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Gallacher to deny Rory emotional win

Josh Williams June 27, 2012
Stephen Gallacher won the Dunhill Links Championship in 2004 © Getty Images
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An emotional homecoming on the European Tour this week, as Northern Ireland embraces its major-winning sons at the Irish Open.

Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke - all of whom have triumphed at majors in the last two years - will join in the celebrations as the Irish Open is held in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1953. The venue is Royal Portrush, where Clarke has played since his teens and where McDowell learned the game.

Clarke said: "Everyone who knows me knows that I have been looking forward to the Irish Open on my home course ever since it was announced that it was coming back here. Everyone in Northern Ireland is counting down the hours for this championship to start, and I'm one of them."

So will the misty-eyed romantics get the fairytale winner they crave? Well, Clarke has proved himself a master of conjuring emotional moments on the course, but his form since winning the Open Championship last year has been so dismal that I can't put any faith in him.

Williams' wager

  • Stephen Gallacher E/W - 80/1 at bet365

And while McIlroy is a terrific player, he's made no secret of his disdain for courses susceptible to the wind's influence, and he arrives in the midst of a slump, so I'm more than happy to oppose him as favourite.

McDowell appeals to me, particularly after coming so close at the US Open, but he's never had a top ten at the Irish Open, so let's leave that one too.

I was going to lend my support to Padraig Harrington after his recent run of form - but it was time for a rethink when he said, "I wouldn't even go close to backing me at 10/1."

Anyway, getting to the point, I can see tremendous each-way value in Scotland's Stephen Gallacher (80/1). He's a fine wind player and a terrific ball-striker, with bags of links experience, having won the Dunhill Links Championship in 2004.

That's going to be particularly useful as the weather is not going to do the players any favours, judging by the forecast, which shows rain expected for at least the first three days. You'll want to put your faith in someone with a fair bit of know-how, and Gallacher fits the bill there.

Putting is a perennial problem for him, but he does have previous at this tournament - finishing third last year, firing three rounds in the 60s - which indicates to me that he won't find the greens as vexing as he sometimes does elsewhere on the globe.

Gallacher also arrives in form, having missed out on a place at the Open Championship by a shot in this week's qualifier.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk