John McHenry: Home hopes for Irish Open victory gone with the wind

John McHenry: Home hopes for Irish Open victory gone with the wind

Shane Lowry walks off the 18th green after completing his round in the fading light. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

In the world of competitive professional golf, one of the very first things you’re thought is to always stay in the moment, as it allows you to focus on what it is you want to achieve at that time, while also controlling your emotions.

A penny then for the thoughts of Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry, our leading golfers, as they return home today chastened by a tournament that promised so much but delivered little by way of any real satisfaction for either.

In the understanding that there is very little difference between second and 10th, Harrington and Lowry’s minds this week would have been solely focused on a second national title.

It’s winning that has always animated their minds, filling their inner tanks with high-test adrenaline.

Against a mediocre field and on a course that had a reputation of coughing up plenty of birdies, both men would have fancied their chances.

They had all the experience of delivering on the toughest golf courses and under the fiercest of pressure.

The only real question before the start of the competition was where were their minds?

At home unfortunately!

This was a potential victory lost to second guessing themselves on a blustery golf course and to poor short games borne more out of frustration than anything else.

Of those at or near the top of the leaderboard after two rounds, like the effervescent Robert Rock, who always seems to put in a good shift at the Irish Open, I was particularly impressed with John Catlin’s game.

Quietly going about his business, it is clear the recent winner of the Andalucia Masters has a lot of game.

From a course management point of view, he looks analytically sound and if his victory in Valderrama is anything to go by, then we know he is not only a very tough competitor with a solid game and an iron will but he is also very comfortable playing in the toughest of conditions.

As a player, he is more old school than the power hitters of today, like Bryson DeChambeau or Dustin Johnson.

His swing looks simple and repetitive, allowing him to shape the ball at will.

More importantly his victories in Europe and Asia have proven to him that it will stand up under pressure and most likely over time.

Over the past couple of days, Catlin has looked like he has prepared himself very well for this week’s test — playing with a dogged determination you would more normally associate with Harrington’s early career and Lowry’s victory at the Open Championship last year.

Out of position regularly, he is able to accept a poor shot, never seeming ruffled and always staying within his own ability.

That assurance has allowed him to roll with the many inconsistencies this Galgorm golf course has presented over the first couple of days, like the swirling winds and the tricky short putts he needed to hole regularly in order to keep his score intact.

Understanding that the difference between good players in golf and the best lies not in the swing but an infinitesimal part of the brain, Catlin seems to be not only a fine striker and a fine thinker, he also seems to know what he’s trying to do all the time. Where to hit? What to hit? Why?

In a game where winning and losing sometimes can be an ultra-thin line, the divisor being fear, it seems he is driven more by a fear of not succeeding and is not afraid to accept the consequences of pouring everything he has into something and still coming up short.

It’s a winning formula that is refreshing. If only he could play a little faster!

Of the Irish players left in the field, amateurs James Sugrue and Mark Power will have the best of both worlds this weekend. Quite apart from trying to have two great final playing days, they also have the added bonus of being able to gain even more valuable experience of absorbing the playing mindset of the hardened professionals in the environment they work in each week. The course set-ups, the competitiveness of the players. These are invaluable lessons that will serve them well as their careers progress.

For the likes of Damian McGrane, who has already experienced that winning feeling on the European Tour, Jonathan Caldwell, and Colm Moriarty, an exceptional weekend could prove very lucrative indeed. Either way at the end of it all we will once again have a very worth Irish Open champion.

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