Different Strokes: Irish Open brings a glow back to The K Club

Jason Day takes Tiger talk in his stride; Jeung-hun Wang targets hat-trick

Jason Day of Australia celebrates with son Dash after winning  The Players Championship  at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jason Day of Australia celebrates with son Dash after winning The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 

It was instructive to watch players go about their business on the range here at The K Club. A Monday afternoon and, would you believe it, but players – buckets of balls within easy reach – were vying for space on the range. Crammed! On a Monday! It might be a regular tournament in name, but there is something about an Irish Open that holds a special place in the tour schedule, and the packed range was a testament to that.

Just like the old days for The K Club too, for it is hard to believe that the last time a big tournament was staged on the Palmer Course was the 2006 Ryder Cup when Woosie downed pints on the clubhouse balcony after a famous victory over the United States and players body-surfed through the crowds at the closing ceremony. Mad stuff altogether.

That was a decade ago, when the golfing world focused its eyes on this piece of parkland terrain; when the Celtic Tiger was in full roar, and when another Tiger – Woods – was not only golf’s, but global sport’s biggest superstar.

It’s good to be back.

Once upon a time, the course was home to the Smurfit European Open – remember Bernhard Langer’s monster putt on the 18th? Or Thomas Bjorn’s woes in hitting ball after ball into the Liffey? Or Big D’s near-59 – and the staging of the Irish Open for a first time is a worthy addition to the venue’s resume as a host to the biggest and the best.

The Irish Open is on an upward trend again. The €4 million purse (among the largest on the European Tour), the priceless association with Rory McIlroy, who is tournament host and who was primarily responsible for bringing Dubai Duty Free on board as title sponsors, and the general feeling among rank and file players that this is a tournament that, in many ways, signals the real start of the European Tour in Europe.

For Rory Colville, the championship director, it also a coming of age. The Ryder Cup in 2006 was actually the first tournament he worked on for the European Tour when he was part of the staging team. Since then, he’s been working on projects including the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the Scottish Open and the British Masters. The Irish Open is his first as championship director.

“It’s amazing to think we haven’t been here (since 2006). It is a world class venue and Michael Davern (chief executive) and his team have done an amazing job to get it back up to the standard it was when we had the Ryder Cup here,” said Colville, who added of the tournament’s status: “It is where it deserves to be, absolutely where it should be, one of the top, top events on our schedule.”

In terms of staging a tournament, The K Club is certainly a logistical dream. In terms of access, it is sandwiched between two motorways – the M4 and the M7 – and there are free buses from Maynooth train station to the course throughout the tournament.

And the course looks pristine too, with the stimpmetre on the greens at a slick 11.5-11.7. It has all come good. “This has been a very challenging winter for golf everywhere because of the weather we’ve had. The transformation Gerry Byrne and his team have done in the last month has been absolutely phenomenal to get the definition of the holes so good and the greens running so true. I think it is an incredible turnaround,” said Colville.

So, all the dots have been joined. A great venue, a great field, a great prizefund.

Now, fingers crossed for the weather.

Day takes Tiger talk in his stride after Players triumph

When Adam Scott referred to Jason Day’s current form as “Tiger-esque” it was meant as a compliment. After all, Day’s wire-to-wire win in The Players was hugely impressive in conquering a course that previously had been a tormentor; but it also provided further evidence that the Aussie is the real deal and worthy of the world number one ranking.

Day’s win was his seventh from his last 17 starts, which is quite a record and why Scott played out the Woods analogy. “That’s great, to be in the same sentence as Tiger,” admitted Day.

What was perhaps even impressive, though, was Day’s attitude in focusing his mind on garnering more victories in the weeks and months ahead. As he put it, “you know, it’s only half the year (gone), so I’ve got plenty of opportunities to try and win some more.”

And targeting wins isn’t the only thing on his mind. By winning, there is the knock-on effect of also strengthening his position at the top of the world rankings which clearly means a lot to him.

“I’ve never been more motivated to be number one in the world. I’ve never been more motivated to try and extend that lead . . . all the hard work that I’ve put into my game right now has paid off. But I’ve got to keep working hard to win as much as I can.”

By the numbers – 22

The addition of Gary Hurley – who received the last sponsor’s invitation – brings to 22 the number of home players competing in the DDF Irish Open.

Word of Mouth

“You can see there’s that calmness inside him, calm confidence; and the way he’s walking around, he’s got that kind of unbeatable look about him” – Adam Scott on Jason Day’s aura of invincibility.

In the bag

Jeung-hun Wang – AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open
Driver: Callaway Great Big Bertha (8.5 degrees)
3-Wood: Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 816 (14 degrees)
2-Iron: Callaway Apex UT
3-9 Irons: Callaway X Forged
Pitching Wedge: Titleist Vokey SM6 (48 degrees)
Sand Wedge: Titleist Vokey SM6 (54 degrees)
Gap Wedge: Titleist Vokey SM6 (60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Works #1
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

*Wang – winner of the Trophée Hassan and Mauritius Open in successive weeks – will be chasing a third win in a row when he plays in this week’s DDF Irish Open.

Twitter Talk

“Back in Ireland for the @DDFIrishOpen & kicking off an exciting week with Sir Alex Ferguson (Tuesday) night in Dublin” - Rory McIlroy, who will be picking Fergie’s brains at the National Convention Centre on Tuesday night as part of the sideshow to the Irish Open at The K Club.

“Off to the Irish Open. It’s going to be an unbelievable week . . . ” – Colm Campbell, recent winner of the Irish Amateur Open, will be aiming for a unique double at The K Club. Can he become the first amateur winner since Shane Lowry outgunned the pros in 2009?

“Unbelievable . . . only just over my Pneumonia then get struck down with Tonsillitis . . . had to WD from Ireland . . . look forward to Wentworth now” – former champion Simon Dyson on being forced to withdraw from the Irish Open due to illness.

Know the Rules

Q
A player makes a stroke. He replaces his divot and other divots nearby. He then discovers that his ball is lost or out of bounds. The player must now drop a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which his previous stroke was made – Rule 27-1. In these circumstances, is the player in breach of Rule 13-2, which prohibits improving the area in which a ball is to be dropped by eliminating irregularities of surface by replacing a divot?

A
No. When the player replaced the divots, he was unaware that he would be required to drop a ball in the area. Therefore, in equity (Rule 1-4), he is not penalised. However, if the player wished to play a provisional ball because he thought his original ball might be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, he would be prohibited from replacing his or other divots in the area where he would be dropping the provisional ball.

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