Niall Horan’s drawing power may have attracted some star names from the world of entertainment and sport into the pro-am but the real headline act will follow in the tournament itself as the ISPS Handa World Invitational continues to make giant strides forward, with the women’s event a co-sanctioned tournament on the LPGA Tour and the LET and the men’s upgraded to European Tour status.
The two tournaments will be played side-by-side at Galgorm Castle and Massereene from Thursday to Sunday with equal purses; and, although a crossover with the Olympics travel timetable has meant Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire can't play, the strength in the field in the women's event is evident with Jeongeun Lee6 and Yealimi Noh, second and third respectively in the Evian Championship, among those playing.
So, too, does the tournament offer a chance for young up-and-coming home talent, with recently turned professional Olivia Mehaffey – who has finished her university studies in Arizona – earning a sponsor's exemption into the tournament.
“This innovative event continues to push many barriers in sport and to be part of that is very exciting. I’m also looking forward to [playing] in front of a home crowd as a professional,” said Mehaffey, as the 23-year-old starts out on her professional life which will also include outings on the Symetra Tour stateside as she gears up to the qualifying school later this year.
Mehaffey and amateur Aideen Walsh are the only two Irish players in the field for the women's tournament, but the men's event will have no fewer than 19 home players – Paul Dunne, Cormac Sharvin, Jonathan Caldwell, Niall Kearney, Conor Purcell, Gavin Moynihan, James Sugrue, John Murphy, Dermot McElroy, Tom McKibbin, Michael Hoey, Rowan Lester, Colm Moriarty, Paul McBride, Simon Thornton, Charlie Williams, JR Galbraith and amateurs Robert Moran and Mark Power – competing.
Part-timer Dodd makes Major impression at Sunningdale
One of the rewards for Welshman Stephen Dodd after his win in the Senior British Open is an exemption into next year's 150th Open Championship which will take place over the Old Course at St Andrews.
Dodd – a former Irish Open winner on the European Tour – doesn't play too much competitive golf these days but held off a string of big names, including Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez, to take the senior title at Sunningdale.
Ironically, Dodd undertook some work with his swing coach Denis Pugh ahead of the championship but claimed "it kind of gradually got a bit worse as the week went on". Somehow, he defied low expectations of himself to capture the title and book that ticket to next year's special anniversary Open at the home of golf.
Word of Mouth
"I've been fortunate to represent my country and win a championship for Spain around the world as an amateur. Playing in Tokyo would have given me a chance to win an Olympic gold medal for my country. I would have loved to have been the first Spanish Olympic gold medallist in golf, but unfortunately destiny had other plans. This is a great reminder for all of us that we're still in a pandemic, things are not over and we still need to fight together to get through this the best we can" – world No 1 Jon Rahm after being forced out of the men's Olympics golf tournament (which starts on Thursday) after a positive Covid-19 test. It was his second positive test for Rahm inside two months, despite being double vaccinated.
By the Numbers: 687,909
That’s the amount – in US dollars – which Leona Maguire has earned in prizemoney so far this year on the LPGA Tour, in a season which has seen her clock up five top-10 finishes, most recently in the Evian Championship.
On this day: July 27th 1997
Stewart Cink was a fresh-faced 24-year-old when he made his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour, a final round 66 for a total of 13-under-par 267 giving the tour rookie a one-stroke winning margin over Jeff Maggert, Brandel Chamblee and Tom Byrum at the Canon Greater Open.
As many players struggled on the tough stretch of holes on the homeward run at TPC River Highlands, Cink closed the deal with eight straight pars to finish and reach the comfort of the clubhouse and await his fate. Outright victory came his way when Maggert bogeyed the 18th and both Maggert and Byrum missed birdie chances.
Gutted to not be able to compete next week because of the timing of the Olympics! I know it will be a fabulous event. Good luck to everyone involved! Especially my sponsor @GalgormResort – Stephanie Meadow (@stephmeadow20)on being unable to defend her women's title at the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Proud to be the 2021 @3MOpen champion! – Cameron Champ (@Cameron__Champ), after a bogey-free final round 66 for a 15-under-par total of 269 gave the American a two-stroke winning margin over Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Jhonattan Vegas in the 3M Open on the PGA Tour.
I wonder if there's anything in the world that I make seem as easy as Simone Biles does with gymnastics. Like tying my shoes? Drinking water? Obviously it's not my walk. She's unbelievable. – Max Homa (@maxhoma23) is clearly a fan of the gymnast.
In the Bag
Minjee Lee (Evian Championship)
Driver: Srixon ZX7 (10.5 degrees)
5-wood: Srixon ZX (18 degrees)
Hybrid: Srixon ZX (19 degrees)
Irons: Srixon ZX Utility (4), Srixon ZX7 (5-PW)
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore (50, 54 and 58 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Newport 2
Ball: Srixon Z Star
Know the Rules
In strokeplay, Player A, believing her tee shot might be lost, plays a provisional ball. The player finds a ball she believes is the original ball, makes a stroke at it, picks up the provisional ball, and then discovers the ball she has played was not the original ball but a wrong ball. The player resumes search for the original ball but cannot find it within the three minute search time. What is she required to do next?
Since the provisional ball became the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance, the player is required to replace that ball and gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b. The player also gets two penalty strokes for playing a wrong ball (Rule 6.3c). The player's next stroke is her seventh.