Desert specialists Herbert and Fox head Antipodean assault on Horizon Irish Open

Former Dubai champion Lucas Herbert and reigning Ras Al Khaimah Classic titleholder Ryan Fox have been confirmed for the US$6 million Horizon Irish Open in Co. Kilkenny.

World No.46 Herbert will return to defend the DP World Tour title at Mount Juliet Estate alongside Fox and Aussie compatriot  Min Woo Lee who completes a powerful Antipodean trio confirmed for the June 29-July 3 tournament.

Herbert sprung to international fame when he edged South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout to claim the 2020 Dubai Desert Classic in a playoff. The now 26-year-old went on to capture his second DP World Tour title with a three-stroke, wire-to-wire victory at last year’s Horizon Irish Open and has since notched a maiden PGA Tour title at the 2021 Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

“Last year’s win at Mount Juliet was incredibly special for me and I am really looking forward to returning as defending champion,” said Herbert who edged another Kiwi, Danny Lee, to win in Bermuda and cement a Masters debut (MC) in the process after entering the world’s top-50.

“I will never forget that feeling of looking down at the trophy and seeing my name alongside some of the greats of the game. It started an amazing period for me and I now feel ready to kick on to achieve even more success.

“Even though it was a reduced crowd last year, the Irish fans created a fantastic atmosphere so to have the tournament at full capacity this year is exciting. Irish golf fans are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate in the world so to get the chance to enjoy the full festival experience is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Min Woo Lee, who won his first DP World Tour title at the ISPS HANDA Vic Open in his homeland in 2020, secured a memorable first victory on European soil last year when he held his nerve to collect his maiden Rolex Series title courtesy of a play-off victory over Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick at the Scottish Open.

The 22-year-old – whose sister Minjee earned her second major title at last week’s U.S. Women’s Open – will make his third Horizon Irish Open appearance hoping to better his tie for 17th place at Mount Juliet in 2021.

“I love playing in Ireland and especially at Mount Juliet, which is a perfect venue for an event of this magnitude,” said Lee.

“The atmosphere is always incredible in Ireland and it really makes a difference for all of the players. I’m sure it will be an amazing week and I can’t wait to get back there.”

Fox came agonisingly close to winning the island of Ireland’s national open in 2018, only to be beaten  in a playoff by Russell Knox after the Scot binned two improbable putts on the 18th at Ballyliffin Golf Club in Co.Donegal, the first of them to force extra holes.

But the 35-year-old Aucklander will return to Mount Juliet in confident mood having enjoyed a stunning run of form in the 2022 season.

Fox Ras Al Khaimah Classic

His second Tour win at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February has been followed by four top-10s in six appearances, including runner-up finishes at the Soudal Open and Dutch Open.

“The Horizon Irish Open is one event I’m really looking forward to playing this summer,” said Fox.

“I’ve played well there in the past and obviously came very close to winning a few years ago, and the crowds have always been so supportive.

“Mount Juliet was a great venue last year and I’m sure it will be an even bigger occasion this time around with the return of full capacity crowds. It’s shaping up to be a great week.”

Prior to the 2021 edition, Mount Juliet had hosted the historic event for three consecutive years in 1993, 1994 and 1995, won by Englishman Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer of Germany and Scotland’s Sam Torrance respectively. The Kilkenny venue has also hosted two World Golf Championships events in 2002 and 2004, won by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els respectively.

It was announced in February that all general admission tickets for Sunday at the 2022 Horizon Irish Open have sold out, the earliest sell-out day in the history of the DP World Tour.

Limited tickets still remain for the Wednesday Celebrity Pro-Am, as well as the first three tournament days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday. General admission tickets can be purchased here.

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