The first of SOREN HANSEN‘s two Euro Tour titles this century came in the 2002 renewal of this event, albeit not at a links venue. Nevertheless, he showed great promise in the Open that year too, and has looked an improved performer in that sphere lately. I feel the extra emphasis on long game accuracy will be to his favour, and enable the slight improvement he needs on most recent efforts to challenge for the places. As always the concern is his ‘bottle’, but now he’s drifted to 40/1 there could at least be some place value to be taken.
Two that came into consideration for the staking plan were Ross Fisher and Thomas Bjorn. We all know about Bjorn’s history in the Open, and after his best pair of results for a long time, he could be very interesting on a links. As for Fisher, he hasn’t really sparkled in the States, but could be dangerous back in Europe, especially after playing well in both last year’s Open and Dunhill Links.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano must also come into the argument on the basis of his trio of runners-up spots in the last month. Castano is a fine wind exponent, which makes his poor record in Ireland hard to explain.
Other plausible candidates around the 50/1 mark would have to include Maybin, who landed another top-10 last week in Italy. A slight concern is that he missed the cut on a links at Oitavos. Thomas Levet has twice made the frame in an Open, so perhaps the Frenchman isn’t a forlorn hope for a second title in three weeks. Soren Kjeldsen and Peter Hanson have the right skills set for this test, as does 2004 runner-up Raphael Jacquelin, who also made that position in Italy.
Numerous outsiders with good records in bad weather, or on links, are worth consideration, and its from this batch that I draw my final three selections. Firstly those who were left out. Damian Macgrane goes well in bad weather, and could plausibly maximise home support, while fellow Irishmen Paul McGinley and Gary Murphy are based locally and will know Baltray intimately. Stephen Gallacher, a former Dunhill links winner and 11th here in 2004, will also relish any bad weather.