The main man arrived ahead of the main man.
JP McManus made his way to the first tee and, with each step, was applauded by those golf fans lined up behind the ropes early anticipating the arrival of Tiger Woods.
However, JP’s arrival was early – the tee-times running slightly behind schedule – but it meant he got to chat with Jordan Spieth, who was keen to talk about Limerick hurling.
With that, JP’s eyes scanned around him. “John Kiely, where are you?” he asked. And, dutifully, the Limerick hurling manager presented himself for what turned into a photo opportunity for the snappers.
“Put him straight into the half-back line,” shouted a golf fan clearly impressed by Spieth’s physical presence.
And the banter continued. “Come on Kilkenny,” came a brave voice. “Can you swim?” came the rapid-fire response of a Limerick supporter with the River Maigue not too far away, the waterway running along the 18th fairway.
With the Spieth team off down the first fairway, the giddy anticipation gathered as the time approached for El Tigre to make his appearance … and the main man arrived to meet the main man and the Smurfit clan, who would be sharing the fairways with the 15-time Major champion, stood with grins for the obligatory first tee photo.
A suited-and-booted Des Smyth, fulfilling the role of honorary starter, deviated from his playbook for Tiger. Where Collin Morikawa had been introduced as “From the United States, Collin Morikawa” there was a grander introduction for Woods. “I hope he won’t mind me taking the liberty, the one and only … Tiger Woods,” announced Smyth, to wild applause from those who’d spend hours around the first tee waiting for that very moment.
And the main man smiled and took the applause like someone hearing such acclaim for the first time, his presence here in Adare Manor living proof of the bond that exists with the main man. JP and Tiger, two main men.
For Woods, walking with a noticeable limp, there was at least an allowance made in having an electric cart at his disposal for travelling from tee box to green. As for the golf, it was a tough old slog for the most part, but with one spectacular highlight for the fans – and Woods – when he chipped in for an eagle three on the par-five 12th. When it came the time to scribble his signature on to the scorecard, it was ultimately for a 77, five over par.
The golf was almost incidental to the bigger picture at play, which is that the JP McManus Pro-Am benefits charities in the midwest region.
As Pádraig Harrington put it of the hands-on approach of the McManus family in making the pro-am what it is: “I’m thrilled to be here. Obviously this [event] got cancelled in 2015 and then it got moved on [from] 2020 with Covid. There’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes. There is a strong sense of relief that we are here now, and it’s amazing the work that JP and his family do.
“I know it benefits the locality so much. I think the last one raised 39 million for the local charities. It’s an incredible amount of work they have put in. For somebody who is somewhat on the inside and can see that, the attention to detail, and it’s very hands-on by themselves, it’s actually the family that do it all the way through.
“Everybody who works around here and lives around here genuinely loves the place and takes ownership and wants to see it doing well and feels like it’s a part of the community, which is a testament to the McManus family. As much as they came in and bought and revamped it, it’s literally a facility for the locals here to see and be proud of and see what can be achieved on a world stage.”
And with a field that would be the envy of any tournament – on the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour or the LIV – this is one that has players from all of professional life, including the LPGA Tour with Leona Maguire’s participation. The players got into the spirit of it all, spending time signing autographs on caps and paper and anything thrust their way.
As for the golf? Well, Xander Schauffele, a player with designs on being on the USA team when the Ryder Cup comes this way in 2027, showed a fondness for the layout. The Olympic gold medallist shot an opening round of 64, eight under par, which included a homeward run of 31 and a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth to the seventh holes having started on the 10th.
Schauffele enjoyed a three-strokes lead over Rickie Fowler in the 36-holes tournament, with Tyrrell Hatton alone in third after a 69. Shane Lowry and Séamus Power opened with 69s.
First-round scores (Irish in bold)
64 X Schauffele (USA)
67 R Fowler (USA)
68 T Hatton (Eng)
69 S Power, S Lowry, B Koepka (USA), B Stone (SA)
70 S Burn (USA), A Scott (Aus), D Johnson (USA), M Kuchar (USA)
71 G McDowell, M Kaymer (Ger), C Morikawa (USA), R Cabrera Bello (Esp), J Kokrak (USA), J Rose (Eng), H Stenson (Swe), R McIlroy
72 L Westwood (Eng), D Willett (Eng), L Maguire, J Thomas (USA), T Hoge (USA), B DeChambeau (USA), P Casey (Eng)
73 B Weisberger (Aut), T Fleetwood (Eng), P Cantlay (USA), L Donald (Eng), P Dunne, J Rahm (Esp)
74 A Noren (Swe), P Perez (USA), J Murphy, P Harrington
75 S Scheffler (USA), T Bjorn (Den), H Varner III (USA)
76 I Poulter (Eng), T Olesen (Den), I Woosnam (Wal)
77 C Sharvin, T Woods (USA)
78 P McGinley, M Fitzpatrick (Eng)
79 J Donaldson (Wal)
81 – M O’Meara (USA), D Howell (Eng)
DQ – J Spieth (USA)