Defending champion Rory McIlroy headlines a superb field for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart GC in County Londonderry this week.
McIlroy’s “Rory Foundation” will host the event for a third season and a percentage of all ticket sales this week will go to help children who are unwell or unfairly disadvantaged.
It may be the first time that Portstewart GC has hosted the Irish Open but the club has hosted many significant events over the years. Recently, the Irish Ladies Amateur was held at Portstewart in 2010 with Mary Dowling victorious. In 2014, The Amateur Championship was held at Portstewart and Portrush – Bradley Neil of Scotland was the winner.
The course at Portstewart is set in an expansive area of striking dune land. The layout will offer the players a chance to practice their links golf in preparation for The Open Championship at Birkdale in two week’s time. In fact, this event is the first of three in a row to be held on links courses on the European Tour; the Scottish Open is at Dundonald Links next week.
The Irish Open was first contested in 1927 and has produced some famous winners over the years. Bobby Locke, Bernard Gallacher, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernard Langer and Colin Montgomerie have all been champions. In last year’s event at the K Club, Rory McIlroy came out on top after a stunning shot to the final hole. From 250 yards, he hit an incredible approach to within feet of the hole, setting up an eagle three. The stroke was named European Tour shot of the year later in the season.
This is the third event of the inaugural Rolex Series on the European Tour and, as such, it carries a significant purse – $7,000,000.
The weather forecast isn’t great unfortunately. Rain looks likely to be a problem throughout the tournament.
Venue: Portstewart GC, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Date: July 6-9
Course stats: par 72, 7,004 yards
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-12)
Thursday 6 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Friday 7 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Saturday 8 – Sky Sports 4 from 12pm
Sunday 9 – Sky Sports 4 from 12pm
Justin Rose – He’s playing on the European Tour for the first time since the US Open but he’s currently seventh on the Race to Dubai standings thanks to his second place finish at The Masters. He’s won before on the links – The Scottish Open of 2013 and he’ll be looking to put in a strong showing with The Open Championship just two weeks away.
Justin Rose looks forward to Open Championship:
Thomas Pieters – The talented Belgian has been enjoying a solid season and it’s about time he stepped up to claim a victory. He was tied 13th last week in France.
Thorbjorn Olesen – He’s on great form right now. He was tied fourth in the Nordea Masters and then tied third last week in France. He’s got a good all-round game and should cope well with the conditions in Northern Ireland.
Key hole: 14th – The second of two consecutive par-5s, this one should offer the players a good chance of birdie. It’s just 493 yards and unless the wind is hard against, should be reachable in two by all in the field. A large bunker in the dunes on the right of the fairway must be avoided but if it is, then birdie or eagle will be the objective.