The countdown is well and truly on and the excitement is building ahead of next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club.
Our guide to the North Coast and Irish Open
As part of the prestigious Rolex Series, this year’s event is expected to be the biggest Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in the tournament’s illustrious history… but how well do you know your Irish golfing history?
To mark the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open’s 90th birthday, the European Tour has put together some interesting facts about the event that are sure to make you appear knowledgeable to your friends…
- The first ever Irish Open was held in 1927 when Scotsman George Duncan lifted the trophy at Portmarnock in Dublin.
- This year will see Portstewart Golf Club host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for the first time. The first club in Northern Ireland to host the Irish Open was Royal County Down which was the venue for the second ever tournament in 1928.
- This year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Prize Fund is a record US$7 million, compared to the princely sum of approximately £750 in 1927 when winner George Duncan pocketed a cool £150.
- Prior to this year, the Irish Open has been held in Northern Ireland 11 times. Royal Portrush has hosted the event on four occasions (1930, 1937, 1947 and 2012), as has Royal County Down (1928, 1935, 1939 and 2015), with Belvoir Park, Belfast, hosting twice in 1949 and 1953, and Malone Golf Club, Belfast, hosting the event just once in 1933.
- Portmarnock has hosted the most Irish Open tournaments by a considerable distance, a total of 19 from the very first event in 1927 to 2003 when Michael Campbell from New Zealand was crowned Champion.
- In 2012, the Irish Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 50 years when Royal Portrush hosted a record breaking tournament, becoming the first European Tour event to sell out completely in advance. Jamie Donaldson was crowned champion that year and likened the experience to playing in a major championship.
- Four players have won a hat-trick of Irish Opens and they are Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1985, 1986), German Bernhard Langer (1984, 1987, 1994), England’s Nick Faldo (1991, 1992, 1993) and Scotsman Colin Montgomerie (1996, 1997, 2001).
- Rory McIlroy is aiming to become the sixth Irish Open champion to successfully defend his title. Nick Faldo holds the record for consecutive wins with three in a row from 1991 to 1993. The only other players to achieve back-to-back wins are Ballesteros (1985-86), Montgomerie (1996-97), Welshman Ian Woosnam (1988-89), and England’s Mark James (1979-80).
- The first two Irish Opens to be held in Northern Ireland were won by English brothers Ernest Whitcombe at Royal County Down 1928 and Charles Whitcombe at Royal Portrush in 1930. A third brother Reg completed Irish Open wins for the whole family when he lifted the title at Royal Dublin in 1936.
- The lowest 18-hole score in an Irish Open is 61, a feat accomplished by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell at County Louth in 2009 and again the following year by England’s Ross Fisher when he won the tournament at Killarney in 2010. However, G-Mac’s score was 11-under par, compared to Fisher’s 10-under.
- The biggest winning margin in an Irish Open was in 1987 when Bernhard Langer finished 10 shots ahead of the field at Portmarnock.
- Wicklow golfer Harry Bradshaw obviously liked travelling up north as he won the Irish Open twice in Northern Ireland in the space of three years – firstly in 1947 at Royal Portrush and then again in 1949 at Belvoir Park.
- Only seven Irish players have lifted their national Irish Open trophy. Nobody could forget how Rory McIlroy won the title in such spectacular fashion at The K Club last year (2016). Other Irish winners are Fred Daly in 1946, Harry Bradshaw in 1947 and 1949, Christy O’Connor Jnr in 1975, John O’Leary in 1982, Padraig Harrington in 2007 and Shane Lowry in 2009.
- Aside from tournament host Rory McIlroy, Fred Daly from Portrush is the only other player from Northern Ireland to ever win the Irish Open, when he lifted the title at Portmarnock, Dublin, in 1946. The following year he became the first Irish player to win the Open Championship in 1947 at Hoylake (Royal Liverpool) Golf Club. Daly went on to play on four Ryder Cup teams in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1953.
- The lowest 72-hole score is 266 (18-under) shared by Colin Montgomerie (Fota Island, 2001) and Ross Fisher (Killarney, 2010). The lowest 72-hole score in relation to par though is a 21-under 275 by Christy O’Connor Jnr in 1975 at Woodbrook.
- When indie rock stars Two Door Cinema Club take the stage at this year’s opening ceremony on Wednesday July 5, they will make history by becoming the first ever major recording artists to perform at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. English pop-rock band Scouting For Girls will close the event on the Showstage on Sunday evening.
Our guide to the North Coast and Irish Open
Tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open are on sale at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com