Different strokes

Tue, Jun 26, 2012, 01:00

A golf miscellany compiled by PHILIP REID

Irish Open Showcase: Ten Major champions will be competing at Royal Portrush

It’s in the lap of the gods, or spelt another way, the RA, whether or not the British Open will ever return to Royal Portrush. As showcases go, though, this week’s Irish Open – itself finally getting an overdue return to Northern Ireland – don’t come any better: a sell-out crowd, and, quite fittingly for one of the European Tour’s showpiece tournaments, a plethora of Major champions.

That three of those Major champions hail from the North, where their swings were fostered on some of the world’s top links courses, says all that needs to be said about the quality of player which has always seemed to appear from this neck of the woods. Messrs McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke have all raised the bar with their respective Major triumphs of the past two years.

In all, 10 Major champions will be competing in the Irish Open: Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington, Keegan Bradley, John Daly, Rich Beem, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Lawrie and Michael Campbell. It is, it must be acknowledged, quite a gathering and one that is the envy of all other “regular” tournaments on the PGA European Tour. But the Irish Open isn’t just a “regular” tournament. In terms of history, it dates all the way back to 1927 when George Duncan, who was a Major champion in his own right having claimed the 1920 British Open, used folded newspapers inside his clothing as extra protection against the elements when winning at Portmarnock.

In the years from 1927 to 1953, an informal rota of using courses North and South operated and, then, after a 10-year hiatus, the tournament returned (under the Carrolls International banner) and was played exclusively in the South (mainly at Woodbrook) before the Irish Open was properly revived in 1975.

Since then, 11 courses, all in the South, have played host to the championship  . . . and, so, its return to Northern shores, for the first time since Belvoir Park in 1953, is both apposite and timely.

In terms of timing, having three Northerners with Major status is the stuff of marketing magic.

Since its revival in 1975, the Irish Open has produced a roll of honour of champions that has regularly had a connection with Major champions: Indeed, no fewer than 16 Irish Opens have been won by players who were or went on to become Major champions. The list is headed jointly by the three pre-eminent European players of the modern era: Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros, each of who won three Irish Open titles.

No matter which way you look at the list of Major champions who have also raised the Irish Open trophy as a winner, it is hugely impressive: Faldo (3 titles), Ballesteros (3), Langer (3) Ian Woosnam (2), Ben Crenshaw (1), Hubert Green (1), Olazabal (1), Michael Campbell (1) and Harrington (1).

The presence of 10 Major champions with 14 Major titles between them – Harrington (3), Olazabal (2), Daly (2), McDowell, McIlroy, Clarke, Bradley, Beem, Lawrie and Campbell (1) – is full vindication of the decision to return the Irish Open to the North and, perhaps, pave the way for a rota similar to the old days. Carton House is already pencilled in for next year.

Rub of green

Paul McGinley’s recent good form – three top-10s in his last four outings – underlines the competitive spirit that has been evident throughout a career highlighted by a World Cup victory and three Ryder Cup successes.

However, it is interesting to note the improvement this season in the Dubliner’s greens-in-regulation statistic which has him hitting 73.38 per cent of greens – a significant improvement on past seasons.

For instance, in 2009 and again in 2011, McGinley only hit 65 per cent of greens. It just proves that you have to get the ball on the dancefloor in order to score.

Trump that: $200m to renovate Doral

Billionaire Donald Trump’s decision to invest $200 million in renovating the Doral golf resort in Miami – which he recently purchased – will come as a major boost to a global golf industry that has had to roll up its sleeves and number crunch on an unprecedented scale.

The resort’s 700 guest rooms, ballrooms and meeting facilities and spa – as well as its five golf courses – will all get an overhaul with Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, overseeing all aspects of the renovation project. Architect Gil Hanse has been retained to lead the reconstruction of the famed Blue Monster course, although work on that resort’s showpiece course won’t commence until after next season’s WGC-Cadillac Championship there.

Of his decision to invest in Doral, Trump recalled: “Every year, my father and mother would take me to Doral for a weekend.

“It was the ultimate treat for me. It was beautiful . . . .

“My ambition is to bring Doral back to its first 20 years and then top it by a wide margin. When the renovation is complete, Doral will be the greatest resort anywhere in the (United States).”

“The Donald” has, of course, amassed arguably the finest portfolio of courses known to man, ranging from North America and the Caribbean to his new links venture in Scotland which, it is murmured, has designs on one day attracting the Ryder Cup and muscling its way in as a potential British Open course.

Rules

Question

A and B are playing in a club matchplay competition. After missing a short putt on the 10th green to lose the hole, A looks behind and sees there are no players on the fairway waiting to play their approach shots and proceeds to take a couple of quick practice putts. B queries whether he is entitled to do so.

Answer

Player A is entitled – under Rule 7-2 (practice during round) – to do take the practice putt.

Under the rule, a player must not make a practice stroke during the play of a hole.

Between the play of two holes, a player must not make a practice stroke, except that he may practice putting or chipping on or near: a) the putting green of the hole last played; b) any practice putting green, or: c) the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7).

Strokes made in continuing the play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes.

In the bag

Marc Leishman

Travelers Championship Ball: Titleist ProV1x

Shoes: FootJoy Icon

Driver: Titleist 910D3 (7.5 degree) Fairway Woods: Titleist 910F (13.5 degree)

Irons: Mizuno MP Fli-Hi 2-iron), Titleist Forged 712 AP2 (3,4-irons), Titleist 712 MB (5-9 irons).

Wedges: Titleist Vokey (48-degree, 54-degree, 58-degree)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport 2.

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