KILLARNEY and the 3 Irish Open in midsummer… it’s a mouth watering proposition and everything points to a great week on the shores of Lough Leane.
Nineteen years have elapsed since the competition was played here and 10 since it was last contested in the Kingdom. Its return is all the more welcome because of the outstanding form of the leading home players, led by recently crowned US Open champion Graeme McDowell, the exciting 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, another winner on the US Tour this year, and three-time major champion and 2007 winner Pádraig Harrington.
With Shane Lowry emerging as a serious candidate to retain the title he claimed as an amateur in 2009, along with the appointment of Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley as Colin Montgomerie’s assistants at the Ryder Cup, the image of Ireland as a powerful golfing nation is being enhanced by the day.
There is a widely held view that the Killeen course will be humiliated by a star-studded field. Given four balmy days (and if ever an event deserved a favourable deal from the clerk of the weather, it’s the Irish Open) low scores are a certainty. Wet, windy and chilly conditions, on the other hand, will turn any course of more than 7,100 yards into a serious test and Killarney won’t be any exception.
“These guys are so good that they are capable of tearing any course apart,” says Killarney superintendent David McIndoe. “Give them four calm days and the pros could shoot any kind of score. Anyway, I’m not too worried. What harm if they shoot 20 under or whatever. It’s what many people come to see.”
Interestingly, there was a big difference between the scoring in the two previous Irish Opens staged at Killarney, in 1991 and 1992. Nick Faldo, the number one world ranked player at the time, won on both occasions but with starkly contrasting 72 hole aggregates. In 1991, he shot 283 – five under. Twelve months later, he totalled 274 – 14 under. The scoring reflected the conditions.
Hosting the championship is a huge boost to the club and the region in these challenging economic times and captain Kieran O’Connor is confident that they will be up to the challenge. “From the members’ perspective, it is generating great excitement,” he said.
No praise is too high for the contributions made both by Robert Finnegan, the chief of sponsors 3, and Fáilte Ireland, who are helping to return the Irish Open to the position it once held on the European Tour. The €3 million prize fund is one of the biggest on the circuit and is guaranteed for at least another 12 months. Now if we could only guarantee the weather.
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