The Irish Open Golf Championship returns to Carton House this week after last being played there back in 2006 when it was won on that occasions by Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn. It also returns to the Montgomerie Course, having initially been pencilled in for the O’Meara Course at Carton. A field of the very best Irish golfers, from North and South, along with some of the top European stars will fight it out over 4 days for what is still one of the most coveted titles in European golf – Padraig Harrington considers it his “Fifth Major” so that just shows the grá he has for the tournament. There have been 2 Irish winners since the last Irish Open was hosted at Carton, Harrington and Lowry while he was still an amateur, and a large home crowd are hoping again to cheer on an Irish champion!
Golf Ireland have been putting in a lot of work behind the scenes, and much credit should go to them for this. I particularly like their grandstand on 17, where I’m sure the Irish crowd will be looking to rival a similar, but much larger, amphitheatre at the PGA Tour stop at Phoenix. The the craic should be mighty at 17 over the 4 days of the tournament though…..they don’t get that in the States! Fans can reserve their seat for the 17th hole grandstand for just €10 per day, ensuring that in the year of The Irish Gathering they are part of this exhilarating crowd experience. Big screens will also be erected at the 17th hole allowing spectators to watch all of the action from elsewhere on the course. Anyone who has already purchased reserved seating for the 18th green grandstand will also receive automatic entrance to the 17th stand. All reserved grandstand seating for the 18th on Saturday and Sunday is now sold out. Information about the 17th hole grandstand at the 2013 Irish Open can be found on www.europeantour.com/tickets, where special advanced tickets offers for the tournament can also be located.
An advance season ticket for all four days of The Irish Open can be bought for €70. Adult day tickets are priced at €30 pre-event, and €35 on the gate. Concessions are available at €50 for a season (€60 on the gate) and €20 for any one day (€25 on the gate). Under-16s accompanied by an adult are admitted free of charge and all car parking is also free.
Here are the guys who I think will contend this week, I’ll try to run the rule over the most of the Irish in the field as well.
RORY McILROY (17/2 best price with Sportingbet)
It’s tough to consider Rory the favourite with his recent form although from what I have heard coming out of the practice rounds so far the course this year, with decent weather, will suit the bombers and McIlroy is right up there with all the biggest hitters in the game. Rors has not really contended much this year however and it will be interesting to see how his indifferent form may hold up to this down the stretch on Sunday. I think better value can be had with some of the other Irish players.
THOMAS BJORN (16/1 best price with BETFRED)
The Dane triumphed here when the Irish Open was last played at Carton and in very tough conditions too. He could well be coming in here as the BMW champ, only a double bogey late on in Germany derailing his hopes on the final day. Expect Thomas to be in with a chance here, he is playing well and obviously has previous course form too.
GRAEME McDOWELL (16/1 best price with Paddy Power)
G-Mac is simply the best Irish golfer on form at the moment, 2 wins this year already and plenty fine play in between that as well should make him one of the leading contenders to hoist aloft the Irish Open trophy come Sunday evening in Kildare. His US Open performance was obviously not up to his high standards of late but I would not let that blip put you off. He’s also 7/2 (Ladbrokes) to be top Irish player so that might be worth looking at as well
PADRAIG HARRINGTON (20/1 best price with Stan James & Paddy Power)
Two superb rounds followed by one poor round and then one terrible round sum up Padraig’s week at the Travelers Championship in the States, I hope he has gotten over that and the jetlag to make a proper attempt at winning his 2nd Irish Open. Paddy finished 11th here back in 2006 and if he gets into contention there are few players around that fight as hard as he does. I don’t think this will be his week, Muirfield could well provide this in a few weeks time, but with the home crowd cheering him on it would not surprise me. He considers the Irish Open as the Fifth Major, and rightly so as an Irish golfer, so the motivation is always there for him and he’ll be trying his hardest to win again.
ROSS FISHER (25/1 best price with Ladbrokes)
Ross finished tied 5th back in 2006 and his form has been better of late than in recent years. 25/1 is a bit shorter than I thought he would be however so he is more included here because of his previous course form rather than his overall form coming into the tournament. He does love the Irish Open though and it obviously has memories for him for certain reasons, being the 2010 Irish Open champion is of course one of these.
SHANE LOWRY (25/1 with Stan James)
One of Offaly’s favourite sons tees it up at Carton with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. He is their Touring Professional and lives on-site so he should know the course better than anybody in the field really. He is playing good golf, his win over friend Rory McIlroy in the Accenture Matchplay being one of the highlights I suppose where his amazing touch around the greens was evident. He will need this short game to be razor sharp once more with the tricky greens on the Monty course and, of course, with those bunkers! Has a big chance this week.
A few for the maybe pile are PAUL CASEY (50/1 with sportingbet), PETER UIHLEIN (45s with Stan James) and ROMAIN WATTEL (70/1 with Stan James). Now for the rest of the Irish!
I think in terms of a good performance, comfortably making it to the weekend and going from there could well be seen as the target for the likes of David Ryan, John Kelly, Damian Mooney, Brendan McGovern, Reeve Whitson, Gavin Moynihan, Donal Gleeson, Cian McNamara, Gareth Shaw and Kevin Phelan while Barrie Trainor (with Limerickman Andrew Kiely on the bag for the week!), Seamus Power, Mark Murphy, David Higgins, Alan Dunbar, Simon Thornton, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie may well have loftier goals. Mark Murphy was one of the last into the field and he has been coming on leaps and bounds since winning the Big Break Ireland a few years back. He made a fantastic eagle on his 36th hole at Portrush last year to make the cut so he is no stranger to coming up with the goods when it is least expected, I’m sure some cute Kerrymen may well have a few euro on at 80/1 ! The prospects this week of Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley, and 2011 Open Champ, Darren Clarke, are uncertain as they are not playing as much as a few years back. McGinley, of course, has plenty on his mind with Ryder Cup duties along with his link to the Golf Development Project in Ghana as well. Clarke has really never found the same form that brought another Irish Major win at The Open Championship. Apart from the leading Irish contenders like Rors, G Mac, Harrington and Lowry, it may prove surprising if the lads above contended at the top of the leaderboard – they are all fine players however and with the home support there may be something special to happen yet, we all remember 2009 at Baltray!
Here’s to a wonderful week of golf at Carton House for the 2013 Irish Open, not sure what the weather will be like but let us hope it will be fitting for the biggest tournament in Irish golf and one that should be a flagship event on the European Tour calendar. There will be a few events going on during the week that are not to be missed, namely the ‘Open House @ 17’ Challenge. Anyone visiting the Tented Village at Carton House can register to compete in the challenge at the GUI National Academy stand. Spectators can then use the shuttle service provided by The European Tour to access the challenge which takes place at the GUI National Golf Academy adjacent to the championship course itself. The challenge involves a 170-yard tee shot to a green in the short game area of the Academy – replicating the testing challenge that the world’s top professionals will face during the Irish Open tournament itself. The six players closest to the flag each day will be invited to play the actual 17th hole in front of packed grandstands and galleries with prizes on offer for the winners including vouchers for the National Golf Academy and discounts on insurance from the GUI’s main sponsor AIG.
Other initiatives include the ‘Irish Double’ ticket to enjoy the third round of the Irish Open and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Day for a combined price of €50. It will hopefully prove to be a fantastic week of golf in Ireland, I just wish I could make it!