Irish Open Returns To Links Setting
After two successful years in the picturesque town of Killarney in the South of Ireland, The 2012 Irish Open heads north to the stunning links setting of the world renowned Royal Portrush on Thursday 28th June.
2009 was the last time the event was staged on a links course when Baltray hosted the event won by then amateur Shane Lowry. Royal Portrush has been extremely well received by both punters and players with over 100,000 golfing enthusiasts set to descend on the Antrim coastline.
The players have also answered the call. From Ireland alone there will be four former major champions in field. Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and world number two Rory McIlroy are all set to mount a challenge for their home title.
Making the trip across the pond is Keegan Bradley who won the USPGA Championship back in 2011. Other players of not looking to scoop the 300,000 euro plus prize will be South African starlet Branden Grace and previous winners Simon Dyson (2011), Ross Fisher (2010), and Ireland's Shane Lowry (2009).
The area itself is as picturesque a setting as you will find in the Emerald Isle. Nestled along the Antrim coastline, the Dunluce links course plays host to Ireland's showpiece golfing event with European Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal making his debut at the venue.
Altogether more than fifty national championships, British and Irish, have been decided here. The first professional tournament ever held in Ireland was run by the club in 1895. It was decided by match play, and the famous Sandy' Herd, who was the Club's first professional, was the winner; his opponent in the final was Harry Vardon, who was then a comparative unknown player, just coming up to the form that was to win him his first Open Championship in the following year.
In July, Royal Portrush had the distinction of being the first Irish course to host The Open Championship, the winner being Max Faulkner with a score of 285 for the four rounds.
There have been may famous golfers who have played at the Royal Portrush Club at one stage or another: Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Larry Mize to name a few. With Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia playing in 2002 and Davis Love III and Jim Furyk enjoying a game in 2003. Other major winners who have visited Royal Portrush include Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Steve Jones, Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw.
This years event has 10 former major champions in all and goes to post with one of the best fields that has ever assembled for the Irish Open. Patrons travelling from the South of Ireland can be prepared for a long haul journey but the golfing beauty that awaits you on arrival will more than make up for the tough journey.
Expect the wind and the possibility of rain to be major deciding factors in determining the winner of the tournament and as a past winner of the tournament on a links venue, Shane Lowry knows all to well about what to expect from a tough but enjoyable course.
"The weather will have a big bearing on what the winning score will be up there but all in all its going to be a great tournament anyway. Portrush is a great golf course and its right up there in the top two or three courses in the country. There will be over a 100,000 people there over the week and it will be a great tournament on a great golf course and I can't wait to get up there", explained the County Offaly native and Carton House player.
He went on to say "Its been a rough patch for me lately. I have been struggling but not with my golf game. I don't know what's going on. I feel like I have been playing as good a golf as I ever played but I am just not scoring as well as I normally do.
"I just have to keep patient and hope it comes right for next week. I have been struggling on the greens. If I can hold a few putts you never know what could happen. I feel that is the area that has been letting me down".
Other players to keep an eye out for as you meander through the course are Francesco Molinari, Nicholas Colsaerts, Robert Rock and Matteo Mannassero to name a few.
There is sure to be plenty of Irish interest with the Northern Ireland quartet of Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey all looking for a good performance in their own back yard.
The very first Irish Open back in 1975 was won by an Irish man in Christy O'Connor Jnr down in Woodbrook Golf club in County Wicklow and since then some of the greats of the game have landed the prestigious crown such as Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal.
The chances of an Irish winner are as high as they have ever been with some of the leading golfers in the world either from the North or South of Ireland.
Why not check out our 'live courses' section for a visual tour of some of the top courses in Ireland and take in a game on route to the Irish showpiece in Portrush.
Golfcoursevisualtour.com Ones To Watch
Clarke has been on a slippery slope since his Open triumph back in 2011 and that was certainly the highest peak of his career. Missed cuts have been plentiful since then but if he is ever going to turn it around, surely it will be at his home club in Portrush. He wont have to worry about accommodation or any logistics as he lives a stones throw away from the course meaning he should come into the tournament fresh. If he is to recapture that winning feeling, there would be no better place to do so.
After a super finish in the US Open, the three time major champion can finally say that he has hit a vein of form. He seems to play his nest golf on the other side of the Atlantic but as a previous winner of the Irish Open, he has the experience and the skill, to on his day tame the rugged links of Portrush. Harrington will need his 'A' game which seems to be close given his recent performances.
The plucky Scot had some very impressive finishes in 2011 and a return to form is not to far away. The intimidating links setting wont phase the 28 year old who has missed his last three cuts. Every tournament throws u a potential winner from left field and the pro of six years could well be that man this week.