Irish Open: 3 holes to watch

Royal County Down is rated one of the best courses in the world but it’s going to be a massive challenge in tough weather, even for the best players in the world.

While the likes of Pádraig Harrington is hoping for some wind, major winners like Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell are quaking in their spikes.

Here are three of the key holes:

No 4 - 220 yards, par 3:

Played from an elevated tee and offering breathtaking views of the links with the Mournes in the background, you hit over a sea of gorse to a well-bunkered green with severe run offs to both side and the rear.

Els said: “I only played the front nine yesterday and the par 3s were incredible. I think it’s the fourth hole, par 3 down the hill, there’s a side wind from the right. Hit five iron, couldn’t hit it on the green. So the par 3s are going to be tough, and this golf course, it seems like the prevailing winds are always crosswinds, and that’s always quite difficult.”

No 7 - 144 Yards Par 3:

The shortest hole on the course, the target area is the front right corner of a green that runs away towards the back. The only hole that is not open at the front due to a yawning bunker, staying on the green is nearly impossible if it’s downwind.

McDowell said: “If that hole goes downwind at any point this week, it’s going to be carnage. It’s one of the toughest short par 3s I think I’ve ever played. It’s very difficult.”

Els added: “The 7th hole is only a nine-iron, and I hit three balls and I couldn’t get that on the green, either. There’s a big slope that goes down the left to a bunker there and you can be there all day. Seriously, it’s a nightmare if you go down the left.”

No 18 - 548 yards Par 5:

Strewn with bunkers and heather, this titanic finishing hole gets tougher the closer you get to the green. The green is also one off the severest on the coursewith major run-offs making it tough to attack.

Rickie Fowler said: “The further down you go the narrower it gets and there are bunkers all the way down so find one of them and you are struggling. There is not a lot of room around the green and it’s a tough up and down.

“It all depends on the conditions but it’s a hole that’s hard to make four on and the green is one of the severest sloped greens out there. This is just a very penalising course and it will pick you apart very quickly if you are not on your game.”

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