Paul Williams

Paul Williams' ISPS World Invitational Tips 2023

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After its short summer break, the DP World Tour moves to Northern Ireland this week and back to Galgorm Castle, which hosted the past two renewals plus the 2020 Irish Open, for a mixed men’s and women’s event under the guise of the ISPS Handa World Invitational. With nigh on 300 players in attendance in total, a second course is also being used for the first 2 days, namely Castlerock Golf Club which sits a few miles north on the coast alongside Portrush and Portstewart.

Similar to the Vic Open format rather than the Scandinavian Mixed, men and women will play on the same course(s) at the same time for the same prize money but with separate leaderboards, therefore there’s a full men’s and women’s betting market available this week.

The cut rules are slightly different to normal this week, with the regular Friday night cut falling at 60 players and ties for both the men and the women; there will be a further cut on Saturday night to 35 players and ties for both. In both instances, Galgorm only will host the weekend’s action.

Focussing on the men’s tournament, Robert MacIntyre assumes a familiar role at the head of the market at a general 11/1, with Victor Perez (14/1) and defending champion Ewen Ferguson (16/1) following close behind. A rash of players in the 20/1 to 25/1 bracket includes the likes of Romain Langasque, Matthew Jordan and Laurie Canter before the field begins to rapidly thin out.

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Course Overview: Listed as a 7,151 par 70, Galgorm features just 2 par-5s – both on the back 9 – and two short par-4s within the first 4 holes. Greens are excellent quality and annually overseeded with Creeping Bentgrass to help keep them smooth and true. Castlerock is a true links test on the north coast and is new to the Tour, measuring just 6,859 yards for its par of 71.

To give us more of an idea of what to expect in terms of scoring, winners from the Challenge Tour events here have generally been able to compile a winning score of between -11 and -19:

  • 2020: Tyler Koivisto, -13
  • 2019: Jack Senior, -11
  • 2018: Calum Hill, -19
  • 2017: Robin Sciot-Siegrist, -6
  • 2016: Ryan Fox, -19
  • 2015: Clement Sordet, -17
  • 2014: Joakim Lagergren, -13
  • 2013: Daan Huizing, -13

Robin Sciot-Siegrist’s victory in 2017 was achieved in the hybrid ‘Shootout Sunday’ format, so his -6 winning score should be taken in context.

In terms of DP World-level events, it’s a similar story:

  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson, -12
  • 2021: Daniel Gavins, -13
  • 2020: John Catlin, -10

John Catlin won here at -10 in the 2020 Irish Open, although that was in fairly tough conditions and only 22 players finished under par that week. On this World Invitational format, where Massereene was used for one of the pre-cut rounds for the past two years, 13- and 12-under par has been enough to get over the line.

isps handa tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well on this course.

As previously noted, Galgorm hosted this event for the past two years, the 2020 Irish Open, plus the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open from 2013: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Course Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Course Winners. 2022 (ISPS World Invitational): Ewen Ferguson (-12); 2021: Daniel Gavins (-13); 2020 (Irish Open): John Catlin (-10), 40/1; 2020 (ISPS World Invitational): Tyler Koivisto, -13; 2019 (Northern Ireland Open): Jack Senior, -11; 2018: Calum Hill, -19; 2017: Robin Sciot-Siegrist, -6; 2016: Ryan Fox, -19; 2015: Clement Sordet, -17; 2014: Joakim Lagergren, -13; 2013: Daan Huizing, -13.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

Sunshine and showers is the summary for all 4 days of tournament play, with the potential for those showers to be heavy and thundery which may impact play at times. Friday looks to be the trickiest day with ran arriving in the afternoon, accompanied by a stiff breeze of 15-20mph. The weekend then looks a lot calmer with temperatures nudging towards 70 Fahrenheit.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Looking at the winners’ stats over the past 3 years gives us some idea of that kind of skill-sets that this week’s test demands, notwithstanding that the last 2 events had 3 recorded rounds only at Galgorm Castle:

  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson, 290 yards (54th), 33.3% fairways (58th), 70.4% greens in regulation (8th), 75.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.59 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2021: Daniel Gavins, 266 yards (48th), 64.3% fairways (8th), 68.5% greens in regulation (18th), 94.4% scrambling (1st), 1.73 putts per GIR (21st).
  • 2020: John Catlin, 279 yards (55th), 62.5% fairways (6th), 72.2% greens in regulation (6th), 80% scrambling (2nd), 1.78 putts per GIR (22nd).

Conditions were quite tricky when Galgorm hosted the 2020 Irish Open and with John Catlin and Aaron Rai battling it out for the win, it’s fair to say that accuracy prevailed over power. The rough was quite tricky in late September and conditions a little colder than we should expect this week, although a tidy all-round game should still go a long way, as it did back then.

Daniel Gavins’ stats in 2021 were remarkably similar to Catlin’s in that accuracy off the tee and scrambling dominated, backed up a solid week from a GIR and putting perspective. Neither men are particularly long from off the tee, which is evident from their in-field rankings above, and that year’s runner-up David Horsey is another who you’d categorise as short, neat and tidy.

In dry conditions last year driving distances were up across the board, however eventual winner Ewen Ferguson still only ranked 54th from off the tee and was able to get away with more errant drives with the rough not as thick. With almost 30% of greens missed by our winner, scrambling was once again key and if anything that’s the one and only truly consistent stat across all 3 events.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, we now have stats from all 3 winners to study from rounds at Galgorm Castle only:

  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson: T: 19th; A: 5th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 1st; P: 9th
  • 2021: Daniel Gavins: T: 10th; A: 25th; T2G: 5th; ATG: 1st; P: 6th
  • 2020: John Catlin: T: 23rd; A: 8th; T2G: 4th; ATG: 14th; P: 17th

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

What’s evident is that this is a strong all-round test with none of our three winners ranking any worse than 25th on any metric when winning. SG Tee to Green is the most consistent factor across all three renewals, however with both Daniel Gavins and Ewen Ferguson topping SG Around the Green over the past two years, as per the traditional stats short game looks key.

Incoming Form: The form of last year’s winner Ewen Ferguson had dipped a little following his breakthrough win at the Qatar Masters earlier that spring, however 12th at the previous week’s Cazoo Open hinted at some positive momentum which wasn’t missed by the bookies who priced him at 20/1 accordingly.

The solid-looking incoming form line of Daniel Gavins needs a little qualification as aside from a 42nd place finish at the BMW International Open 4 starts prior, the rest of his results were at Challenge Tour level – hence his 100/1 quote in 2021

John Catlin arrived in sparkling form when Galgorm Castle hosted the Irish Open in 2020, having won the Andalucia Masters on his penultimate start before finishing 8th at Vilamoura.

Of the mixed bag of incoming form from the previous course winners on the Challenge Tour, what is noticeable is that this layout provided an early career breakthrough on 4 occasions. Tyler Koivisto is the most pronounced of the bunch, winning on his debut, but Calum Hill, Clement Sordet and Daan Huizing all had very few starts to their names when proving victorious here:

  • 2021 (ISPS): Ewen Ferguson: MC/52/MC/58/37/WD/21/MC/61/MC/30/12
  • 2021: Daniel Gavins: MC/7/12/MC/10/26/6/15/42/21/8/9
  • 2020 (Irish Open): John Catlin: 2/MC/MC/MC/8/43/51/6/MC/25/1/8
  • 2020: (Challenge Tour) Tyler Koivisto: Debut
  • 2019: Jack Senior: 58/MC/MC/33/MC/MC/MC/10/34/MC/11/42
  • 2018: Calum Hill: 61/47/26/MC/MC
  • 2017: Robin Sciot-Siegrist: 15/MC/5/MC/MC/38/MC/8/18/15/44/40
  • 2016: Ryan Fox: 4/11/MC/63/63/46/MC/NC/7/2/4/18
  • 2015: Clement Sordet: 20/2/MC/26/MC
  • 2014: Joakim Lagergren: MC/57/MC/MC/70/19/35/MC/62/38/MC/81
  • 2013: Daan Huizing: WD/MC/MC/61/46/2/5/19/4/5/18

Course Form: Despite not telling us much at all, I’ve included the course history of the winners here at Galgorm Castle since it was first used on the Challenge Tour. 7 of the 10 winners were making their competitive debuts around this track, which suggests it’s one that players can get to grips with very quickly, although last year’s winner Ewen Ferguson did have some positive efforts around here to his name:

  • 2022: Ewen Ferguson: 7/26/14
  • 2021: Daniel Gavins: MC/MC
  • 2020: John Catlin: Debut
  • 2020: Tyler Koivisto: Debut
  • 2019: Jack Senior: 47/60/WD/52/MC/43
  • 2018: Calum Hill: Debut
  • 2017: Robin Sciot-Siegrist: 42
  • 2016: Ryan Fox: Debut
  • 2015: Clement Sordet: Debut
  • 2014: Joakim Lagergren: Debut
  • 2013: Daan Huizing: Debut

The blueprint for success may be a little more apparent now, having seen Galgorm Castle over the past 3 seasons at the Irish Open and at this event over the last 2 years.

Longer hitters seemingly hold little advantage here, with more accurate types largely dominating the finishing positions when the rough has been thicker, as it’s expected to be this year following a wet summer in this part of the world.

Key metrics to pull out of the data to hand are SG Tee to Green and SG Around the Green as well as Scrambling, all of which will hopefully lead us to the winner.

My selections are as follows:

Adrian Otaegui 2pts EW 28/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The stop-start nature of the DP World Tour creates uncertainty when it comes to assessing the underlying form of fancied players, however one I’m happy to back despite some indifferent results in his recent past is Adrian Otaegui.

60th at the Made in Himmerland, a missed cut at the Scottish Open, then 55th at the Open Championship makes the Spaniard’s headline form look a little lacklustre, however I beg to differ. 2nd at the KLM Open prior to those efforts is a much stronger barometer to this week’s task on an other challenging course where the winning total was just 13-under par in, if anything, lower-level company than this week. His Open effort needs extra scrutiny too as Adrian sat 4th after day one and 7th at the halfway point before faltering. The gap in terms of quality between that week and this is huge.

Two of the 30 year-old’s four DP World Tour level wins have come in non-standard formats at the Paul Lawrie Match Play and Belgian Knockout, so this mixed format is no concern to me, plus he has form at a similar latitude having won the Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews back in 2020.

Ultimately though it’s his match for this course that gets him top billing in my team this week. Yes he missed the cut with rounds of 72 and 71 here on his only start in 2021 when his long game was suffering a temporary blip, however he arrives this week with far more promise in that respect. 1st on Tour for the season for Driving Accuracy, which is a strong weapon here when the rough is up, 3rd for SG Approach and 6th for SG Tee to Green ties in very nicely with the winners here in recent times.

Otaegui is no slouch when it comes to short game either, and with anything up to a third of greens missed here historically by all but the most metronomic iron players, stats such as 4th on Tour for Scrambling and 17th for SG Around the Green complete the argument for supporting him here this week. RESULT: T4

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Tom McKibbin 2pts EW 28/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

At a similar price point but marginally behind Otaegui in terms of preference this week, I’m also backing Galgorm Castle’s touring pro Tom McKibbin.

The reason Tom sits second in my list as opposed to first is that I feel that his Spanish peer suits the course a little better as a more accurate operator from off the tee, however the Northern Irishman more than makes up for that with raw talent and seeing him seriously contend here at the club he’s attached to wouldn’t remotely surprise me.

The 20 year-old flashed his potential at the back end of last year, racking up three consecutive top-20 finishes on South African soil before the festive break. Similar finishes followed at the Singapore Classic, SDC Championship and KLM Open before he clinched his breakthrough title at the Porsche European Open on a tough renewal where 9-under was good enough to win by two strokes.

9th for Driving Accuracy that week combined with 6th for GIR demonstrates his ability to keep the ball in play when the situation dictates, plus 6th for Scrambling is an ideal pointer for success here at Galgorm Castle. 4th for Off the Tee, 6th for Approach and 8th for Tee to Green was how that translated in terms of Strokes Gained.

Not seen on Tour since finishing 35th at the Scottish Open – a level way beyond this week’s task – the Belfast man has finishes of 26th and 10th here at Galgorm Castle to his name from his past two attempts. Maturing all the time in terms of his golf and clearly now a DP World Tour winner to boot, he must be relishing this home fixture. RESULT: T20

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Daniel Brown 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Another player who fits the bill for this week is rookie Daniel Brown.

It’s been a whirlwind few years for the Yorkshire man, graduating from the Europro Tour to the Challenge Tour in 2021 before progressing to the DP World Tour for the start of this season following a successful campaign on the second tier.

One could excuse the 28 year-old for taking some time to adjust to life at the top of European golf, however a perfect 13 cuts made from his first 13 starts at the upper level showed some real promise, particularly with best finishes of 9th at the SDC Championship and 5th at the South African Open during that time.

A trio of missed cuts followed as Dan finally ran out of steam in June, however July saw a new lease of life with 17th at the Made In Himmerland followed by an impressive 7th place finish at co-sanctioned PGA Tour level at the Barbasol Championship.

At this stage of his career we’re still piecing together exactly what kind of golfer Brown is, however statistically he appears to be a strong all-rounder and that’s no bad attribute here at Galgorm Castle. 6th on Tour for Driving Accuracy and 14th for Scrambling for the season to date are particularly eye-catching stats for this week’s task. RESULT: Winner

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Jonathan Caldwell 1pt EW 200/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally, I’ll also take a chance on Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell who’s already proven himself at DP World Tour level in a mixed event.

Although a slightly different format to this, Caldwell’s breakthrough win at the 2021 Scandinavian Mixed has got to go down as relevant to some degree, particularly as he mastered the tee-to-green challenge of the short track in Sweden that week, and this week’s test on home soil will hold no fears.

Despite winning that low-grade event just over two years ago, due to its status the Bangor man has had to return back to the Challenge Tour in 2023 after a disappointing follow-up season, but there are undoubtedly signs that he’s finding form once again and could surprise a few here and outperform his odds.

5 cuts made from 6 starts since the start of July has shown steady improvement, with 9th at the Irish Challenge played at Headfort (south of the border) the highlight before he finished 3rd last week at the Scottish Challenge at Newmachar in Aberdeen. Solid stuff in similar climes to this week’s task and he has the benefit of having stayed competitively active these past few weeks when many of the more fancied players have downed tools.

The 39 year-old has far more practical experience of the course than most here too with three top-13 finishes over the years from six starts, and if he can maintain the momentum of the past few weeks then he could threaten an each-way place or better. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 14:40BST 14.8.23 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.