Irish Open fever abounds at Fota Island
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2014 Irish Open | Preview | 18 Jun 2014
The Irish Open returns to Fota Island for the first time since Soren Hansen was successful in 2002, the venue about to witness a new look Irish Open given the massive support the game in Ireland is receiving is getting as a result of four Irishman claiming six major championships in the interim.
Massive crowds are expected to flock to the Christy O’Connor Jr. and Peter McEvoy designed layout, although since upgraded by Jeff Howe Designs, fully taxing the facilities available.
All four of those major champions, Rory McIlroy, Graeme Mc Dowell, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington are in this week’s field with McIlroy a pronounced favourite to win what is effectively his own national open for the first occasion.
McIlroy has been in fine form for much of 2014 and although he disappointed to some extent at the US Open his previous form is hard to ignore. His favouritism is deserved.
Paul Casey has begun to play much better of late and that combined with the fact that he is the defending champion gives him a great chance. His victory last year was at Carton House but he did finish 13th when he last played this layout in 2002 and on the last two occasions he has played the event he has been a winner and runner-up.
Graeme McDowell has been solid enough although unspectacular of late. Surprisingly for a player of his standing and patriotism he has a poor record in this event and will need a significant turnaround to change that.
Padraig Harringon has won the Irish Open previously but sadly he is a long way from that sort of form now. It would be great for the event to see him contend but given current form it is hard to imagine.
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher might have missed three of his last five cuts but he has also recorded top five finishes at Wentworth and soon after Malmo where he was runner-up at the Nordea Masters. He might have found the US events a bit rich for him but back on the European Tour his chances of a second victory of the season to that he recorded in Dubai earlier in the year.
The tournament will also see the beginning of the professional career of current US Amateur Champion Matthew Fitzpatrick who last week finished as the leading amateur at the US Open.
Australians in the field are Richard Green, Brett Rumford and Wade Ormsby.
Green has made his last six cuts including when runner-up in Spain.
Rumford has a good record at the Irish Open having won in 2004 and recorded two or three other top tens but his form of late has not been good and it will take a large improvement for him to continue his good record in this event.