Irish Open preview

The European Tour travels to the Emerald Isle this week where Jamie Donaldson will defend the Irish Open title against a strong field at Carton House in County Kildare.

Jamie Donaldson defends Irish Open (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The European Tour travels to the Emerald Isle this week where Jamie Donaldson will defend the Irish Open title against a strong field at Carton House in County Kildare.

A number of the European Tour's premier players will tee it up in Ireland, including all four recent Irish and Northern Irish Major winners. Rory McIlroy has made the journey to Maynooth, so too have Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington who is fresh off a solid performance in last week's Travelers Championship in Connecticut.

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 winners.

Last year at Royal Portrush, Jamie Donaldson of Wales produced four superb rounds in the 60s to see off England's Anthony Wall, Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti.

The Irish Open was last held at Carton House in 2006 when Thomas Bjorn took the title. There was a Monday finish in that event due to extremely heavy rain during the tournament. After finishing second in Germany last week, the Dane will fancy his chances this time out.

"I wanted to try and get myself in the top 20 in The Race to Dubai, so even though I was obviously disappointed to miss out on the win last week, I still achieved that goal," he said. "It's great that I'm going to Ireland to play on a golf course I've won on before, so I'll keep carrying on and fighting hard until I win another tournament. Hopefully it comes this week."

The history of Carton Estate dates back over 800 years and the demesne has a colourful history. Home to the FitzGerald family then the Earls of Kildare, the house has welcomed guests from Queen Victoria to Grace Kelly.

The Montgomerie Course is an inland layout inspired by the links. Monty looked to the great seaside courses of the world like Royal Melbourne, Troon and Turnberry for guidance. It was the bunkering that struck him most so, in designing the course at Carton House, getting the bunkers right was at the forefront of his mind.

The weather forecast looks set fair so, with luck, the tournament will be uninterrupted by rain this time round.

Venue: Carton House GC, Co. Kildare, Ireland Date: Jun 27-30 Course stats: par 72, 7,301 yards Purse: €2,000,000 Winner: €333,330 Defending Champion: Jamie Donaldson (-18) TV Coverage: Thursday 27 - Sky Sports 1 from 10am Friday 28 - Sky Sports 1 from 10am Saturday 29 - Sky Sports 2 from 1pm Sunday 30 - Sky Sports 1 from 12.30pm

Player Watch: Thomas Bjorn - He played supremely well last week in Germany and might have won if his driving hadn't been a little wayward down the stretch. He won the Irish Open at Carton House in 2006 so will have good memories of the course.

Mikko Ilonen - Hasn't played since taking victory in the Nordea Masters so should be well rested. His last five finishes on the European Tour have included two seconds and a first.

Eddie Pepperell - The young Englishman showed great potential in the recent BMW PGA Championship where he finished tied sixth. He qualified for the U.S. Open where he didn't make the cut but will have gained great experience. Watch for him to spring a surprise this week. Key hole: 18th. A par-5 of just 513 yards, it's eminently reachable in two for everyone in the field. But with water providing protection, the hole could also witness a late slip-up. It's a classic risk and reward hole. Where next? PGA Tour - AT&T National preview

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?