Irish Open still a major attraction for Ireland’s finest
Both Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry keen to repeat their previous respective wins
Pádraig Harrington at Fota Island: “I believe the performances are there and that I can do the job going forward.” Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
The collective noun for golfers is a lie. Google says so. That may be accurate, incorrect or just plain whimsy but it should be true if it’s not. It’s nothing to do with the angle of the sole of a club or the resting place of a golf ball in play but rather the little white lies that golfers have to tell themselves just to remain sane.
The whole nature of the sport relies on a certain deceit; at times refusing to acknowledge pressure, remaining steadfastly positive and singular in outlook, even though every synapse is screaming to do otherwise. Pádraig Harrington offered a wonderfully honest and entertaining vignette when rejecting the notion of burnout or that he’s hurtling towards the dotage of his professional career.
He referred to an early answer that fellow Dubliner and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley had given in suggesting that at 47 years of age he was in the twilight of his professional career.
Harrington four years younger, explained: “It’s one of those traps, the more you analyse and think about it, the more you’re going to be there.
“So I just play golf and get on with it. I like playing golf, really, really like it. If I wasn’t playing a tournament here, I’d be out playing golf. I believe the performances are there and that I can do the job going forward.
“It’s up to you guys to weigh up each side of the story but I am going to stay confident and believe that it is going to turn around with more big wins again.
“That’s where I have got to be; even if that means I have got to create a lie or tell myself a lie, I will go on with it. I am not going to go down the other road anyway.” Later when asked if putting problems are ageist, he drew laughter by replying: “I honestly believe the answer is no. And of the answer was yes, I’d still tell you no.”
The 43-year-old had just come from playing the back nine on the Deerpark course at Fota Island. His preparation has been relaxed, partially attributable to the fact that he’s been successful here before.
In 1995 he won the Irish Amateur Strokeplay title – he also finished second to Colin Montgomerie the first time the Irish Open was staged in Fota Island (2001) – and although the course boasts a more tree-lined definition now it’s a layout that suits his eye.
“I like the atmosphere the venue gives off. It’s an ideal venue for professional golf when you have a hotel on site, a fantastic setting and good practice facilities. There’s not much more the players could ask for than what you’ve got here.”
Every golfer wants to win his national open. Many describe it as a fifth Major. This week it is the turn of the Irish players to articulate that desire. Next week at the BMW German Open, Martin Kaymer will get his chance. In yesterday’s press briefings Harrington and Shane Lowry, two former champions, were asked to articulate their feelings.
Harrington, who became the first Irishman to win the Irish Open since John O’Leary, when he prevailed at Adare in 2007, pointed out that he was under less pressure as a result of that victory.
“It is important to win the national open at some stage in your career. There was an awful lot of extra pressure, expectation, early in my career.”
He went on to clarify that people aren’t looking to place that burden, it’s just they’re rooting for him to win.
“The stress, the focus, the expectations are similar to what you would deal with in a Major tournament. So the capability and satisfaction in dealing with that, winning, is a big deal.”
Lowry won his Irish Open at Baltray in 2009, while still an amateur.
He explained a lesson he learned from last year’s tournament, was staged at his home course, Carton House.
“I felt the pressure. I spoke to a few people (afterwards) and if you do it the right way you can actually turn things around and use it to your advantage.
“I am playing on a golf course that I know quite well in front of friends and family. Where else do you want to be in the world? I am trying to use it to my advantage as opposed to anything else.”
When asked what it would mean to repeat his success of 2009, this time as a professional, he smiled: “It would be fantastic, everything really. I don’t like to talk about winning but I do feel that I am coming here to contend. My game is where I want it to be.”