Hoylake is a course with a fond record for Irish golf but only those who stay out of the deep rough at a lush, green Royal Liverpool will have any chance of winning The Open next week.
That’s the view of Rory McIlroy, who played two practice rounds at the Liverpool links over the weekend.
Down to eighth in the latest world rankings, McIlroy is the 12/1 favourite to lift his first Claret Jug at the course where Fred Daly became the first Irish winner of the game’s oldest major in 1947, and Joe Carr won the first of his three British Amateur titles with a two up victory of the great American, Harvie Ward, in 1953.
The course is certainly far more lush that it was in 2006, when Tiger Woods won the third of his three Open Championships to date.
It was so burnt and brown that smoking was banned, and Woods used his driver just once in 72 holes as he captured the title by two strokes from Chris DiMarco on 18 under par.
McIlroy foresees more low scoring this year but it’s unlikely to reach 2006 levels due to the warm, wet spring and the proliferation of thick rough.
“My biggest memory is how brown or yellow the course was, and that Tiger hit only one driver in the 72 holes,” McIlroy said of the 2006 Open, which came just a few weeks before he won the European Individual Amateur Championship in Italy, securing his Open debut at Carnoustie for 2007, where he won the silver medal.
“But that was then. I was down at Hoylake over the weekend and it’s very green and very lush at the minute. The ball isn’t really running that much on the fairways and they were stopping quickly on the greens. So it will be a lot different from the course Tiger played in 2006.
“I think they are trying to protect the course a little at this stage, so I’m sure — weather-permitting, over the next 10 days — it will be a bit firmer and faster by next week.”
One of the best drivers of the ball in the game, McIlroy’s chances are helped by the fact that there is plenty of rough at Hoylake.
“The rough is up,” he said at the opening of Nike’s first Performance Fitting Centre at Archerfield Links in Scotland. “You need to avoid that. And you need to avoid the bunkers.
“If you drive into sand at Hoylake, you are hitting out sideways. The rough was patchy. In places you were chipping out, but in others you could get away with a bit more.
“Plus, there were certain greens you just can’t miss on certain sides. On the back nine, the run of 12-13-14 greens all have really heavy rough around them. There will be a lot of balls running into trouble on each of those.
“My overall feeling on how much rough there should be on any links is that it should definitely be a hazard. If you hit off line, there should be a measure of punishment. But I’m not a fan of just hacking out. Being able to get the ball somewhere around the green from the rough is, I think, fair enough.
“I certainly don’t think we should be able to fly balls onto the putting surfaces. Giving us a chance to save par by getting up-and-down is ideal. Hoylake is like that on most holes, but there are certain patches you definitely want to avoid.
“Generally though, Hoylake is a very ‘scoreable’ course. All four of the par fives are reachable in two shots. So we’ll see guys quite a bit under par in decent weather.”
McGimpsey chasing more glory in Tullamore
Garth McGimpsey, pictured, is nothing short of a living legend in Irish Amateur golf but the 1985 British Amateur champion can write another glorious chapter in his career at Tullamore Golf Club this week.
Set to turn 59 on July 17, the Bangor star will be bidding to win a fourth successive Irish Seniors Amateur Close Championship when the 54-hole strokeplay event begins at the midlands course tomorrow.
A new addition to the Seniors circuit, the Irish Seniors Close was played for the first time in 2009 when it was won by Killeen’s Maurice Kelly.
Kelly went on to a second success in 2010 at Blainroe before former Walker Cup captain McGimpsey won in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Bangor legend will face some tough opposition this year with his senior international team mate and current Irish Amateur Open champion Adrian Morrow at the top of a list of fancied runners alongside Leinster Seniors winner John L Hughes from Woodbrook, Munster champion Tom Cleary of Cork and Tramore’s John Mitchell.
McGimpsey’s career is unparalleled in the modern amateur game in Ireland and his haul of 14 majors titles — he won the British Amateur, one Irish Close, four Wests, three Easts and five North of Ireland titles — is simply astounding.
He played more than 200 times for Ireland, winning two European Amateur team championships, and took part in three Walker Cups, forming part of the side that won for the first time on US soil at Peachtree in Atlanta in 1989.
Coached by his father, Hal, his approach to the game was almost professional in manner and Pádraig Harrington admits that he was the player he admired more than any other and the one that brought out the best in him.
“Garth McGimpsey was the best player, the best ball striker, the guy to beat when I was an amateur,” Harrington recalled.
“He was comfortably number one. Others came and went and some of them went pro but Garth was the man.He hit the ball different to everybody else.”
Never a showman — he was a man of few words — he had such class as a golfer and person that he more than deserves his place amongst the all-time greats.
As for Tullamore, the club has refused to bow to the vandals who recently caused major damaged to several greens and tees.
Several holes were dug on greens from the sixth to the 12th and the severity and extent of the damage shocked officers and members of the biggest golf club in Offaly.
The damage was quickly repaired and with the recent Junior Scratch Cup completed successfully, the best seniors in Ireland will, no doubt, overcome what the club describes as “slight imperfections” in those greens.
Webb completes unique triple crown with victory in seniors
Laura Webb (née Bolton) created a piece of golfing history at Athenry on Friday when she became the first player to complete the triple crown of the Irish Girls’, Irish Women’s and Irish Senior Women’s Close titles.
Now playing out of East Berkshire, the former Cairndhu player won the Irish Senior crown in emphatic fashion with a 6 and 5 victory over Laytown and Bettystown’s Carol Wickham. Winner of the Irish Girls’ Close in 1979 and the Irish Women’s title in 1988 and 1994, it was an emotional occasion for Laura, who had daughter Becky on the bag and was cheered to victory by 87-year old mother Sheila.
Jean and Richard up to Scratch
Muskerry’s Jean O’Driscoll captured the Carlow Ladies Senior Scratch Cup on Saturday, edging out Lucan’s Molly Dowling and Ballinrobe’s Shannon Burke by a stroke on 152 with international Lisa Maguire, back in action again after her Leaving Certificate, taking fifth spot on 155. In the 36-hole Kerry Senior Scratch Cup at Tralee, Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly won by three strokes from club-mate Barry Anderson with Portmarnock’s James Fox third and Mallow’s Paul McCarthy fourth.
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