Out of the Rough: ISPS Handa World Invitational (2023)
After a brief three week hiatus following The Open Championship, the DP World TOUR is back in action this week with the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
This event, formally known as the Northern Ireland Open, was elevated to the DP World Tour schedule in 2021. Prior, it was held as part of the Challenge Tour beginning in 2013.
The ISPS Handa World Invitational too is a unique event as it is once again a mixed outing co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour.
Unlike the recent Scandinavian Mixed event however, the men and ladies will play on the same days at the same courses but it’ll serve as two separate tournaments.
To continue with the uniqueness of this week’s event, the first two days will be held at separate courses, Castlerock Golf Club and Galgorm Castle Golf Club. After the cut following Friday, the final two days will be played at the official host course; Galgorm.
Galgorm Castle Golf Club has been the host of this event since its inception in 2013. Previously, Massereene Golf Club served as the other track for the first three years of this event as this will be the first year Castlerock will be played along with Galgorm.
Another interesting and unique aspect of this week’s outing is that Galgorm is a traditional parkland designed course as Castlerock is a genuine links layout.
This week’s field will include 144 golfers of the DP World Tour.
Included in the field is last year’s winner in Ewen Ferguson. Ferguson shot an exceptional 61 at Galgorm on the first day to set himself up as the eventual winner.
Tom McKibbin will draw the largest following this week as he is set to play for the first time on home soil as a DP World Tour winner. At just 20-years-old, McKibbin became the youngest winner from the island of Ireland on the DP World Tour since Rory McIlroy when he claimed the Porsche European Open back in June.
McKibbin also represents Galgorm Castle and is set to receive a hero’s welcome on his home soil this week.
With just three weeks left until the deadline for Ryder Cup selections, many hopefuls that call the DP World Tour home will continue to fight for the eye of European Captain Luke Donald.
Currently, Robert MacIntyre is inside the automatic European qualifications spot and will serve as the headliner for this week’s field.
Other Ryder cup hopefuls teeing it up this week include Victor Perez of France and Adrian Otaegui of Spain.
For the sake of this breakdown, although the event will be played at two completely different courses, we’ll focus on Galgorm Castle Golf Club as three-of-the-four rounds will be played there.
Galgorm is a parkland course that is played as a Par 70 at 7,151 yards.
The best way to put Galgorm into words is simply, “stunning.”
This parkland design opened in 1995 that sits in Ballymena, Northern Ireland and offers an ideal picturesque golf backdrop.
There are plenty of mature native trees littered among the course which in turn, forces the fairways to play narrow. There are also several water hazards featured this week.
This adds to the importance of accuracy off the tee opposed to driving distance.
Along with the trees, narrow fairways and presence of water hazards, this course features thick and grown-out rough. This too adds to the importance of accuracy off the tee.
Golfers who have played this course have suggested that this course can play on the easier side as long as they are playing from the fairways. Finding the rough will be detrimental and will play into the importance of scrambling this week.
The greens this week also run true. It has been proven in years past that it’ll take a competent putter for any hopeful winner.
As for Castlerock, which is played in the first two days of this event prior to the cut, it plays as a Par 72.
With the overall uniqueness of this event, it is only fitting that they would offset the parkland design of Galgorm with a true links style course in Castlerock.
Castlerock, being a links style, is set among rolling sand dunes.
Again, I previously mentioned that I was taking Galgorm into consideration for this breakdown and model due to it being played three times, but Castlerock too features tight fairways. Both tracks will require accuracy off the tee.
The winning scores at this event have fluctuated greatly in years past due to the varying weather conditions that can and will be present.
With the addition of the sea-lined links style in Castlerock, those who draw the short end of the stick and play Castlerock on Friday with current worsened weather forecasts could be in some trouble.
These two courses sit about an hour apart with Galgorm being inland and Castlerock being on the coast.
As of the time of writing this, pertaining first to Galgorm, Thursday is the only day without a strong chance of precipitation. Currently, Friday holds a 90-percent chance of rain as Saturday and Sunday both are projected for an 80-percent chance. Temperatures will be the highest on Thursday at 70-degrees before falling to 63-degrees on Friday and then returning to 69-degrees for both Saturday and Sunday. Although Thursday is set to be the best day weather wise, winds are expected to reach 15 miles-per-hour. The winds will peak at 17 miles-per-hour on Friday before falling to 11 miles-per-hour for both Saturday and Sunday.
The weather will not be any better for the Castlerock area this week, especially being on the coast. Again, Thursday is the best day weather wise with a 20-percent chance of rain and set at 71-degrees. The winds will be higher in the Castlerock area as they are set for 17 miles-per-hour on Thursday. The rain will also hit this area for Friday through Sunday. The same precipitation chances and temperatures for the Galgorm area are expected in the Castlerock area for those days. Winds are already expected to hit 20 miles-per-hour for Castlerock on Friday before falling to 12 miles-per-hour on Saturday and 11 miles-per-hour on Sunday.
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Driving Accuracy
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Around the Green
Adrian Otaegui (+1800)
My overall favorite this week per my model is Adrian Otaegui of Spain. He is currently first on all of the DP World Tour in driving accuracy, third in all three of SG: APP, SG: OTT and bogey avoidance, fourth in scrambling, 17th in SG: ATG, 27th in GIR% and 89th in birdie or better percentage. The downfall to his game comes on the greens as he ranks 123rd in SG: PUTT. It’ll take a competent putter this week to compete so Otaegui will have to catch a hot flat stick. As these greens run true, I believe Otaegui can do just that this week. Otaegui played in both The Open Championship and Genesis Scottish Open without great results but placed second at the KLM Open on the DP World Tour back in May. By being elite in approach, off the tee and scrambling, I believe this is an ideal event for Otaegui.
Jayden Schaper (+3300)
The South African recently placed T16th at the co-sanctioned Barbasol Championship in his last outing. Galgorm is oftentimes correlated to Muthaiga Golf Club and the Magical Kenya Open. Schaper placed T7th there this season. He is currently second on Tour in SG: ATG, 14th in birdie or better percentage, 16th in driving accuracy, 18th in bogey avoidance, 28th in both SG: OTT and SG: APP, 32nd in scrambling and 58th in GIR%. His downfall, much like Otaegui, comes on the greens as he ranks 120th in SG: PUTT. However, like I explained with Otaegui, I believe Schaper has the opportunity to catch a hot flat stick this week
Daniel Brown (+5000)
The Englishman comes into this week fresh off a T7th at the co-sanctioned Barbasol Championship and a T17th in his last DP World Tour appearance at the Made in HimmerLand. Brown is currently sixth on TOUR in driving accuracy, 11th in birdie or better percentage, 14th in scrambling, 30th in SG: PUTT, 31st in bogey avoidance, 76th in both SG: OTT and SG: APP, 86th in SG: ATG and 87th in GIR%. Unlike the previously two mentioned golfers, Brown is a quality putter. The trend continues. He’s accurate off the tee and scrambles very well. I love the value we’re getting this week with Brown.
Thomas Aiken (+20000)
There is a reason Aiken is +20000 on the betting books but he does bring some fantastic aspects to this week. He is currently third on TOUR in driving accuracy and eighth in both SG: OTT and SG: APP. He’s elite off the tee and elite with his irons, which goes a long way, especially for someone at this price. He is also 42nd in scrambling, 43rd in bogey avoidance, 44th in SG: ATG, 72nd in GIR% and 105th in birdie or better percentage. His downfall comes on the greens as he ranks 142nd in SG: PUTT. That’s near the bottom of the TOUR so he’ll definitely need to catch a hot flat stick. At +20000, we can’t expect much but with elite iron play and off the tee, there is a chance.