2023 Irish Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
RORY McILROY’S appearance at this week’s Irish Open guarantees a huge crowd as the countdown to the Ryder Cup continues. The tournament is being staged at The K Club, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 2006.
The Northern Irishman has been criticised in the past for failing to support his home Open but The K Club was the site of his first professional victory on Irish soil. In 2016 he produced a stunning birdie-par-eagle finish to win the Irish Open by three strokes and McIlroy says he cannot wait for this week.
He said: “The Irish Open is a tournament that I grew up not just watching on TV but attending as a kid, seeing all my favourite players there over the years. It’s always been such a well-supported event. I’ve had my fair share of support and great memories at that tournament and going back to The K Club, it’s where I’ve had the most success and I’m obviously excited to get back there.
“The atmosphere was electric during that final round in 2016 and I’m looking forward to seeing the fans out in force at The K Club once again.”
McIlroy leads the Race to Dubai and has just enjoyed 10 successive top-10 finishes for the first time in his career.
He will be joined by 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry and Tom McKibbin, Ireland’s latest rising star, so you can be certain that the crowds will be turning up in force in the hope of seeing a home winner.
History was made last year as Adrian Meronk became the first winner from Poland on the DP World Tour when he claimed the title at Mount Juliet Estates. First played in 1927, the Irish Open is one of the world’s most famous national opens, with Meronk adding his name to a list of former champions that includes Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Jon Rahm. Meronk has since won two further national opens, the Australian Open and Italian Open.
Tyrrell Hatton has enjoyed a consistent year but has been unable to pick up a trophy. This would be the perfect time to put that right. And he would love to do so under the watchful gaze of Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, who is also in the field.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to The K Club in September,” said Donald. “It’s a venue that I obviously have fond memories of after our Ryder Cup victory in 2006 and it’ll be very exciting to see some of the guys in action as we make our final preparations for Marco Simone."
In an ideal world, one of Donald’s team would pick up the trophy but Min Woo Lee may have something to say about that.
Lee has been in excellent form throughout 2023, becoming a consistent fixture inside the Top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking. The Australian, who won his first Rolex Series title at the 2021 Scottish Open, has had a host of top-10 finishes worldwide this season, including a tied fifth result at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
Riding high in the Race to Dubai, this will be his fourth consecutive appearance in the island of Ireland’s national open as he looks to end the 2023 season with a win.
“Ireland is a fantastic place to play golf and I’m really looking forward to playing at The K Club for the first time,” said the 24-year-old. “I’ve had a great season so far and would love to finish it on a high note with some strong performances as we get closer to the end of the year.”
There will also be plenty of support for Billy Horschel, who became just the second American to win the BMW PGA Championship in 2021. He will be making his first appearance at the Irish Open and will then return to Wentworth next week after also confirming his appearance at the 2023 BMW PGA Championship.
“I’m excited to play in Ireland for the first time,” said Horschel. “I really enjoy coming over and playing in Europe. In my experience, the fans are knowledgeable and incredibly supportive of every golfer out there and I’m sure the spectators at The K Club will be no different.”
Horschel has had a troubled year on the PGA Tour, missing out on the FedEx Cup playoffs. But there were some encouraging signs towards the end of the campaign that he may have found some answers.
It was won in 2015 by Soren Kjeldsen, in 2016 by Rory McIlroy, in 2017 and 2019 by Jon Rahm, in 2018 by Russell Knox, in 2020 by John Catlin, in 2021 by Lucas Herbert and last year by Adrian Meronk.
The North Course was designed by Arnold Palmer. It is a par 72 measuring 7,350 yards. It is a traditional parkland course with lots of trees, water coming into play several times and features a host of risk-and-reward holes.
Rory McIlroy will be looking to win the tournament for the second time and is in excellent form, having just reeled off 10 consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time in his storied career. Tyrrell Hatton will feel he has a point to prove. The Englishman has enjoyed a consistent season on the PGA Tour but is still looking for his first victory of 2023.
Rory McIlroy. Red-hot favourite
Tyrrell Hatton. Consistent season
Shane Lowry. Loves playing on home soil
Five to Follow:
Rory McIlroy. Definitely the man to beat
Tyrrell Hatton. Would love to end his winless drought
Shane Lowry. K Club is made for him
Adrian Meronk. Brilliant ball striker
John Catlin. Looking to recapture his best form
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