It's a bit like that old gag, about waiting an age for a bus and then two come along together: this week's feast is one, however, that will have to be savoured from afar, as the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle and the Irish PGA Championship at Roganstown are being staged behind-closed-doors in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
The Northern Ireland Open, supported by the R&A, is the first tournament on the Challenge Tour in almost two months and will have no fewer than 16 Irish players in the field – headed by five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey – while the storied Irish PGA, which dates back to 1907 and with a star-studded roll-of-honour of champions, will see Damien McGrane defend his title in a 54-hole championship which runs from Tuesday to Thursday.
For Hoey, whose last of five wins on the European Tour came in the 2013 Russsian Open, the Northern Ireland Open – which runs from Thursday to Sunday – marks his first competitive outing since that Euram Open in Austria in mid-July.
And, as a tournament ambassador, this staging of the tournament just five weeks before the same venue stages the DDF Irish Open, Hoey believes it will provide a great test on the double. The 41-year-old Belfastman has managed to get in quite a bit of practice in recent weeks on the resort course near Ballymena: "It is in great condition, really defined and the rough is up, which will definitely be a factor."
Hoey is the most experienced of the Irish contingent, which is primarily made up of young fledgling professionals cutting their teeth on tour life: Hoey is joined in the field by Niall Kearney, Dermot McElroy, JR Galbraith, Brendan Lawlor, Robin Dawson, Paul McBride, Conor Purcell, Ronan Mullarney, David Carey, Stuart Grehan, Conor O'Rourke, Gary Hurley, Ruaidhrí McGee and amateurs Josh Hill and Tom McKibbin.
In the Irish PGA at Roganstown in north county Dublin, McGrane is very much the star turn as he seeks to claim a third championship title in five years. McGrane won at Moyvalley in 2016 and again at Bunclody last year and he will have some stern competition in what is the showpiece of the Irish PGA region against a field which includes former champions Simon Thornton, Michael McGeady, David Higgins and Tim Rice.
European Tour schedule continues to change shape
The European Tour's rejigging of its original schedule is definitely an on-going work in progress, with two of the biggest end-of-season events – the Turkish Airlines Open and the Nedbank Challenge, both previously part of the elite Rolex Series – cancelled, although two new €1 million events in Cyprus in back-to-back weeks in early-November have been added to the itinerary.
This week's tour stop brings players to Valderrama for the Andalucia Masters, part of an Iberian swing that will move on to Portugal for the next fortnight. There are three Irish players competing in Valderrama, with Gavin Moynihan, Cormac Sharvin and Jonny Caldwell all in the field.
In Numbers: 66
That would be the amount in feet that Jon Rahm's ball on the first playoff hole covered, twisting and turning, to find the tin cup to secure victory over Dustin Johnson in the BMW Championship. Perhaps there was karma in the long-distance putt: in Saturday's third round, the Spaniard was penalised one stroke for forgetting to mark his ball resulting in what would be his only bogey. "I was holding my marker in my pocket, just went at it, and for some reason I just picked up the ball thinking I marked it already," recalled Rahm of his brain fart moment.
Word of Mouth
"I didn't think it was something that I really particularly needed to share out here. It's a private matter, but we're really excited and can't wait for her to get here" – Rory McIlroy on keeping the news quiet about the impending birth of their daughter, with his wife Erica due any day.
In the Bag: Jon Rahm (BMW Championship)
Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 degrees)
3-wood: TaylorMade SIM (15 degrees)
5-wood: TaylorMade SIM (18 degrees)
Irons: TaylorMade P-750
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Hi-Toe (52 degrees), TaylorMade Milled Grind 2 (56 and 60 degrees)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Chalk
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
On this day: September 1st, 2003
It seemed as if Adam Scott's breakthrough win on the PGA Tour – having already proven himself a serial winner on the European Tour and the Asian Tour – provided evidence of the emergence of the next great thing. The 23-year-old Australian ran away with the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, finishing four strokes clear of Rocco Mediate after rounds of 69-62-67-66 for a 20-under-par total of 244.
It would be almost a decade later before Scott finally got his hands on a Major (his only one so far) and, in reflecting back on that maiden win on the US Tour, Scott admitted: “I just imagined [winning] would all probably be a lot easier than it is. That’s youth and inexperience and being somewhat naive because, at that point, golf wasn’t a challenge, at all. It was a lot of fun and it all came quite easily . . . I thought I’d win another three the next year and a couple of Majors would just jump in the next couple of years.”
"Unbelievable feeling to get my 2nd LPGA win @nwachampionship with my brother by my side every step of the way!" – Austin Ernst after securing her second career win 143 events after her breakthrough win at the 2014 Portland Classic. Brother Drew was on the bag.
"That feeling when @BillyHo_Golf edges you by 3 pts for the Tour Championship. Haha! Congrats to Billy and @MacHughesGolf for getting it done" – Adam Long showing no hard feelings after being pipped at the post by Billy Horschel and Mackenzie Hughes to get into the top-30 on the FedEx Cup standings ahead of the Tour Championship.
"Thanks to the @RandA and the @royalbirkdale for an amazing week at The Amateur Championship. Gutted to lose in the semi final but thanks to everyone for their support and kind messages" – Kilkenny's Mark Power keeping the chin up after the disappointment of losing at the penultimate stage of the British Amateur, just a week after losing a playoff for the Brabazon Trophy (English strokeplay championship).
Know the Rules
In playing his tee shot, Player A's drive hits a swan in flight which results in the ball's trajectory being cut short and the ball falling to the fairway. His playing partner, Player B, claims that he can replay the tee-shot with no penalty. Player A, however, believes he must play the ball as it lies. Who is right?
Player A is correct. Rule 11 covers what to do if the player's ball in motion hits a person, animal, equipment or anything else on the course. When this happens accidentally, there is no penalty and the player normally must accept the result, whether favourable or not, and play the ball from where it comes to rest.