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The Greatest Irish Open Champions

By: Golfshake Editor | Wed 30 Jun 2021 | Comments

First played in 1927, the Irish Open has long been a standout tournament in Europe, presenting leading golfers with the opportunity to compete on some of the world's finest courses

In that first edition, it was former Open champion George Duncan who edged a 20-year-old Henry Cotton at Portmarnock, setting the tone for generations of notable winners.

Those early years saw the likes of Reg Whitcombe (1936), Bobby Locke (1938), Fred Daly (1946), and Dai Rees (1948) triumph, but things were questionably elevated when the event was restored as part of the European Tour in 1975, then won by local hero Christy O'Connor Jnr. 

Since then, names like Ben Crenshaw (1976), Ken Brown (1978), Jose Maria Olazabal (1990), Sergio Garcia (1999), Michael Campbell (2003), Padraig Harrington (2007), Shane Lowry (2009), and Rory McIlroy (2016) have etched their name on the trophy, but winning the title more than once is something truly special.

We take a closer look at the 11 multiple champions of the Irish Open.

Colin Montgomerie

The Ryder Cup legend nearly secured three successive Irish Opens in the late 90s, winning in 1996 and 1997, before losing a playoff to David Carter in 1998. Those all came at Druids Glen, but the Scot finally claimed a third triumph in 2001 at Fota Island.

Bernhard Langer

The German enjoyed a decade of success in Ireland, winning at Royal Dublin in 1984, he then finished a staggering ten shots ahead of Sandy Lyle in 1987, before his third title over Robert Allenby and John Daly at Mount Juliet in 1994.

Nick Faldo

Among his many achievements, winning a hat-trick of Irish Opens must be up there for Nick Faldo, winning in 1991, 1992 and 1993, which included playoff victories over the late South African Wayne Westner and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Seve Ballesteros

Three times a champion, the legendary Seve Ballesteros won in 1983, 1985 and 1986, the second of which saw the eventual five-time major winner defeat Bernhard Langer in a playoff at Royal Dublin. 

Jon Rahm

Demonstrating his vast ability for links golf, the Spaniard produced a masterclass at Portstewart in 2017, winning by six, before he headed to the famed Lahinch two years later and shot a spectacular 62 to win for a second time.

Sam Torrance

The Scotsman displayed his class when he finished five shots ahead of Nick Faldo at Portmarnock in 1981, but it was 14 years until he won the Irish Open for a second time, on this occasion winning a playoff against Stuart Cage and Howard Clark in 1995.

Ian Woosnam

The wee Welshman dominated at Portmarnock in 1988, winning by seven strokes, but it was a much closer thing a year later when he defeated Philip Walton in a playoff.

Mark James

Veteran of many a Ryder Cup, James won the Irish Open in successive years in 1979 and 1980, both at Portmarnock, finishing a shot ahead of Ed Sneed and Brian Barnes respectively. James was later runner-up to Bernhard Langer in 1984.

Harry Bradshaw

Bradshaw won in 1947 and 1949, the latter win coming at the expense of the great Bobby Locke, who just by coincidence that same year defeated the Irishman in a 36-hole playoff at Royal St George's in the Open Championship.

Ernest Whitcombe

Older brother of Charles and Reg - both future winners - Ernest won the Irish and Dutch Opens in 1928, the former at Royal County Down. Seven years later, he returned to the revered course and defeated Reg in a playoff, securing his second success in the Emerald Isle.

Bob Kenyon

Born in Devon and the professional at West Lancashire Golf Club, Kenyon won the Irish Open by two strokes in 1931 at Royal Dublin, before claiming victory for a second time at Malone Golf Club in 1933, where he finished two ahead of future Champion Golfer of the Year, Alf Padgham.

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