Dubai Duty Free Irish Open: Spanish ace up for Ballyliffin challenge

Soain's Rafa Cabrera Bello
Soain's Rafa Cabrera Bello

Rafa Cabrera Bello will be hoping to emulate his Spanish compatriot Jon Rahm by claiming the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title this July.

And his 2016 Ryder Cup team-mates – English trio Matthew Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood and Danny Willett – have also confirmed their participation in the prestigious Rolex Series event.

As one of the European Tour’s eight Rolex Series events, the Irish Open will carry extra Ryder Cup points for those players hoping to earn a place in Thomas Bjørn’s team for Le Golf National in September.

And following his impressive debut performance at Hazeltine National in 2016, Cabrera Bello will be hoping for a big summer if he is to have a chance of playing in Paris in four months’ time.

“I am really looking forward to returning to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and playing in front of the Irish crowds again,” said Cabrera Bello.

“It is a tournament which has been very good to me through the years and I love links golf.

“I have never played Ballyliffin but it looks like we are in for a treat in Donegal. I have had some good results on the European Tour this season so far, but I know I can play well and win on links courses so I’m confident of making that count and hopefully contending for the title in Ireland.”

Fitzpatrick said: “I love playing in Ireland and I’m a huge fan of links golf so I’m looking forward to returning to the Irish Open again.”

Three-time European Tour winner Wood said: “I’ve got a pretty good record at the Irish Open so I’m looking forward to returning this year. It should be a great week at Ballyliffin.”

Willett, the 2016 Masters Champion, said: “I’m really looking forward to playing at Ballyliffin this year. I’m now working hard on getting my game back to where it should be and hopefully I can hit some form at the right time.”

For any of the foreign stars to get their hands on the covete Irish Open trophy, they will of course have to contend with a very strong Irish contingent which includes stars like tournament host Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne.