The Irish Open has not been held at Fota Island Resort since 2002, where Darren Fichardt lost in a playoff. The four-time European Tour winner returned to the club 12 years later and the good memories came flooding back.
Fichardt last picked up a trophy at the Africa Open in 2013, but he has played consistently well in 2014 and ranks 34th in the Race to Dubai. His fondness for the course and steady form are both contributing factors to the threat he presents in Ireland this week.
Last year’s winning total of 14-under-par at Carlton House Golf Club netted Paul Casey the title, but the change in venue takes away from the feel of defending champion.
Soren Hansen won at Fota Island back in June 2002 after beating Fichardt, Richard Bland, and Niclas Fasth during the sudden-death playoff. It was a week of low scoring that included a handful of 63s.
Fichardt shot a Saturday 64 back in 2002 and followed it up with a Sunday 67. Three rounds in the 60s and a tie for the winning score will be on the 39-year-old’s mind at the Irish Open this week.
This year the competition is tough and the likes of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy will look to clinch a victory at their national open. Also in with a shout are Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
It’s going to be an exciting week in Europe, but Fichardt’s experience at Fota could lead to the South African upsetting the locals in Ireland.