Rory McIlroy headlines and hosts Irish Open

A preview of The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation

Rory McIlroy hosts Irish Open
Rory McIlroy hosts Irish Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

Tournament host Rory McIlroy is on the start sheet, so too is Masters winner Danny Willett and Major champions like Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell.

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 Purse: €4,000,000 Defending Champion: Soren Kjeldsen (-2)

TV Coverage: 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

Player watch:

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.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus 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 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?