Fleetwood and Lowry Lahinch bound as strong Irish Open field takes shape

Fleetwood and Lowry Lahinch bound as strong Irish Open field takes shape
Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood will be in Lahinch for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood will be in Lahinch for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Shane Lowry has the game to win a major but if he fails to achieve that lofty goal he believes he may regard winning the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray as an amateur as his greatest achievement.

Who knows what may happen in the Masters, the US PGA or the US Open before the Offaly man (31) returns to Lahinch to play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open from 4-7 July alongside Ryder Cup player Tommy Fleetwood — the first big name to announce his intention to use the Rolex Series event at the iconic Co Clare links as preparation for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush two weeks later.

Ranked 13th in the world and one of Europe's heroes in Paris last September, Fleetwood (28) will be making his seventh Irish Open appearance since 2012. And while he missed the cut in his first three outings and again at The K Club in 2016, that he was 21st at Royal County Down in 2015 and tied 10th at Portstewart two years ago bodes well for his chances on links terrain.

“I'm very excited about it because I missed it last year and I was really disappointed because golf in Ireland is one of those places I’ve always enjoyed playing, and to get that chance again this year, it's going to be fun," said Fleetwood, who has a great relationship with event host, Paul McGinley.

“It will be great, they are real true golf fans and I’m very happy that I can support Paul. He's always been great with me from my first few years on Tour, and always took the time to give me advice.

“Links golf, especially around that time of the year, we have such a great run of events, and it's very important to just get that feel.

"We very rarely play that kind of golf throughout the year, so any chance you get to have a feel for it, and play in some slightly different shots, get a feel for how the ball reacts in the wind and the turf, I'm looking forward to it. It's perfect preparation for The Open.”

The $7 million Rolex Series event is expected to generate a party atmosphere in Lahinch with the golf course an integral part of village life.

While he never won the South of Ireland Amateur Open — his best performance in three appearances was his run to the last 16 in 2008, where he lost to Niall Gorey— Lowry has fond memories of the club and the town and even travelled west to support his younger brother, Alan, in 2014.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Lowry, who became just the third amateur to win on the European Tour when he beat Robert Rock in a playoff as a raw, 22-year-old amateur at Baltray in 2009.

He appears to be close to his best again after claiming his first European Tour title in three and a half years in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship 10 days ago.

"Going to Lahinch - it's in a beautiful part of Ireland, on a great golf course, and if the weather is good, honestly, you won't get a nicer place in the world.

"I think Paul will do a great job, and I think as always Dubai Duty Free does a fantastic job. The fact that it's part of the Rolex Series is amazing, and I'm lucky enough and happy to be going there as a Rolex Series champion. I'd love to win another home title, and hopefully, it will be this year."

He arrives in Lahinch as one of Europe's top players wondering where the time has gone as he marks the tenth anniversary of his 2009 win at County Louth.

The par-three 11th at Lahinch

The par-three 11th at Lahinch

"I don't really remember much from 2009, but it obviously kick‑started my career," he said. "It doesn't feel like ten years; it feels like it's gone a lot quicker than that.

"I've played in every Irish Open since, and every time I go back, it’s just special. I always say that Irish Open in Baltray was probably my greatest achievement to date and probably will always be unless I can top it with a Major."

Major winners Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell — all winners at Lahinch during their amateur careers — are also set to make the trip with organisers still keeping their fingers crossed that Rory McIlroy will join them.

Whatever McIlroy eventually decides, many more big names are being lined up to join what host McGinley believes will be "a high-quality field on a great links course" with several PGA Tour regulars considering a 4 July celebration in Ireland.

The 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open provided one of the most dramatic finales in the tournament’s 91-year history, as Russell Knox holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to clinch a place in a play-off alongside New Zealander Ryan Fox.

The Scot then sank an almost identical putt on the first playoff hole to seal his maiden Rolex Series title.

With blazing sunshine and a star-studded field including the 2017 champion Jon Rahm, a total of 94,239 people attended the event at Ballyliffin Golf Club.

Shane Lowry supporting his brother Alan (left) during his run to the last 16 in the 2014 South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch

Shane Lowry supporting his brother Alan (left) during his run to the last 16 in the 2014 South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch

Tickets for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open are on sale at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com and begin at €23 for Pro-Am Wednesday, with single tickets for Thursday or Friday costing €30 and day tickets for each weekend day costing €35 each.

An adult season ticket, which covers five days of world-class golf from Wednesday to Sunday, begins at a special price of just €110.

Children under 12 years of age are entitled to free entry when accompanied by an adult, day junior tickets for those between 12 and 17 years of age are €10 (€30 for a season ticket) while those aged between 18 and 21, as well as students with valid student cards and over 60s, can avail of a concession ticket - €20 for a day (€80 for a season).

Official Hospitality tickets are also available on the ticketing page or contact the European Tour’s dedicated Hospitality Sales Team, who will be happy to answer any queries and discuss the various hospitality options, on hospitality@europeantour.com or +44 (0) 1344 840681.