Albatross is ready to take flight for Ryder Cup
CADDIE'S ROLE:What a contrast between the old and the new on our golfing calendar
HAVING MISSED the historic Irish Open, which one player who decided to give it a miss described as the Glory Walk, I was keen to hear the feedback from players and caddies who had participated at Portrush.
There was an overwhelming response from a seasoned group of tour veterans who unanimously raved about the event when I talked to them in Paris last week.
Despite fears of a lack of accommodation and restaurants at the Co Antrim venue, following the inconvenience of having to endure two rounds of British Open qualifying at Sunningdale and its lack of immediate proximity to an airport, the usual chatter of speculation preceded the event.
You could argue that the Irish Open was a week for the real golf enthusiasts. From the forged tradition of Sunningdale with its sandy, peaty soil and its old-fashioned clubhouse with rolls of honour preceded by Sir and Brigadier, you were under no illusions about just where you were; the cradle of old-fashioned golfing.
To follow a balmy day in Sunningdale with a blustery and wet week on the Antrim coast may have been daunting. The Tour was stopping in another bastion of old-golf world in the links-land of Portrush which was in stark contrast to tournaments staged in newer complexes trying to make a name for themselves on the European Tour. What struck me by my colleagues’ response was that they are all true golf lovers. I suppose the dearth of traditional golf in the modern game has made us all more appreciative of what many would call real golf, where the terrain opens your imagination and fuels your creative golfing brain.
With a lack of length, in today’s super-powered golf game of 330-yard drives on firm fairways, the Dunluce course was relatively short. The consensus was that the back-to-back par fives half-way around could well become par fours and instantly bring the scores back to a more respectable level for a championship links.
The fact that the greens were as soft as they were, was very much nature’s contribution – we are all aware of how wet it has been on this island in June. Despite the rain the rough was not particularly penal. The only way to combat a professional golfer is with firm greens. As soon as they can spin the ball back, and effectively play darts to the pins, the course becomes at least two shots easier a round.
The British Open was very much on their minds as players and caddies assessed the quality of the course. I am not sure how aware many of the Europeans were of the political significance of the first Irish Open being held in Northern Ireland since 1953. But they were mindful that the week may have been a trial run for a future British Open, which was last played in Portrush in 1951. They all spread their suggestions for how Portrush could work on a few things to guarantee the R and A’s renewed Open venue consideration.
My Irish colleagues of course were more aware of the quality of the Dunluce course and their comments were more focused on the success of the first major sporting event held up North for over half a century. It would be fair to say that everyone I talked to thoroughly enjoyed the week despite the usual unpredictable Irish summer weather.