Rory McIlroy returns to the scene of his first – and only – victory on the island of Ireland for the Irish Open at The K Club.
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It’s not long now until the Ryder Cup and this week in Ireland will act as great preparation for the island’s favourites Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, while also a week of celebration for new kid on the block Tom McKibbin.
The Arnold Palmer-designed North Course at The K Club is the venue and it is a tough parkland test that features mature trees lining the fairways and plenty of water hazards to avoid too.
Seven years ago McIlroy claimed the title here, achieving his success with a pair of fairway woods to par-5 greens that have gone down in tour legend as among the greatest-ever hit.
Good memories but can he repeat with another win?
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🏌️ Aaron Rai each way
It is tempting to back McIlroy, but a brutal reality makes his price a poor one: he’s played the Irish Open 13 times, won it just that once, and only has another two top 25 finishes.
Instead, back the Englishman Aaron Rai to get involved at the sharp end on his return to European Shores.
He’s spent the last two years on the PGA Tour and has impressed there.
Moreover, he likes playing between trees.
His first win on the second tier in Europe was on a tree-lined course and so was his first win on the DP World Tour in Hong Kong.
His second very nearly was, too, when the runner-up in this event in 2020 at the parkland Galgorm Castle.
And his best result this year, third in the Canadian Open, was at the tightly wooded Oakdale.
Back him to go one better than three years ago with Spreadex offering 25/1 each way.
⛳ Back Aaron Rai at 25/1 each way with Spreadex ⛳
🏌️ Tom McKibbin top 20
The youngster plays out of Holywood GC just like McIlroy and he’ll be cheered down the fairways this week off the back of his breakthrough win in the European Open earlier this year.
Last week he closed with a brilliant 62 for a third cut made in a row and he can get back into the top 20 (and he was last month in Northern Ireland) off those good vibes.
He also has nice memories of the resort because he was second on The K Club’s South Course last year on the Challenge Tour.
⛳ Bet on McKibbin to reach the top 20 at 14/5 with bet365 ⛳
🏌️ Shane Lowry first-round lead
Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup wildcards were announced at the start of this week and they could play a part this week.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk was desperately unlucky to miss out and then posted a good luck message to the team on social media.
The Irish fans will know it, will have been impressed by it and he’ll be supported accordingly.
But their own Shane Lowry will have different feelings – one of elation at getting the nod.
He can ride that wave and while victory might be beyond him a fast start on Thursday isn’t.
He knows the course well, he loves a tree-lined test and can play well with a weight lifted from his shoulders.
⛳ Bet on Lowry 33/1 each way with 888Sport for five places ⛳
How to watch the Irish Open
- Venue: The North Course at The K Club, Kildare
- Date: Thursday 7th September – Sunday 10th September
- Broadcast: Full coverage on Sky Sports Golf: Thursday & Friday 1.00 pm – 6.00 pm, Saturday & Sunday 12.30 pm – 5.30 pm.
About the author
Matt Cooper has been a golf journalist for 15 years. He’s worked for, among others, Golf365, SkySports, ESPN, NBC, Sporting Life, Open.com and the Guardian. He specialises in feature writing, reporting and tournament analysis. He’s covered numerous Opens, Ryder Cups and Solheim Cups, and travelled to golfing destinations as varied as Kazakhstan, South Korea, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
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