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Alstom Open de France, 1st round, Christian Nilsson Leads

Sweden’s Christian Nilsson leads the Alstom Open de France after the first round at Le Golf National in Paris. His opening round of -6 under par 65, on the par 71 layout, gives him a one shot advantage over three other competitors. The players tied for second spot on -5 under par are; England’s Gary Boyd, Italy’s teenager Matteo Manassero  and Thongchai Jaidee from Thailand.

Christian Nilsson  (Getty Images)

Christian Nilsson (Getty Images)

Christian said in interview;

“It’s been a struggle for me so far this year. My long game was pretty bad, but it’s improved and this is good for my confidence. I’ve been very patient I think. I’ve been practising on things I believe in and just waiting for something to happen, finally looks like it did.”

Gary Boyd referred to the terrible round he had at Celtic Manor;

“That was a bit of a disaster, but I’ve had a lot of positive signs the last three weeks. I’m working on the right things I feel and am getting comfortable again. My game wasn’t where it needed to be and it was time to take a time-out.”

Matteo was happy with his round;

“It was a very good round, everything was going the right direction, the way I wanted. You have to give yourself the most opportunities for birdies that you can, and I didn’t feel like I putted that well, but I was solid and I made some of those chances.”

England’s World Number Three Lee Westwood recovered from four over after six holes and from playing one shot while standing in a lake, to match Open Champion Darren Clarke’s 70. Lee said he did not do too much wrong;

 “I didn’t do much wrong to be four over, but there’s not a lot of panic in me any more , I haven’t got much time for that. It was not going my way, but you just have to get it out of your mind.”

Of the water adventure on hole nine, Lee remembered Thomas Levet jumping in the lake and breaking his leg after winning last year,  he said;

” I didn’t know what was in there, I’ve got plenty of shoes with me.”

Darren Clark, who made his first cut of the year at Royal Portrush last Friday, managed to mix five birdies, two of them in the dangerous last three holes , with two bogey sixes and a double bogey six, for his -1 under par round of 70.

Will the R&A Reward Royal Portrush with The Open ?

There is some debate about should  the R&A should award Royal Portrush Gold Club with staging The Open. Although Portrush has a small population of  around 7,000 it has a Major champion with Graeme McDowell winning the US Open of 2010, and Ireland itself with other golfing greats, like three time Major winner Padraig Harrington, and of course the current holder of The Open, Darren Clark. Also back in 1947 Fred Daly won The Open, at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake. Fred Daly was born in Portrush, County Antrim and during his acceptance speech said he was very honored to receive the Claret Jug and take it back to Northern Ireland. He then went on to say that the trophy had never been to Ireland and that he was hoping that the change of air would help it. There was much applause and laughter at his humorous comments.

Padraig Harrington tees off at Royal Portrush in what has been a massively successful tournament

Three time Major winner Padraig Harrington, tees off in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.                                                                                     photo/Belfast Telegraph

 The Irish crowds last week were reported to be the best behaved set of spectators for any tournament this year, real praise indeed. The great success of the last week’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush indicates it is surely a question of when rather than if golf’s most celebrated and oldest Major, The Open, is played in this small part of the world. The R&A had observers at Royal Portrush during the tournament and just like everyone who set foot on the Dunluce Links they will have gone home mightily impressed. No one can deny the feel good factor has oozed out of the fairways, and much pleasure and pride can be taken from how everyone managed to enjoy the Irish Open event.

Some changes would be needed, a consortium headed by reigning Open Champion Darren Clark have put in some plans for the future of the multi-million pound Bushmills course. At the moment The National Trust have put a block on the project, but Darren is certain they will “soon come to their senses”.

Lets all hope so, and wish Darren and Bushmills get their way, which would facilitate Royal Portrush being awarded The Open, the Irish People deserve it.

The Irish Open at Royal Portrush, Gregory Bourdy leads after 2nd round

Bourdy reaps benefits of Clarke's advice

Gregory Bourdy (Getty Images)

Gregory Bourdy leads the field after the conclusion of the second round at The Irish Open on the Royal Portrush golf links in County Antrim. Darren Clark offered Gregory some advice before the start of the tournament,  which obviously paid dividends as the Frenchman has moved into a one shot lead on the second day, and a tournament total of -12 under par. Greg spoke of the advice Darren had given him;

“I saw him on a tee and asked if it was possible to share a game. He is with the same manager, so I think that helped to get the right answer. Darren has been great with me. He gave me a lot of advice and maybe that gave me some confidence for the week. It was good for the lines on the tee shots. After just two or three times you can see better to know exactly the way you have to play.”

Darren seems full of gifts, just yesterday he gave a bottle of 21 year-old Bushmills Irish Whiskey to Jeev Milkha Singh. Jeev, who was the first round leader had a quieter day during the second round, completing a -1 under par round of 71, to be at -8 under par, and still in contention. Darren is thinking about his  Open Championship title defense at Royal Lytham and St Annes, which is just three weeks away;

“I’m just not tournament sharp and it’s important to have more competitive rounds.”

He has suffered from a groin strain and needed to rest it, taking a month off;

 “The break was massive, I needed to get away and the injury was a bit of a blessing in disguise. My golf’s not been that bad, but my scoring’s been terrible. I’ve been travelling all round the world trying to fulfil my role as Open Champion,  but now I’m refreshed. The last two days have probably been the best two ball-striking rounds I’ve had in a while. I’m definitely close. I need something around 65 or 64 to get into contention, but I’ve shot low scores here before.”

Darren has certainly achieved that task, he shot a record 61 on this course, at the tender age of 16.

Of the rest of Irish contingent, Padraig Harrington, the only home winner of The Irish Open in the last 30 years, has given himself the chance to do it again. Padraig  is ten under par after two 67s, and will surely be there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon. Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell are all still around for the weekend, for Open Champion Clarke it was a first cut made all year. McIlroy and McDowell are both on the leaderboard at five under par, with Darren Clarke one further back.

Padraig Harrington said he is playing an unfamiliar game, but is hopeful once it all clicks into place he will win a few more tournaments;

 I’m playing a game I’m not familiar with, I’m hitting far more fairways and greens than normal and I know I could play better if I trusted it a bit more. I’ve shortened my swing significantly and I didn’t really put myself in any trouble. It was as stress-free a 67 as you could get in these conditions. I know they are around the corner and they tend to come like buses. When you get one a few more arrive very quickly.”

Irish Open 1st round, Jeev Milkha Singh Leads the way at Portrush G.C.

Jeev Milkha Singh  (Getty Images)

Jeev Milkha Singh (Getty Images)

Jeev Milkha Singh leads the first round of the first Irish Open in Northern Ireland since 1953, shooting a marvelous round of -7 under par, 65 at a wet and windy Royal Portrush golf course. The weather did not stop eager fans turning out in huge numbers to see their home town hero’s, but they were treated to a special round of golf from the Indian player. Jeev was certainly not complaining about the number following him as he set the pace. Before he teed off Daren Clark had presented him with a bottle of Bushmills single malt whiskey. Jeev was not used to links golf, but it did not show during hiss opening round;

“Growing up, I never played a links golf course. The first time I played a links golf course was when I came for the Open Qualifying, it must have been about 20 years ago, and I enjoyed every bit of it,even though it was really tough. I thought, how can you play courses like this, in these conditions? It’s so tough! but now I just love it. I love links golf, you have to hit a lot of low shots and you have to have a lot of imagination. I think a lot of feel and imagination is required, and that’s what I love about links golf. The atmosphere and the feel to the golf course is just fantastic. It looks and feels just great.”

Jeev was really appreciative of Darren’s gift to him;

“Darren presented me with a 21 year old Bushmills single malt, which was very gracious of him. I like to have some whiskey once in a while, especially with my father on Sunday nights. He likes it as well. So I’ll sit down with him after the tournament, have a nice chat and have a drink with him. I really enjoy doing that.”

There are fout players tied in second place at -6 under par, they are; Gregory Bourdy, Mark Foster, Mathew Zions and Andrew Marshall.

The best Irish player on the day was Padraig Harrington whose good round of -5 under par, 67, got him into tied for 7th place. Rory McIlroy had a quieter day finishing with a -2 under par, 70 for his first round. Graeme McDowell and Darren Clark both had -1 under par 71 opening efforts.

Last weeks winner Danny Willett could only manage a +1 over par round of 73, and will hope to improve his position tomorrow to get above the cut line. If the weather continues to be wet and windy the conditions will only get tougher and only the best will survive.

I have read other reports from the Irish Open, where the reporters do not know the difference between Scotch Whisky, and Irish Whiskey, when writing about Darren Clark’s gift to Jeev of a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey.

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