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ISPS Handa World Invitational preview: Tom McKibbin can make home advantage count

The DP World Tour returns from a three-week break at the ISPS Handa Invitational, which takes place across two Northern Irish venues in Galgorm Castle Golf Club and Castlerock Golf Club.

WhatISPS Handa Invitational
WhereGalgorm Castle Golf Club, Ballymena, Northern Ireland; Castlerock Golf Club, Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
WhenThursday 17th August - Sunday 20th August
How to watchSky Sports Golf
OddsRobert MacIntyre 12/1, Victor Perez 16/1, Romain Langasque 18/1, Laurie Canter 18/1, Ewen Ferguson 18/1, Adrian Otaegui 22/1, Matthew Jordan 25/1, Calum Hill 25/1, Tom McKibbin 25/1

The ISPS Handa Invitational is being staged for the fourth time, having debuted in 2019 as a Challenge Tour event before becoming a fully-fledged DP World Tour contest in 2021 when Daniel Gavins held off David Horsey to win by one shot.

Last season's tournament was won by Ewen Ferguson, who is 18/1 to mount a successful defence of his title, but the tournament favourite is another Scot, Robert MacIntyre, who is 12/1 to enhance his Ryder Cup claims with a victory.

MacIntyre spurned a golden winning chance at Denmark's Made in Himmerland in July, then he came agonisingly close to winning the Scottish Open before a birdie-birdie finish from Rory McIlroy saw the title slip from his grasp.

However, the Oban man still sits third in the European Ryder Cup points list, meaning that he has a place on Luke Donald's team at Rome's Marco Simone Golf Club as it stands.

Frenchman Victor Perez, who also harbours Ryder Cup ambitions of his own, is 16/1 to win his fourth DP World Tour title, while his compatriot Romain Langasque is 18/1 alongside LIV Golf's Laurie Canter.

Galgorm Castle Golf Club & Castlerock Golf Club course details

The men's tournament runs alongside a separate women's event, which is sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA, so the opening rounds take place across two courses in order to accommodate two full fields.

Players will rotate around the two venues, Galgorm Castle Golf Club and Castlerock Golf Club, over Thursday and Friday before the cut is made and the weekend action takes place exclusively at Galgorm.

Galgorm, a 7,105-yard par-70, is a tight tree-lined track which puts a premium on accuracy. It has also hosted the Northern Ireland Open, which was a Challenge Tour event until 2020 and now takes place on the Clutch Pro Tour.

The addition of Castlerock, which replaces Massereene Golf Club for the 2023 edition of the ISPS Handa, is an intriguing one because this is a traditional links course that presents a different test to Galgorm.

Three to follow

Tom McKibbin

If there is to be a home champion, it looks likely to be 25/1 shot Tom McKibbin, Northern Ireland's rising star who is also the touring professional for Galgorm Castle and knows every blade of grass at the Ballymena layout.

McKibbin is inexperienced at DP World Tour level, but this isn't a particularly deep field, and he's already proven he's good enough to win on the circuit, claiming the Porsche European Open in June.

The 20-year-old, who has drawn inevitable comparisons to McIlroy given his background and, to an extent, his playing style, finished 26th in the 2021 ISPS Handa, then tenth last season, and he's grown in confidence over the last 12 months.

Alex Fitzpatrick

Another rising star catches the eye in the form of Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of 2022 US Open hero Matt, who impressed when finishing 17th on debut at the Open, looking for a long while like he was going to earn a top-ten finish on his first Major start.

The Sheffield man reached a career-high fourth in the amateur rankings, and he's quickly set about making an impact in the professional ranks, winning the British Challenge two weeks after his Open heroics.

This is a step up, but for all the quality at the head of the market, there is not a great deal of depth in the field, and Fitzpatrick looks capable of making an impact at 35/1.

Matteo Manassero

Galgorm puts an emphasis on accuracy, and that was very much the calling card of Matteo Manassero before the once-promising Italian lost his form, plummeting from 25th in the world in 2013 to outside the top 800 just three years later.

However, there are signs that he has begun to get his act together again with wins in Challenge Tour events in Copenhagen and Italy, and while this is another step up, we know he can win DP World Tour events at his very best as he has four to his name already.

Still only 30, there could yet be more to come from Manassero, who is on offer at 80/1 to complete a remarkable career turnaround.

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