. Numerous opportunities have been missed over the past twelve months, often due to temperament, but so long as keeps knocking on the door he’s worth persevering with at these type of big odds. Following a fine spell with five top-tens from six during April and May, Jamie went off the boil for a few weeks, so it was encouraging to see him finish strongly in Sweden to finish eighth.
 
1pt ew GRAEME STORM @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
 
Amongst this field, only the vastly shorter-priced Francesco Molinari has hit more greens in regulation over the past eight weeks than Storm. He’s yet to turn that into a serious challenging effort, though top-12s at Paris and Loch Lomond were competitive, and I suspect its only a matter of time before he claims at least a place payout. The worse the weather, the better for Storm, who usually saves his best golf for wet and windy conditions.
 
0.5pt ew BRETT RUMFORD @ 100/1 (GENERAL)
 
Despite being the biggest price of my picks, Rumford was the most obvious given the odds, likely conditions and a good show over the weekend. Brett has always been a fine wind player, as illustrated when winning this title at County Louth back in 2004. Without ever likely to be the most consistent performer, his career returns of three European Tour titles shows he is worth keeping an eye on when given ideal conditions. Sunday’s fourth was the third time he’s challenged seriously in 2010, which is better than most players of a similar profile.