The European Tour travels to Northern Ireland this week as Galgorm Castle Golf Club welcomes the Irish Open for the first time. Only two players – fan favourite Shane Lowry and Thai youngster Jazz Janewattananond – will feature from the world’s top-65 players, as the event feels the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Spaniard Jon Rahm claimed his first European Tour title of the season at Lahinch Golf Club when he won this event last year, reaching 16-under-par 264 to defeat Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Englishman Andy Sullivan by two shots. The former World No.1 has decided not to leave the United States to defend his title.
COURSE: Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, opened in 1997 and was designed by Simon Gidman. The 6,479-metre par-70 parkland layout is bordered by two rivers – which come into play on numerous holes – and features five lakes.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Irishman Shane Lowry won this event 11 years ago at Co Louth Golf Club to claim his maiden European Tour title.
The World No.30 and reigning Champion Golfer of the Year hasn’t been playing his best golf of late, however, missing two consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour prior to his share of 43rd at Winged Foot last week.
Lowry clearly enjoys his national Open and hasn’t missed an edition since his winning debut back in 2009. The 33-year-old’s best finish outside of his victory came in 2013 when he shared fifth place at Carton House Golf Club.
RIGHT: Lowry defeated Robert Rock in extra holes to win this event in 2009 at Co Louth Golf Club. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Victorian Lucas Herbert will be the third-highest ranked player in the field this week behind Lowry and Janewattananond and arrives in Northern Ireland off the back of his career-best major finish.
The 24-year-old was T31st at the US Open last week and topped an Australian contingent that featured the likes of Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith.
Herbert knows how to win, too, having claimed his maiden European Tour title at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, on Australia Day no less.
The Bendigo product shared 55th place at this event last year – despite his third-round 77 – and should return to the event feeling more mature and ready to contend for his second Tour title.
72-HOLE RECORD: Two-time champion Jon Rahm has shot 264 on two occasions and finished 24-under par for his 2017 victory.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Brett Rumford (2004) and Ossie Pickworth (1950).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Maverick Antcliff, Scott Hend, Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee, Jake McLeod, Zach Murray, Wade Ormsby and Jason Scrivener.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10pm – 3am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10pm – 3am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10:30pm – 3am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10:30pm – 3am)
*AEST, check local guides