Golfers blown away at Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

For McIlroy, it was ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince; for the international golfers at Royal County Down, it was ‘blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!’

Darren Fichardt of South Africa hits his 2nd shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. “As much as they are loving coming here they are not exactly loving the conditions,” said Pádraig Harrington. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Darren Fichardt of South Africa hits his 2nd shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. “As much as they are loving coming here they are not exactly loving the conditions,” said Pádraig Harrington. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

 

Some of the world’s great golfers who assembled at Royal County Down these past four days for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open are famous, if that is the word, for their fashion sense. You know the score: loud checks, Pringle geansaís, gaudy slacks and shorts, a predominance of pink, pastels and magenta.

But this year, in deference to the locale and the conditions, most opted for paramilitary chic: balaclavas plus baseball caps and dark, protective clothing. Of course they don’t call them balaclavas – snoods is the word – but same thing. Very edgy. Very Milan.

Some were so wrapped up against the biting breezes that raged down from the Mournes that all you saw were the eyes. Not the type you’d want to meet late at night in the bad old days. But at least, instead of rusting AK47s, all you’d find in the bunkers were sand and golf balls – plenty of them.

 

Testing

So testing was the weather and the course that Rory McIlroy didn’t make the cut. It was a case of Hamlet without the Prince. McIlroy did turn up for the conclusion to congratulate the Danish playoff winner Soren Kjeldsen and to thank people for supporting his foundation which helps children’s charities around the world.

 

It’s fair to say the international golfers were blown away by Royal County Down. It was more King Lear than Hamlet, as in “blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!” Boy, did they blow.

Still, the Irish Open was a great success. But the absence of McIlroy and indeed the failure of any of the Irish golfers to be even close to the top of the leader board dampened enthusiasm. Fine golfers all, but the names of Kjeldsen, Eddie Pepperell, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Maximilian Kieffer and Bernd Wiesberger aren’t the sort to stir the hearts of an Irish golf audience.

McIlroy used his pulling power, and the reputation of Royal County Down as one of the world’s great links courses, to attract the likes of Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer and Sergio García.

The ever-affable Pádraig Harrington said it will be a “big ask” to persuade so many top players to come back for future Irish Opens. “As much as they are loving coming here they are not exactly loving the conditions,” said Harrington, who was in contention for a while but ultimately another victim of the weather and the course.

They should take example from First Minister Peter Robinson. Not a week after suffering a heart attack he was attending the golf on Saturday in jacket and open-neck shirt. As Shane Lowry would say, “Hardy man.”