The European Tour travels from Spain to Ireland for the first of two-straight Rolex Series events leading into the 148th Open Championship at Portrush.
This week’s elite event across the pond is the Irish Open at Lahinch Golf Club, located in the village of the same name on the west coast tip of the Republic of Ireland. The long-running national open tournament will be contested on the par-70 Lahinch layout, measuring 6,433 yards.
Headlined by top-25 ranked stars Jon Rahm (11) of Spain, South African Louis Oosthuizen (21), and Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood (20) and Matt Wallace (24), the Irish Open will feature 26 of the top-100 ranked players in the world, highlighted by familiar names such as England’s Eddie Pepperell (No. 36), Ian Poulter (No. 37), and Tyrrell Hatton (No. 43), Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello (No. 39), Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (91), Germany’s Martin Kaymer (No. 98), Mexico’s Abraham Ancer (No. 59), and Scot Russell Knox (59), the defending champion, among others.
Here are more details about this week’s DDF Irish Open.
Tournament: DDF Irish Open
Dates: July 3-7, 2019
Where: Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland
Title Sponsor: Dubai Duty Free
Course: Lahinch Golf Club
Distance: Par 70, 6,433 yards
Architect: Old Tom Morris (1892)
Redesign: Alister MacKenzie (1927)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,019,000
Defending Champion: Russell Knox
Top Betting Favorites: Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Wallace, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer
TV AND ONLINE
The Irish Open debuted in 1927 at Portmarnock Golf Club with Scotland’s George Duncan edging the legendary English golfer Henry Cotton by a stroke to take home the inaugural trophy and a $100 cash prize.
Ireland’s national golf open was played for the next 13 years up until 1939, where it paused for six years during the big world war. It returned in 1946, once again contested at Portmarnock, with Northern Ireland’s Fred Daly taking home the ’46 title. After the war, the tournament had lost its luster, and was played just five more times until 1953.
Following a 20-year hiatus, the tournament was re-launched in 1975 as Carroll’s Irish Open and became a staple on the then fledgling European PGA Tour.
Carroll’s – Ireland’s oldest tobacco company, was the original title sponsor, and owned the marquee through 1993 until cigarettes became heavily regulated, especially related to advertising.
Murphy’s Irish Stout sponsored the next nine editions (Murphy’s Irish Open, 1994-2002), but since 2003 no sponsor has titled it for more than four years.
Despite its recent shaky sponsor history, the Irish Open has always been one of the more prestigious events on the European Tour’s schedule, regularly drawing some of the biggest crowds.
In 2017 it became part of the seven-event Rolex Series, with each elite tournament in the series having a minimum prize fund of $7 million.
Legendary golfers to win Ireland’s national open include Bobby Locke, Christy O’Connor Jr., Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, and Rory McIlroy.
Ballesteros, Langer and Faldo own the most Irish Open titles with three.
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT NAMES
2015-19: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
2012-14: The Irish Open
2011-11: Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland
2009-10: The 3 Irish Open
2007-08: Irish Open
2003-06: Nissan Irish Open
1994-02: Murphy’s Irish Open
1975-93: Carroll’s Irish Open
1954-74: No Tournament
1927-53: Irish Open
HISTORY: RECENT WINNERS
2018: Russell Knox (-20)
2017: Jon Rahm (-24)
2016: Rory McIlroy (-12)
2015: Søren Kjeldsen (-2)
2014: Mikko Ilonen (-13)
2013: Paul Casey (-14)
2012: Jamie Donaldson (-18)
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT RECORDS
3 – Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1985, 1986)
3 – Nick Faldo (1991, 1992, 1993)
3 – Bernhard Langer (1984, 1987, 1994)
264 (−24) – Jon Rahm (2017)
Russell Knox made two long-bomb birdie putts on hole No. 18 at Ballyliffin Golf Club – first on the 72nd hole, then in a playoff, to win the 2018 DDF Irish Open in thrilling fashion.
The win was Knox’s first since his breakout 2016 season, where he won the WGC-HSBC China event, and followed it up with a victory at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship later that summer.
FINAL TOP 5
POS-PLAYER-TOTAL SCORE (RD 4)
1. Russell Knox -14 (-6)
2. Ryan Fox -14 (-4)
3. Jorge Campillo -13 (-7)
4. Jon Rahm -12 (-6)
4. Erik van Rooyen -12 (+2)
THE FIELD: ANALYSIS
The field in Lahinch is headlined by 2017 winner Jon Rahm, who is the field’s highest ranked player at No. 11.
Rahm enters in good form, posting two straight top-3 finishes (T3 U.S. Open, T2 Andalucia Masters), and is rightly considered the favorite (8-1) to win his second Irish Open title.
At No. 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Tommy Fleetwood is the second highest ranked player in the field, and at 12-1 is the second ranked favorite by the bookmakers. The Englishman has slumped a bit from his 2018 form, but did post a top-15 at the Travelers on the PGA Tour two weeks ago, and consistently plays well on links courses.
Englishman Matt Wallace, like Rahm, enters Ireland in good form, posting four top-12s in his five most recent starts, highlighted three top-3s.
The fourth and final top-25 player in the field is South African Louis Oosthuizen, who checks in at No. 21.
Oosthuizen, the winner of the 139th Open Championship, started the season strong with a win in South Africa, followed by a T7 and solo fourth-place, but since then has mixed three strong starts (top-7s) with several poor to mediocre starts.
Another player to watch is native son Shane Lowry, who enters in exceptionally strong form, with three top-10s in his last four starts. The Irishman has enjoyed a bounce-back season after a couple of off years, headlined by a win early in the year at Dubai.
Another player to keep an eye on is Englishman Eddie Pepperell who’s quietly posted two top 3s, and one top-20, in his last six starts. The world No. 36, and 2018 British Masters winner, seems primed for his first victory of the year.
Scot Russell Knox will enter the defense of his 2018 title playing solidly, albeit not spectacularly, with a T21, T27, and T8 in his last three starts (all on the PGA Tour).
Finally, don’t look past Graeme McDowell, who is in the midst of his best season in some time. The Northern Irishman had fallen all the way outside the world top 200, but since winning the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in late March, McDowell has been consistently solid, compiling a record of three top-10s in his last seven starts.
FULL FIELD & ODDS
The European Tour heads to North Berwick, Scotland for the Aberdeen Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, the second of two-consecutive Rolex Series events leading in to the season’s final major: the 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
Credits: European Tour Media, Getty Images