The European Tour begins its run of five consecutive events in Ireland and the United Kingdom this week. First up: the Irish Open at Mount Juliet Estate. Here’s everything you need to know about the event.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: American John Catlin shot 10-under-par 270 at Galgorm Castle Golf Club last year, defeating Englishman Aaron Rai by two shots.
COURSE: The Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Mount Juliet Estate opened in 1991 and can be found in the county of Kilkenny.
The picturesque parkland course has hosted the Irish Open previously – between 1993 and 1995 – as well as the WGC-American Express Championship in 2002 and 2004.
Mount Juliet will welcome 5,000 spectators and play to 6,627 metres (par-72) this week.
PRIZEMONEY: EUR 3,000,000.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Former World No.1 Rory McIlroy will make his first start on the European Tour since September, 2019, as he returns to his national Open for the first time in three years.
The Northern Irishman won this event at The K Club in 2016, missed the cut in 2017, shared 28th place in 2018, controversially skipped the event in 2019 and was unable to play last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
McIlroy, winner of seven standalone European Tour events, arrives at Mount Juliet in solid form, having finished T7th at the US Open two weeks ago and will still be feeding off his victory at Quail Hollow in May.
The 32-year-old should enjoy the parkland course this week and will expect to be in contention come Sunday.
RIGHT: Catlin claimed his second (of three) European Tour title at Galgorm Castle GC last year. PHOTO: Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images.
If you look at the list of past winners at Mount Juliet from both the Irish Open (1993 – 1995) and WGC (2002 and 2004) events it has previously hosted, you will notice one common theme: the layout rewards solid ball-strikers.
Check out the names of the five winners from those tournaments … Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Sam Torrance and Bernhard Langer. Not bad!
That’s why Tommy Fleetwood is well worth keeping an eye on this week. The 30-year-old Englishman is one of the world’s leading ball-strikers and shared 10th place when he last played this event in 2019.
Fleetwood has, however, missed two consecutive cuts and only recorded three top-10s from 13 worldwide starts this year.
72-HOLE RECORD: Two-time champion (2017 & 2019) and recent US Open winner Jon Rahm reached 24-under-par 264 when he won this event at Portstewart Golf Club in 2017. The Spaniard bested Richie Ramsay and Matthew Southgate by six shots.
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, Wade Ormsby and Jason Scrivener.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 10pm – 3am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7pm – 10pm)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 505 LIVE 8:30pm – 2am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 8:30pm – 3am)
*AEST, check local guides