Reigning Open champion Shane Lowry is the star name at this week’s Irish Open, which is being played at Galgorm Castle – only 40 minutes or so from where he won the famous Claret Jug last year.

Here is our look ahead to the tournament on the European Tour.

Return to Galgorm likely to suit Lagergren

As mentioned, Lowry returns to Irish soil for the first time since that incredible afternoon at Royal Portrush last year. The 33-year-old heads the betting for this week’s Irish Open at 7/1 and on his best form he’s very much the man to beat, but he’s been out of sorts for the most part recently and he looks short enough based on that.

The Challenge Tour has staged an event at Galgorm Castle every year since 2013 and that might be a good barometer for success this week. JOAKIM LAGERGREN won his only Challenge Tour title on this course in 2014 and he could remain unbeaten by taking the Irish Open title in 2020 at 33/1. That one-shot victory helped stabilise a career that was struggling to take off and the Swede is now a European Tour winner having won the 2018 Sicilian Open, so he knows how to get it done when in contention.

The 28-year-old didn’t play much during the European Tour’s UK Swing, but he played nicely at Valderrama where he finished 24th. That was a more than respectable effort given that that Spanish layout isn’t one you’d expect to suit his game. He has known to be slightly wild off the tee in the past, but sixth in driving accuracy there and then 11th at the Portugal Masters showed he might have unlocked the secret with the driver. Galgorm Castle is a fairly tight test, meaning accuracy off the tee will be a big asset, so Lagergren will be confident of contending again, particularly after a closing 65 in Portugal.

Harding pick of the others

Of the other players in contention, JUSTIN HARDING might be worth a second look at 35/1. The South African missed the cut at the US Open, but finished in a tie for fourth at Valderrama and was third at the British Masters. Those two performances show the game is bubbling under the surface and looking through his stats, it’s clear that the putter is what’s letting him down.

Harding was ranked second for average putts per round in 2019, but he is down at 56 this season, showing how much he’s struggled with the flatstick this year. If he can get that back on track, however, he’d be a danger to all this week.

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