Saturday, 22 June 2013

The 5th Major !!...Well try tell the Irish it's not !

Its here at last....my home Open, the Irish Open. With in excess of 450 courses in Ireland, its quite fantastic that the organizers continue to rotate the Irish Open and this year it returns to Carton House to be played on the Montgomerie Course. This will be the third time the Irish Open will be played on this course with Thomas Bjorn winning last time in 2006 and Stephen Dodd winning in 2005. The Montgomerie is considered the more difficult of the two courses at Carton House with the O'Meara a true parkland course compared to the Montgomerie which does have some links type features throughout. Due to weather in 06 and 05, scoring was tight and I'm not expecting a birdie fest here either, but there will be opportunities to score well. Driving it straight will be the key this week and should a player find rough, he'll need good scrambling skills. We'll have 30,000 spectators EVERY DAY and its the place to be on Saturday too. With the Dubai Duty Irish Derby being run at the Curragh after the Lions rip the Wallabies apart, the tented village will be in fine singing mood....ahem... the Guinness will be flowing! And God forbid theres a few Irish players on the leaderboard come "moving day" ,then, lads, the Irish Open is open to more investment, people!
The GUI is working hard to harness Irish golf and indeed a new body has been formed to enrich Irish Golf both nationally & internationally, the Golf Club Business Association of Ireland.Its objective is to enhance the profile of Irish Golf as a business and an industry and promote employment, and to actively engage in the promotion of the game, particularly targeting younger participants in order to secure the industry¹s future. Irish Golf is on the up again, we have 4 Major winners (Harrington, McIlroy, McDowell, Clarke) and we may not be finished yet either. The Irish Open deserves its place in the European Tour calendar at this time of the year, just before the British Open. Its vital that it remains a top tournament despite reduced purse, but that's par for the course (pun?)  in Europe this year.With Irish government officials now touting the idea of banning alcohol companies from all sponsorship, this event, along with any major sporting event is living on a knife edge. We need Heineken, we need Guinness, we need Jameson Whiskey etc to maintain our sporting involvement. Ask anyone outside Ireland what is Ireland's biggest export and they'll probably say Baileys or Guinness or Jameson Whiskey....they won't say software. Ireland....we need to play to our strengths.....and this week I believe we will....we are in for a class tournament this week folks and lets hope we have a class winner. Sure, we have always had one!

I call this the 5th Major. But so too does every player who tees it up in his home National Open. We saw how disappointed Phil Mickelson was when he failed to win his National Open, The US Open, 2 weeks ago and every player would love to win his home one. Ireland had to wait quite awhile between 1982 and 2007 to produce a home win in the form of Padraig Harrington. Shane Lowry then in 2009 as an amateur, became one of the most talked about home winners of all time, a win that I believe has rejuvenated the Irish Open. And speaking of rejuvenation, Padraig's win at Adare Manor was the catalyst for an amazing 18 months for the Dubliner. He went out to win The Open at Carnoustie a couple of months later. What would Rory McIlroy give to see a chain reaction like that and kickstart his season? Does The Montgomerie give Rory a chance to do that? You betcha! Does it give Darren Clarke an opportunity to gain some form and confidence and re-ignite his game? Well.. his support would indicate it will...he'll have a big gallery on Thursday & Friday. As I write, Padraig is doing well in Connecticut at the Travelers Championship. He'll be in confident mood when he touches down in Dublin on Monday. Carton House touring pro,Shane Lowry will be excited and he'll want to go well too....so will the Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley. And Peter Lawrie and recent winner Simon Thornton and so will Michael Hoey and so too will ....!!!!   Well my local club has a representative this year in the shape of the Irish Amateur Champion of 2012  (beaten in playoff in 2013 whilst in the middle of studying for his final school exams). Gavin Moynihan has an invite and he'll play well too and he'll be one player  I'll follow when I go out on Thursday (as long as he doesn't have a 07:30 tee time!). Can he emulate Shane Lowry in 2009 ?

 Its a very strong field this year, albeit boosted by the Irish stars. And being boosted by the Irish stars means Irish golf is on the map and its a week to shine and showcase what we have to offer. Ireland, with an abundance of courses to play on, is a golfers paradise....lets hope we get the weather now and put on a show. Did I mention alcohol already? It will come in handy at the 17th par 3 this week. A 1500 spectator grandstand around the green will greet the players and the plan is to have a vociferous welcome for every shot played into the green. The "Open House@17" is a new concept designed to create a jovial player-spectator interaction, afterall, the players are gonna have a good night out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and depending who their Pro-AM group is they may just have a bloody good Wednesday night out too. Miguel Angel Jiminez will be out all nights anyway.....he was a favourite in Clogherghead, Co Louth when the Open was won by Brett Rumford in Baltray.....he'll be an extremely popular winner on these shores should he take the honours.

Its a tournament to rank amongst the best and its a tournament that will offer everything to the spectator. For those that have struggled to monitor scores on the European Tour website this year, we have an opportunity this week to download a new app called GREENi which will not only provide scores, but player location throughout the course for those attending etc. Its exciting times. We have this week and then the French Open, then the Scottish Open, then The Open. We have a fantastic slot in the calendar and the players will know the significance of the next 3 weeks. The only regret I personally have this week, is that, Thorbjorn Olesen is taking the week off. I would love to have seen him play here.

So then.... who wins this years Irish Open and joins a Who's Who of Irish Open Winners? We've had Ben Crenshaw following Christy O'Connor Jnr, we have multiple winner,Sir Nick Faldo and Mark James, we have seen Ken Brown win, Bernhard Langer(three times), Ian Woosnam(twice), Sam Torrance(my first golf betting winner), Colin Montgomerie( three times), Sergio Garcia (his first pro win),Seve Ballesteros(three times), Padraig Harrington and Michael Campbell. There's 7 Major champions in there winning on various courses. We have many a European Tour winner teeing it up this week and recent years has seen British players prevailing (Winners List). Reel in those Irish Open years here 



What about The Montgomerie course? Its a 7300 yds course and its a links type design course. Its not a birdie fest, but its does have opportunities...drive it well and you just might score well here. Check out the course here courtesy of Ireland's own Shane O'Donoghue presentation.

I will of course be back here on the blog to give my thoughts on who will win this year.....I have some non-Irish in mind too so don't worry its not all about the Irish this week.....we've had Major winners take this title and with all due respect we've had some outsiders in recent years too. I already have my eye on a player that I have tippd a couple of times this year and is bound to like Carton House and his trip to Ireland.

Check back here on Monday afternoon for my selections and some offers for the week. Or sign up for the weekly newsletter in case you forget.