A stellar field including tournament host Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Danny Willett has assembled to do battle for the Irish Open at The K Club in County Kildare.
With an increased prize fund of €4,000,000, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation has attracted an all-star cast to 2006 Ryder Cup venue the K Club.
After two wins on the spin, South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang will be looking to make it an incredible hat-trick but he’ll face stronger competition this time out. 12 players in the top-50 of the Official World Golf Ranking start this week and many of the European Tour’s form players will also tee it up.
The Irish Open has a long and distinguished history. It was first contested in 1927 and has produced some famous champions over the years. Bobby Locke, Bernard Gallacher, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernard Langer and Colin Montgomerie have all been champions.
Irish players enjoyed success in the last decade – Padraig Harrington was champion at Adare Manor in 2007 before going on to win The Open at Carnoustie. Then, in 2009 Shane Lowry won as an amateur at County Louth.
Shane Lowry on how to practice:
Last year at the magnificent Royal County Down, Soren Kjeldsen put on a masterclass of how to play in testing conditions to win. The Dane defeated Eddie Pepperell and Bernd Wiesberger with a birdie on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
The K Club will host the Irish Open for the first time, although it has been used on the European Tour in the past. The European Open was contested here from 1995 to 2007.
The weather forecast for the week looks rather poor. Rain looks set to be persistent throughout the tournament. That could favour the longer hitters as there will be little run on the fairways.
Venue: The K Club, Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland
Date: May 19-22
Course stats: par 72, 7,350 yards
Defending Champion: Soren Kjeldsen (-2)
Thursday 19 – Sky Sports 4 from 12.30pm
Friday 20 – Sky Sports 4 from 9.30pm
Saturday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 1pm
Sunday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 1.30pm
Russell Knox – The Scot looked to be on great form last week at Sawgrass and would have contended had it not been for a third round of 80.
Graeme McDowell – He also played well at The Players, posting four solid rounds. He’d love to win his home open.
Shane Lowry – A former champion, Lowry has played solidly if unspectacularly so far this year. He showed form last week in Florida though and this course should suit his game.
Key hole: 18th. At just 537 yards this closing par-5 will be reachable in two for almost every player in the field, depending on the direction of the wind. It could allow for big swings right at the death.