Portstewart (European Tour)
The third Rolex Series event of the season brings links golf back to the European Tour and some of the biggest names in golf will be teeing it up on one of Northern Ireland’s most stunning golf courses. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
Rory McIlroy delighted the fans at The K Club last year as the home favourite overcame a stern challenge from Russell Knox to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation.
The Northern Irishman fired a closing round of 69 to make it European Tour win number 13 in County Kildare, with the result all the more impressive considering he had missed the cut at the event the last three seasons, as he became the first home winner since Shane Lowry won as an amateur in 2009.
The four-time Major Championship winner came into the final round with a three-shot lead but was overtaken by Knox with three holes to play before two stunning approach shots gave him an birdie-par-eagle finish and a 12 under total - his five wood to the 18th green saw him awarded the accolade of 2016 European Tour Shot of the Year.
That handed him a three-shot win over Knox and Bradley Dredge, who had made a final day surge of his own with a birdie-birdie finish in a 66.
Matthew Southgate finished fourth at eight under, meanwhile Martin Kaymer fired a closing 65 to get to six under alongside fellow German Maximilian Kieffer and England's Tyrrell Hatton, with Rafa Cabrera Bello and Eddie Pepperell a further shot back.
A who’s who in golf are set to arrive at Portstewart Golf Club for the first time at this year’s Irish Open including tournament host and defending champion Rory McIlroy, while World Number Two Hideki Matsuyama will make his regular European Tour debut having finished joint runner-up at U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills.
Northern Irish fans will also have the opportunity to see rising Spanish prodigy Jon Rahm, who finished tied tenth in his debut Rolex Series event last week at the HNA Open de France, while Olympic Gold Medal winner Justin Rose will play the event for the first time in seven years.
Riding high on a flawless display at the HNA Open de France, Tommy Fleetwood will arrive in Northern Ireland full of confidence after his one shot victory at Le Golf National. The Englishman is currently leading the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex after a stunning start to the 2017 season – including two European Tour titles and a fourth place finish at the U.S. Open Championship, and will be looking to capitalise on his recent form.
The list of impressive names only gets longer as Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, Lee Westwood, Danny Willett, and Ian Poulter set their sights on the prestigious trophy, with former Major Champions Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke also drawing on local knowledge as they prepare to tee it up in front of the Northern Irish fans.
Portstewart Golf club was founded in 1894 with just nine holes developed at the existing location of The Old Course, as further upgrades in 1934 extended the course to 18 holes.
In 1986 the club purchased land in the sand dunes known as 'Thistly Hollow', making room for seven new holes to be built in the towering dunes with the classic links design snaking across the dune-covered peninsula flanked on one side by the River Bann and on the other by the Atlantic Ocean.
Known by many for having one of the best opening holes in Ireland, the 7,118 yard par 72 Stand Championship Course designed by Des Griffin is a bucket list item for golfers around the world.