Many big names will be missing from the AT&T Byron Nelson this week in Dallas, as they will be teeing it up across the pond at the Irish Open. Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation will be held at the iconic Royal County Down for the first time since 1939. There will be a stacked field of international players and the prize fund has been increased now that Rory McIlroy’s foundation will be hosting it.
Among the star-studded field, golf’s budding rivalry of Rory and Rickie Fowler will be teamed up together alongside Martin Kaymer. Now this isn’t just a new rivalry that golf media has been hyping up the last year, it actually dates back to their amateur days. The McIlroy-Fowler rivalry first started when the two first met back at the 2007 Walker Cup, which just so happened to be held at Royal County Down, the same site for this year’s Irish Open. Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel would end up taking down McIlroy and Jonathan Caldwell as Team U.S. would go on to win the event by one point.
Switch to the professional side of things and the year 2010, when Fowler won the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year award in a controversial finish over, none other than Rory McIlroy. Many believe McIlroy got snubbed, but with some gray area in what is considered a rookie on TOUR, Rory says he wasn’t bothered by it.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said regarding the 2010 Rookie of the Year “Look, I really didn’t want it. I’m not a rookie.”
Then came Fowler’s first PGA TOUR victory at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. Rickie won his first TOUR event in a playoff, defeating McIlroy with a birdie on the first hole. Not many people knew it at the time, but these two young guns were just getting started.
And who could forget the 2014 season. Rory McIlroy cleaned up at the majors with a win at the Open Championship and then followed that up with his fourth major victory at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. However, not far behind was Rickie who gave him a run for his money, finishing top five in all four majors and joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to do so. While Rory did win two majors, Fowler’s accomplishment was incredible in itself. Rickie’s consistency at the majors allowed him to beat 550 out of 561 total entries throughout all four of those tournaments, meaning he beat 98.04% of the competition he faced in the majors. To put that in perspective, Rory only beat 93.24% of his competitors at majors in 2014 and when Tiger won three out of four majors in 2000, he beat 99.2% of the field.
More from Golf News
- Golf Rumors: LIV set to sign Masters Champion in stunning deal
- Brutal return leaves Will Zalatoris looking towards 2024
- Stars You Know at World Champions Cup Starts Thursday at Concession
- 2023 Hero World Challenge Predictions: The Return Of Tiger Woods?
- RSM Classic Brings the controversial 2023 PGA Tour Season to a close
The two met at the 2014 Ryder Cup later that year. They halved their two team matches they competed against each other, but McIlroy got the best of Fowler on Sunday in the single matches winning 5&4.
The rivalry continues this weekend at the Irish Open, as patrons will flock to see these paired together on Thursday and Friday. Fowler is coming off a huge statement win at THE PLAYERS Championship, but McIlroy seems to have the slight edge. Not only is McIlroy’s foundation hosting the tournament, but it’s held in Northern Ireland, Rory’s hometown.
"“Obviously the Irish Open is a tournament that’s close to my heart,” he said. “Now that I’m involved with my foundation hosting the event, and with all the players coming to play Royal County Down, it’s going to be a great week.”"
McIlroy will also be wearing four strange-looking pairs of shoes each day of the event this weekend, but for good reason. The Rory Foundation and Nike Golf teamed up with Cancer Fund for Children in Northern Ireland to support children whose lives have been impacted by cancer. Each pair of Nike Lunar Control 3’s McIlroy will wear, has been designed by a child who has been affected by cancer in someway. While Rory has been known for his flash of fashion on the course, these shoes will add some extra pop at Royal County Down, but for an incredible cause.
There’s sure to be plenty of action this weekend at the Irish Open with the main attraction being on the hometown hero and his playing partner Rickie Fowler. Dont’ let anyone tell you this is the start of a great rivalry. It’s just the addition of another chapter to a novel that began years ago.