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.

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.

Lee Westwood, World Number Three, heads back to France

Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)

World Number Three Lee Westwood (Getty Images)

World Number Three Lee Westwood returns to contest the Alstom Open de France next week in what appears to be one of the strongest fields in the history of this tournament.

Lee is seeking  back-to-back victories on European soil after capturing  his 22nd European Tour title in the Nordea Masters in Sweden at the start of the month, just before he achieved a top ten finish in the US Open Championship at Olympic Club. He has a strong record in the Alstom Open de France, with four top ten finishes in nine appearances. He really came close to winning this title at the Le Golf National in 2009, eventually losing in a play-off to Germany’s Martin Kaymer. Martin will  join Lee in the field next week, along with  four other players who currently occupy Ryder Cup spots, they are;

Race to Dubai leader Justin Rose, 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell, Swede Peter Hanson and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. Other players from the Worlds top fifty rankings are, Englishman Ian Poulter and Scotland’s Martin Laird, Graeme McDowell and European Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, who was the 2001 champion in this tournament. There will also be an appearance from  Open Champion Darren Clarke, who is in a group of those players travelling from this week’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

The defending champion is Frenchman Thomas Levet, the former Ryder Cup player who delighted the home support last year when he finished one shot clear of Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Englishman Mark Foster to lift the trophy. The victory for Thomas came in front of packed galleries, just six weeks after Le Golf National was awarded The 2018 Ryder Cup.

I am a great fan of Thomas Levet, he used to pay at my club in Berkshire, England when I lived there. His son went to the same school as my grandson, and a more pleasant fellow and Professional golfer you could not wish to meet.