While this week’s 3M Open represents the first time a PGA Tour event has been played in Minnesota in 10 years, the European Tour is headed to a tiny coastal town in Ireland that it’s never gone to.
Paul McGinley takes over Irish Open hosting duties from Rory McIlroy and his foundation, and has taken the even to County Clare, population 700. He’s also collected a terrific pre-Open Championship field as the “St. Andrews of Ireland” gets its own little summer festival on some laugh-out-loud-worthy coastal scenery just off the Atlantic Ocean.
Here, now, are three things to know about the Irish Open event this weekend.
1. Rahm domination: In his last nine European Tour events (not including majors and WGCs), Jon Rahm has three wins and seven top-five finishes. That includes an Irish Open victory two years ago that nobody really saw coming. He’s the favorite this week, and I’m not even sure it’s close. He’s been an absolute menace on that side of the pond, and comes in off a runner-up finish last week in Spain.
2. Summer explosion: I mentioned that this town only has 700 residents, but in the summer, that number booms 10x to 7,000. Holiday-going folk in Europe love to visit the coastland of Ireland, and apparently the surfing is magnificent. The golf isn’t bad, either. Phil Mickelson has mentioned Lahinch in the same breath as Augusta National, and Dr. Alister McKenzie — who designed Augusta, Cypress Point and redesigned Lahinch — called this, “the finest and most popular golf course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed.”
3. The Dell hole: When this event comes on TV on Thursday at 5:30 a.m. on Golf Channel, you’re going to want to tune in. The par-3 fifth hole is a blind hole in which golfers aim at a white rock on top of a hill. Can you imagine player reaction if the USGA did this?! Multiple people I’ve talked to have said there’s surely going to be an ace at the par 3, and it’s one of the most fun, quirky holes we’ll see all year. How will fans and players know an ace has been made? Event organizers have set up a video board right next to the tee box so they can watch the result even if they can’t physically see it because of the hill. Bizarre? Maybe. Amazing theater? Definitely.