The Irish Open has had a bit of a chequered history. There have been spells when the event wasn't played at all and there were even a few years in the 1970s when it was known as the Carroll's International but it's been an ever-present on the DP World Tour since 1974.
It's a nomadic event but we're returning to the Mount Juliet Estate in Co Kilkenny for the second year in-a-row this week for the 67th edition.
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, Ireland.
Par 72, 7,264 yards
Stroke Average in 2021 - 71.23
Mount Juliet is a Jack Nicklaus designed parkland course with generous fairways framed majestically by mature oak and beech trees.
Having opened in 1991, Mount Juliet hosted this event in 1993, '94 and '95, as well as the Irish Senior Open in 1999 and the WGC - American Express in 2002 and 2004 when conditions varied greatly. Tiger Woods won the 2002 edition in 25-under-par and in wet and windier conditions two years later, Ernie Els beat Thomas Bjorn by a stroke in 18-under-par.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, beginning at 13:00 on Thursday.
Last Seven Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2021 - Lucas Herbert -19 55.054/1
2020 - John Catlin -10 65.064/1
2019 - Jon Rahm -16 10.09/1
2018 - Russell Knox -14 (playoff) 28.027/1
2017 - Jon Rahm -24 17.5
2016 - Rory McIlroy -12 5.49/2
2015 - Soren Kjeldsen -2 (playoff) 340.0339/1
Irish Open Results at Mount Juliet
1st Nick Faldo -12 (playoff)
2nd Jose Maria Olazabal -12
3rd David Frost -9
1st Bernard Langer -13
T2nd John Daly -12
T2nd Robert Allenby -12
1st Sam Torrance -11 (playoff)
T2nd Howard Clark -11
T2nd Robert Allenby -11
1st Lucas Herbert DD 5 DA 35 GIR 34 SC 15 PA 5
2nd Rikard Karlberg DD 43 DA 12 GIR 6 SC 7 PA 12
2nd Johannes Veerman DD 18 DA 10 GIR 22 SC 10 PA 5
WGC Results at Mount Juliet
1st Tiger Woods -25 DD 24 DA 24 GIR 3 SC 1 PA 6
2nd Retief Goosen -24 DD 9 DA 12 GIR 12 SC 7 PA 3
3rd Vijay Singh -21 DD 24 DA 24 GIR 3 SC 1 PA 6
1st Ernie Els -18 DD 2 DA 62 GIR 11 SC 1 PA 1
2nd Thomas Bjorn -17 DD 8 DA 12 GIR 1 SC 4 PA 22
3rd David Howell -13 DD 37 DA 4 GIR 3 SC 20 PA 12
What Will it Take to Win the Irish Open?
With only three tournaments' worth of stats to evaluate we're poking around in the dark to a certain extent, but I'd favour accuracy over power off the tee and it's quite clear that sacvng shots around the greens has been key.
The two WGC winners here both topped the Scrambling stats and although Lucas Herbert only ranked 15th, 25th was the worst any of the top-eight ranked for Scrambling and four of the eight ranked inside the top-ten for Strokes Gainer Around the Green.
Will the Cream Rise to the Top Again?
Whether you'd describe Herbert as top-class is slightly debatable but his first DP World Tour win came at the prestigious Dubai Desert Classic in 2020 and he followed his win here with a victory on the PGA Tour, at the Bermuda Championship in November. At 26, there's probably more to come from the Australian and every other course winner has been straight out of the top drawer.
The six-time major winner, Nick Faldo, won the third of his three straight Irish Open titles at Mount Juliet back in 1993, Bernard Langer, who won the US Masters twice, won the '94 edition, and the 1995 winner, Sam Torrance, was a stalwart on the European Tour for many a year, winning 21 titles and appearing in eight Ryder Cups.
Tiger Woods, who was the 3.259/4 favourite when he won the WGC - American Express, needs no introduction, and Ernie Els, who's won four major champions, was the 9.08/1 second favourite in 2004.
The winners here have all been top-class and the placed players at the first five events weren't too bad either.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The Mount Juliet winners have been straight out of the top drawer and we've seen some very high quality multiple winners of the Irish Open too with the 2021 US Open champ, Jon Rahm, who won the title in 2017 and 2019, the latest to win the event more than once.
In total, 11 players have won the Irish Open on more than one occasion and Faldo, Langer, Seve Ballesteros, and Colin Montgomerie have all won the title three times.
Wentworth form well worth consideration
BMW PGA winners Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Howard Clark, Bernhard Langer, and David Howell have all won or been placed here and the likes of Thomas Bjorn, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh have contended at the BMW PGA and they've also either won or been runner-up at Wentworth in the now defunct World Match Play Championship.
It would be easy to argue that all of those players were extremely talented and that they could and would contend almost anywhere but last year's runner-up, Rikard Karlberg, who finished runner-up to Chris Wood in the 2016 edition of the BMW PGA Championship on his tournament debut, cements the link between the two tracks nicely.
Karlberg can't really be described as top-class and he's hardly prolific either. His sole DP World Tour success came in the 2015 edition of the Italian Open at the tree-lined Milano Golf Club and that franks the Wentworth link too...
A year after Karlberg beat Martin Kaymer in a playoff, the 2018 and 2019 BMW Championship winners, Francesco Molinari, and Danny Willett, finished first and second at Milano.
Both Lucas Herbert and Tiger Woods won here wire-to-wire and Ernie Els was in control at halfway so a fast start may prove to be vital and concentrating on the early pacesetters looks the way to go.
The 10.09/1 favourite, Shane Lowry, won the Open Championship at Royal Portrush and he also won this event as an amateur way back in 2009 but his record in this event since has been poor.
His fifth-place finish back in 2013 is his only other top-20 finish from a dozen starts since the win and he's missed the cut three times.
Lowry missed the cut last time out in the US Open when assigned an unfortunate draw alongside a couple of LIV Golf players, but he was in fair form before that with back-to-back thirds at the US Masters and The heritage the highlights.
He could very easily bounce back after his weekend off at Brookline but given his tournament record as a pro, I'm happy to swerve him.
Irish PGA Tour player, Seamus Power, is next up but he looks readily opposable.
Power arrives in fine form after top-12 finishes at both the US PGA Championship and the US Open, but he was gifted his sole PGA Tour title, the Barbasol Championship last year, when the runner-up, JT Poston, who he beat in a playoff, played the last four holes in three-over-par, and Power let a five-stroke 36 hole lead slip at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February.
Thomas Pieters commands plenty of respect after his 12th here last year and his playoff defeat to Haotong Li in Germany on Sunday but he can't be described as prolific and I'm happy to leave him alone too.
I may have one or two more selections with the Find Me a 100 Winner column tomorrow but for now I'm going with just one pick.
Matt Cooper makes a strong case for Tyrrell Hatton and I'm more than happy to follow him in given the Englishman has won at both Wentworth and Milano. I thought 22.021/1 on the exchange was more than fair.
Tyrell Hatton @ 22.021/1
I'll be back later with my John Deere Classic preview.
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