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Rolex Series: DDF Irish Open Preview

This week sees the European Tour arrive in Northern Ireland for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club, hosted by the Rory Foundation.

The third leg on the newly formatted ‘Rolex Series’ has attracted an impressive field. Now held in high regard by many of the world’s best, partly due to its position within this new Rolex Series, the tournament also provides a first taster of true links golf as we approach the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Get to know: The Rory Foundation

Rory McIlroy started the Rory Foundation back in late 2014 to help raise funds for children’s charities across the world. Other than its annual hosting of the Irish Open, the Foundation busies itself with trying to enhance the lives of children around the world.

With health, community and research activities at its core, The Rory Foundation is determined to ‘instigate real change for children’ in each of the countries they work within.

Players to watch in Portstewart

Rory McIlroy

The tournament host and defending champion is looking forward to an unbroken stretch of three events in the next three weeks - somewhat of a rarity given his well publicised injury worries this year so far.

A win at the K Club last year allowed Rory to achieve his dream of winning his national Open. To emerge victorious in front of his friends and family in Northern Ireland would, quite possibly, top that experience.

Can the Northern Irishman go back-to-back? Let’s see what this week in Portstewart brings.

Catch highlights of the 2016 tournament below - including a magnificent approach shot from Rory to set up eagle on the last.

Justin Rose

Team GB’s golden boy from last year’s Olympic games has been in solid form this year and comes to the shores of North Antrim looking to turn on the style for the Irish crowd.

He will be looking to the final two majors of 2017 to help soften the undoubted blow of losing his tussle with Sergio Garcia at Augusta National. A nice first step along the way would be the capturing of the Irish Open – an event he hasn’t played in the past seven seasons.

Tommy Fleetwood

Last week’s win at the Open de France will have done nothing to dampen expectations for Tommy as he heads towards somewhat of a homecoming at Royal Birkdale come July 20th.

As the form man on the European Tour, local eyes will be on the precocious talent from Southport when the Open Championship arrives on Merseyside but, in the meantime, he has the small matter of attempting to go back-to-back on Tour – a feat achieved in 2016 by 20-year-old Korean Jeunghun Wang.

And, of course, neither of Jeunghun’s wins were just as prestigious as the Rolex Series instalments of the 2017 French or Irish Opens.

Watch below as Tommy previews the Open Championship:

Jon Rahm

A first appearance on the European Tour last week at the Open de France resulted in a tied tenth place for the talented youngster. A real superstar in the making, getting Rahm to play at Portstewart Golf club is a real coup for Rory and the DDF Irish Open.

He will be followed by a healthy gallery throughout the four days – assuming that he makes the cut, of course. Very little seems to be beyond Jon – even at such an early stage in his career.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello

Rafa seems to like it on the Emerald Isle. Four top ten finishes in the past five years suggests the man from Gran Canaria has a game which matches up well to links golf and sees him firmly in the mix to land the spoils this week.

A model of consistency on the European Tour over the past few seasons, he will return to the European Tour after having spent much of the year trying to make his way on the other side of ‘the pond’.

A few hits like this albatross during The Players back in May will put him in prime position to win a first event since the Omega Dubai Desert Classic back in 2012:

Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama’s attendance at this year’s event is tangible evidence of just how far the Irish Open has come in terms of global profile.

The Japanese superstar is seen by many as the man likely to join Y.E. Yang as Asia’s only major winners. A win on the North Antrim coast would set him up nicely for a next major challenge in Merseyside in two weeks.

What a tournament we have in prospect. Who are you looking forward to seeing in Ireland this week? Let us know below.