TV View: Stripped down to basics but Irish Open brings golf closer to home

Was it perfect? Hell, no but we must marvel at the fact that there is an international sporting event going on at all on this island right now, writes Brendan O'Brien
TV View: Stripped down to basics but Irish Open brings golf closer to home

Aaron Rai of England putts on the 18th green under a rainbow during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena, Antrim. Pictures: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Golf has been back on our screens for months now but there's nothing quite as arresting as the sight of a pro letting rip against a background of three-bed semi-Ds or a herd of cows grazing away in the next field.

Nobody thought there would be an Irish Open back in the spring when the pandemic's first wave rolled over the sporting landscape, so there was a comfort to it all when the USA's John Catlin blew into his cupped hands for warmth as he walked off the 15th this afternoon.

Leaden skies tag-teaming with sunshine? Gusty winds? Talk of rain? We're back, baby!

Was it perfect? Hell, no. We can crib about the field (not the one with the cows, but the 120 players on show at Galgorm Castle) and the fact that Shane Lowry is the only man from the world's top 50 to be on show in Co. Antrim this week.

Or we can just marvel at the fact that there is an international sporting event going on at all on this island right now. This is the sort of gig we would have traded our favourite putter for back in the spring and we may well come over all misty-eyed for it in the months to come.

“Was Dean Burmester really shooting a 65 here back in September?” we'll wonder.

You wait. It'll happen yet.

That aside, the mixture of guilt and joy that comes with turning on a TV at lunchtime on a Thursday never gets old. That RTÉ's coverage was preceded by ads for Hatchimals and Premier League cards just added to the sense that this shouldn't really be a time for a grown man to be cradling a remote.

It will take these guys 72 holes and four days spent in the European Tour's 'bubble' to identify a champion. This couch already seats a winner. Cup of tea and choccy biscuits at hand and we were set fair for the five-hour mini-marathon that would take us through to tea.

The coverage, like the event itself, was stripped down to basics. There was no RTÉ control tower/studio on site, just Hugh Cahill and John McHenry holed up back in Montrose and popping up every now and again to run an Irish eye over the homegrown lads.

Other than that, it was the same feed as Sky Sports who had the usual suspects lined up to tell the day's story. Not least Wayne Riley whose Crocodile Dundee accent has survived intact in the sort of international waters that destroyed Graeme McDowell's Northern Irish brogue.

If it all felt sporadic then it looked sporadic. 

Padraig Harrington of Ireland chips onto the 18th green with no spectators watching on.
Padraig Harrington of Ireland chips onto the 18th green with no spectators watching on.

We're used to sports without spectators now but the Irish Open has always been about the galleries as much as the golfers. Vast armies traipsing after Rory or Shane or a Jon Rahm while an anonymous Swede shoots a 61 into a void.

Transfer it to the Algarve or the Belfry and it wouldn't make you pause before you're ambushed by an old episode of Dad's Army but to gloss over this would have been to miss Padraig Harrington carrying a large dead tree branch along the 15th green and flirting with a nasty bunch of nettles.

An afternoon well spent.

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