Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Royal County Down, The Irish Open & The Magnificent Seven

Views over the 1st green to the 8th green
The Irish Open has been and gone for another year… and another box is ticked on the European Tour’s long list of events. But for Irish golf fans and, most probably, a much wider audience, this particular event was rather special.

Here are seven things we learned this week:

1.  That links golf is tough. Very tough. Only five players finished under par, and the winning score of -2 was the lowest on the European Tour this year.
That may not be something the Pros want to experience every week, but it makes them appear more like mortals to those of us who hack it around 18 holes, week in, week out. Yes, seeing birdies all day long is great, but seeing Pros take on a world-class course and having to work for every par is both educational… and enjoyable.

2.  That links golf sorts the men from the boys. It is such a different game to big, plush parkland golf. Hitting it long and high doesn’t usually work on a links. Playing at places like Royal County Down requires more thought and a short game of both brilliance and unshakeable confidence… look at Kjeldsen’s pitch from one side of the 18th green to the other on the final day. He then had to get up and down to make the play-off. (And a huge congratulations to Soren on his victory.)

3.  Once again the Irish Open is the only European Tour event to sell out in advance. That’s twice, now: once at Royal County Down and once at Royal Portrush. How close will the K Club get next year, and Lough Erne in 2017? Regardless, it is a testament to the passion of Irish golf fans who - along with the Pros - endured some fairly cold and miserable weather.

The blind drive on the par four 2nd
4.  Rory's star continues to rise. Oh sure, he missed the cut at his home Open, but the work and support of the Rory Foundation in making the Irish Open possible, as well as Rory’s ability to lure some of the biggest names to Ireland, may well have set a trend for the future – not just in Ireland but around the world. He is a strong role model and we should admire him for that, as well as his incredible golfing abilities.

5.  Shane Lowry may putt better with his Pitching Wedge than with a putter. On Friday, using his wedge, he played 15 holes in 2 over par… which included 3 birdies. First, how is this possible; second, why isn’t everyone doing it?

6.  When it comes to golf the weather can make fools of us all. Put links golf and weather into the same equation and the result is the severest test for golfers of every ability.

Views back down the par four 13th
7.  Despite the weather, could Royal County Down have looked any more magnificent! It's little wonder that this course is rated as one of the very best in the world... and given the global audience (thanks in part to the Golf Channel) it is a course that will now be more in demand than ever. And that's great news for Irish golf, full stop. 

Congratulations to the European Tour, to the Northern Irish Tourist Board and to the fans for making this such a great event... again.

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