This week the European Tour heads across the Atlantic Ocean for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, with players converging on the famed K Club, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup. Ireland’s national open is the second stop in Europe this year after the Open de Espana and has attracted one of the strongest fields on tour, rivalling the big-money events in the Middle East earlier in the season. The €4-million purse is not the biggest in golf, but the passion to play well on a difficult layout is there.
World number three Rory McIlroy is the tournament host and will look to add a title that means a lot to Irish players. The Ulsterman showed promise at last weeks Players Championship on the PGA Tour and aims to become the first local winner since 2009.
Seven years ago Shane Lowry claimed the title as an amateur, but this year he is back as the world number 35. Other home favourites include 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke and 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell, who will draw extra fire from the crowds.
McIlroy will have the favourite tag attached to him and the hope is that he can deliver a 13th European Tour victory this week. The 2011 US Open champion needs to make amends at his national open, because he shot 80 in the first round last year and missed the cut. As European number one, McIlroy will feel he owes the fans a good, especially since he won’t play on the European Tour again until the Open de France.
Masters champion Danny Willett will also make his return and will be hoping to do better than he did in is comeback performance last week at the Players Championship, where he missed the cut.
Last year Soren Kjeldsen claimed a nervy playoff victory and the hope is that this year’s tournament will be equally exciting.