The European Tour has put together 15 interesting facts about the Irish Open that are sure to make you appear knowledgeable to your friends at Royal County Down this week
The first ever Irish Open was held in 1927 when Scotsman George Duncan lifted the trophy at Portmarnock in Dublin.
The history of the Irish Open in Northern Ireland dates back to 1928 when the second ever tournament was held at Royal County Down, the venue for this year’s event.
Prior to this year, the Irish Open has been held in Northern Ireland 10 times. Royal Portrush has hosted the event on four occasions (1930, 1937, 1947 and 2012), Royal County Down on three prior occasions (1928, 1935 and 1939), Belvoir Park, Belfast, twice in 1949 and 1953, with Malone Golf Club, Belfast, hosting the event just once in 1933.
Portmarnock in Dublin has hosted the most Irish Open tournaments by a considerable distance, a total of 19 over the course of 76 years – from the very first event in 1927 to 2003 when Michael Campbell from New Zealand was crowned Champion.
In 2012, the Irish Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 50 years when Royal Portrush hosted a record breaking tournament, the first European Tour event to sell out completely in advance. Jamie Donaldson (below) was crowned champion that year and likened the experience to playing in a major championship.
Ireland’s Christy O’Connor Senior has won more Irish Opens than any other player with FOUR triumphs in total – three at Woodbrook in County Wicklow in 1964, 1967 and 1972, and once at Royal Dublin in 1966 (Royal Dublin). Three years after his last victory in 1972, his son Christy O’Connor Junior won his only Irish Open title – again at Woodbrook!
Four players have won a hat-trick of Irish Opens and they are Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1985, 1986), German Bernhard Langer (1984, 1987, 1994), England’s Nick Faldo (1991, 1992, 1993) and Scotsman Colin Montgomerie (1996, 1997, 2001).
Nick Faldo holds the record for consecutive Irish Open wins with three in a row from 1991 to 1993. The only other players to successfully defend their titles with back-to-back wins are Ballesteros (1985-86), Montgomerie (1996-97), Welshman Ian Woosnam (1988-89), England’s Mark James (1979-80), Christy O’Connor Snr (1966-67).
The first two Irish Opens to be held in Northern Ireland were won by English brothers Ernest Whitcombe at Royal County Down 1928 and Charles Whitcombe at Royal Portrush in 1930. A third brother Reg completed Irish Open wins for the whole family when he lifted the title at Royal Dublin in 1936.
The lowest 18-hole score in an Irish Open is 61, a feat accomplished by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell at County Louth in 2009 and again the following year by England’s Ross Fisher when he won the tournament at Killarney in 2010. However, G-Mac’s score was 11-under par, compared to Fisher’s 10-under.
The biggest winning margin in an Irish Open was in 1987 when Bernhard Langer finished 10 shots ahead of the field at Portmarnock.
Wicklow golfer Harry Bradshaw obviously liked travelling up north as he won the Irish Open twice in Northern Ireland in the space of three years – firstly in 1947 at Royal Portrush and then again in 1949 at Belvoir Park.
Fred Daly from Portrush is the only player from Northern Ireland to ever win the Irish Open, when he lifted the title at Portmarnock, Dublin, in 1946. The following year he became the first Irish player to win the Open Championship in 1947 at Hoylake (Royal Liverpool) Golf Club. Daly went on to play on four Ryder Cup teams in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1953.
The lowest 72-hole score is 266 (18-under) shared by Colin Montgomerie (Fota Island, 2001) and Ross Fisher (Killarney, 2010). The lowest 72-hole score in relation to par though is a 21-under 275 by Christy O’Connor Jnr in 1975 at Woodbrook.
The course record at Royal County Down is 66 set by Ireland’s first golfing superstar Jimmy Bruen in the opening round of 1939’s Irish Open. This was the last time that Royal County Down hosted the Irish Open, some 76 years ago, and his record remains intact. Jimmy, was born in Belfast in 1920 but grew up and learned his trade in Cork, led the field after the first 36 holes but couldn’t hold on as the tournament was eventually won by England’s Arthur Lees. With this year’s amazing field, led by World Number One Rory McIlroy, it will be very interesting to see if Jimmy’s record will still be standing come Sunday evening’s trophy presentation!