The European Tour travels from France to Ireland for the second of three-consecutive Rolex Series events leading into the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie.
This week’s elite event across the pond is the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club, located in the village of the same name on the northwestern tip of the Republic of Ireland. The long-running national open tournament will be contested on the property’s newer (1995) Glashedy Links course – a par-72 layout measuring 7,423 yards.
Headlined by top-10 ranked stars Jon Rahm – the defending champion, and tournament host Rory McIlroy, the Irish Open will also feature 23 of the top-100 ranked players in the world such as Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello (No. 25), Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat (30), England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick (39), Chinese Haotong Li (42), and Ireland’s own Paul Dunne (72).
Here are more details about this week’s DDF Irish Open.
Tournament: DDF Irish Open
Dates: July 5-8, 2018
Where: Ballyliffin, County Donegal, Ireland
Title Sponsor: Dubai Duty Free
Course: Ballyliffin Golf Club (Glashedy)
Distance: Par 72, 7,423 yards
Architect: Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock (1995)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,019,000
Defending Champion: Jon Rahm
Marquee Players: Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Julian Suri, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Peter Uihlein, Haotong Li, Thomas Pieters, Alexander Levy, Thorbjorn Olesen, Graeme McDowell, Matt Wallace, Lee Westwood, Shubhankar Sharma, Eddie Pepperell, Andy Sullivan, Paul Dunne, Chris Wood, Shane Lowry, Danny Willett, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley
TV AND ONLINE
Round 1: Thu 5:30 am – 1:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 5:30 am – 1:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 7:30 am – 12:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 4: Sun 7:30 am – 12:30 pm (GOLF)
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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
2015-18: 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
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)
Jon Rahm closed with a 7-under 65 on Sunday at Portstewart Golf Club to capture the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open by six strokes over Richie Ramsay (65) and Matthew Southgate (66).
Rahm posted two eagles and five birdies during his final round to finish at 24-under-par, a new tournament record.
It was the young Spaniards second win in just his 25th start as a Tour professional. In February the former world No. 1 amateur won the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
David Drysdale posted a course-record 63 to finish at 17-under-par, tied for fourth, alongside Justin Rose (68), Ryan Fox (68) and Daniel Im (72).
FINAL TOP 5
1. Jon Rahm -24
2. Matthew Southgate -18
2. Richie Ramsay -18
4. Justin Rose -17
4. David Drysdale -17
4. Daniel Im -17
4. Ryan Fox -17
THE FIELD: ANALYSIS
The field in Ballyliffin is headlined by tournament host Rory McIlroy, and defending champion Jon Rahm.
Leading the way is world No. 5 Rahm who enters off a T5 in France, but one that was disappointing, as the Spaniard was in position for a victory, but collapsed down the stretch on the back nine at Le Golf National.
Rahm will attempt a reset in a defense to what was his maiden European Tour title, where he romped the field by six shots at Portstewart Golf Club. Since then, he’s won two more Euro titles, including the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, and this year’s event in his homeland of Spain.
Along with McIlroy, the fiery Spaniard is the heavy favorite with bookmakers, as he’s posted four top 5s in his six most recent starts, highlighted by the aforementioned win at the Open de Espana. His finishes outside the top 5, though, were big misses at big events, including a missed-cut at the U.S. Open and a T63 at the PLAYERS.
Still, when all the analysis is done, Rahm is in the midst of another superb season with two worldwide wins, including a second PGA Tour title (CareerBuilder), and it would surprise no one if he’s kissing the big glass trophy come Sunday night.
At No. 8 in the Official World Golf Rankings, McIlroy is the second highest ranked player in the field, and the co-favorite alongside Rahm to take home the trophy this weekend. The Northern Irishman will be making his first start since a T12 at the Travelers.
McIlroy got his 2018 season off to a torrid start with a T3 and solo-second at the two Dubai events which made a four-start slump (MC, T20, T59, MC) to begin his PGA Tour season even more perplexing. He finally broke through with a win at Bay Hill – his first victory in nearly 18 months (2016 TOUR Championship).
In his six starts since a T5 at the Masters, McIlroy has posted two missed-cuts and four top 20s – two of those top 10s.
The third and final top-25 player in the field is Rahm’s compatriot Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who checks in right on the number at 25.
Cabrera-Bello, who will defend his Rolex Series title next week at the Scottish Open, enters off a missed-cut in France, and before that a T36 at the U.S. Open. However, prior to those two duds, the 34-year old Spaniard posted two-straight top 10s in two Rolex events (Italian Open 4th, BMW PGA T8), which followed a top 20 finish (T17) at TPC Sawgrass.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat is ranked No. 30 and the Thai enters off three top 15s in his last five starts, highlighted by a T5 at the BMW PGA Championship. Aphibarnrat is in the midst of another impressive season with two worldwide wins, and three T5s in elite events (BMW PGA, WGC Mexico, WGC Dell MP).
Another player to keep an eye on is Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick who’s quietly posted five top 30s in his last six starts, highlighted by a T8 (BMW PGA) and T12 (U.S. Open). The world No. 39 seems primed for his first win of the year as he makes a bid for the 2018 European Ryder Cup team.
Russell Knox seems to have busted out of an early-season slump. The Scot followed up a T12 at the U.S. Open with a T2 at last week’s French Open to win a ticket to Carnoustie.
Looking at trends, Thorbjorn Olesen would seem to be a lock for a T3 finish based on his last four starts of 1-MC-T2-MC. The Dane, ranked No. 66, is either really good or really bad, but could be worth a gamble.
THE FIELD: ODDS & RANKINGS
Place your bets on the Irish Open at Bovada.
The European Tour heads to Scotland for the Aberdeen Scottish Open, the third of three-straight Rolex Series events leading in to the season’s third major: the 147th Open at Carnoustie.
Credits: European Tour Media, Getty Images