What an Irish Open! I came into it knowing that it was a couple of weeks to early for me as I am still trying to bed down my swing changes. However I was still very happy to be teeing it up on a course that I know well, having played the course in the pro-am I was looking forward to it even more. In the end I missed the cut by a shot which was a total shock to me, when I finished my second round on three under par I was convinced that I had made the cut comfortably. It wasn’t until I was driving home that I heard that I was under pressure to make the cut. It certainly didn’t help that on both Thursday and Friday when I played the weather was bad. Friday morning was wet and miserable with a bit a wind as well; it made playing very tricky. I shot four under par in the second round to finish on three under par; when I finished the round I thought that I was actually making the cut by a couple of shots. However when we were playing our last two holes the weather was beginning to pick up and it just kept getting better and better as the day went on.
It is always very disappointing to miss the cut in any tournament but to miss it here in Ireland is even more disappointing. When I am playing any tournament here in Ireland I am always trying so hard to get myself into contention as I know that the public want to see all the Irish players perform well in our own tournament. This is my fifth major, when I won in Adare a couple of years ago it gave me a huge confidence boost which I took with me for the rest of the year. It definitely helped in giving me an extra edge going into the Open in Carnoustie.
I knew coming here that I wasn’t at my best but I was still hopeful that I could find something for the week. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, I ended up with the weekend off. I played in the afternoon on Thursday which was definitely the worst of the draw; Thursday morning was calm and relatively sunny. The good conditions were reflected in the scoring as there were a number of 66’s and better. I never got anything going on Thursday; I started with three pars which is a poor return on the opening holes here at Baltray. I gave myself a few chances but just wasn’t able to convert them; for most of the day I was actually over par but I managed to get myself back to level par for the day standing on the last hole. I had a three wood to the green for my second shot; I was feeling good about it. I was looking like shooting a one under par round from where I was off the tee but I hit a very poor second shot; straight right into the heavy grass and couldn’t find my ball. In the end I made a birdie with my second ball to finish with a six for a round of 73. The scoring was so good that my round left lying about 100th over night. I played my second round in terrible conditions, starting on the 10th made it even harder as I was playing the tougher nine first. However the tour did move a lot of the tees up as they knew that the weather was coming in. I got it out in level par for the day and then made four birdies coming in to shoot four under par. This left me on three under par and seven off the lead. I was very happy with my effort as I was confident that I would be around for the weekend and still in with a shout for the tournament.
As it turned out the weather turned for the better and the afternoon starters got to play in no wind and sun shine. When I was leaving the course the players were out in t-shirts and taking advantage of the shortened course. I still thought that I would be safe as it needed a lot of people to move in for me to miss out on three under. I couldn’t believe how the scoring went; it moved so much that at one stage it looked like five under could be the cut. I was more shocked than annoyed at missing out as I felt that I had shot a good score on Friday considering the conditions that I played in. I ended up taking it easy for the weekend and watching Shane’s exploits on the television.
Like everyone I was delighted to see Shane play so well all week and for him to hold on the way he did and win the tournament was fantastic. It was the stuff of dreams; I have to say it was gripping television. I am delighted for him, the way he played over the last two rounds and the play-off he really deserved to win. There has been a lot talked about whether he should go pro immediately or not; I personally would recommend he stay and play the Walker cup. I played three Walker cups and I got a lot out of them, they were definitely worth playing. He will be a professional for along time so waiting three months is nothing.
No matter what he decides he has a great future ahead of him. It was a thrilling end to the Irish Open and one that everyone involved in will have been delighted to see. I have two weeks off now before I return to action at the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio.
It is Irish Open week again and it’s great to be home for it. This year we are back at Baltray for the 3 Irish Open. It is five years since the Irish Open was held at Baltray when the players were here last time they loved the course and so when it was announced that we would be coming back this year all the players were delighted. I’ve been in the US for the last seven weeks so to be able to come home and play an event is great. I am also staying at home this week and will be traveling up and down from Baltray by helicopter if the weather permits. I did this the last time we played here; it feels great to stay at home for a tournament so when I get a chance I always like to stay in my own house with the family.
It is also great to be back on a links course for the Irish Open. Having grown up playing links golf it feels great to get back playing it, although it does take a while to adjust to how to play it again. I have come from Florida where it was over 30 degrees and very little wind and golf ball flies a lot further in those conditions. This week I could be hitting five irons shorter than my nine iron would have gone last week and it is all down to the wind. Links golf is not about how well you hit the ball it is all about managing your way around the course and hitting the right type of shot. I have to say that while I always knew this, it was really hammered home to me in the pro-am this week. It is such a different test of golf than any other form that you have to make sure that you give yourself time to adjust.
This year we are back in Baltray after two years at Adare Manor. I was sorry in one way too see it move from Adare as I have had a lot of success there. However I have had some success here in Baltray as well, as an amateur I have played many matches here; I rarely played the East of Ireland as I was always doing exams, and as a pro I finished second to Brett Rumford when we played here five years ago. This course is definitely one of Irelands hidden gems; there are 18 great holes on the course. I personally think that one of the best features of the course is the four par three’s; it is hard to think of a course that has a good a set of par three holes as this one. They are not long holes but they are tough; it is very possible to make birdies on them but it is also easy to drop shots. The green shapes are what make them great, because the pin positions can make a huge difference to the shot that you have to play.
While it is great to be back playing in front of my home crowd I would love it if it was a week or too later as I would feel a lot more comfortable with how I would perform. I am very happy with the progress I am making on my swing changes but I also know that they are not fully there yet and as a result it means that I am not properly prepared for the event. I got home on Monday morning from Florida and took it easy for the day; I decided not to go to the course on Tuesday but to spend the day with Bob Torrance working on what I have been doing for the last few weeks. My first look at the course was in the pro-am on Wednesday. As I have played it many times over the years I didn’t mind only playing one practice round. The hardest thing was getting used to trying to keep the ball low and remembering that the wind will move the ball; it took a while to get back into it again. Luckily for me I had a good team in the pro-am as they carried me through the first few holes, when they made two nett albatrosses and two net eagles I had never seen anything like it before. In the end we won the pro-am by two shots. I don’t really have any expectations for the week as I know that I am not quite there yet. The good news is that Bob was very happy with my work over the last few weeks. The bad news is that this work does not get me properly ready for a tournament, that aside though I have not given up on this week. I know that I can get myself into contention with the game I have, it is just a matter of being accepting of hitting some bad shots and getting on with it. As long as I keep a good attitude on the course and not get stressed out by not hitting the shot that I want to hit then I will be fine. This is the case every week but even more so this week as links golf can be a very trying form of golf. Weather conditions can make such a difference, if it gets windy then it really doesn’t matter how well you are swinging or hitting it; it will come down to chipping and putting and grinding out a score in tough conditions.
This year we have a very good field for our national Open; the new sponsors have gone all out and have put on a very good tournament. I have no doubt that it will be a great week; hopefully we can get some good weather but with some wind. I would love to be in contention come Sunday afternoon as I can remember the buzz in Adare Manor when I won. The crowd was fantastic and was definitely a help to me in my win. Hopefully this week I can give everyone something to cheer about again.
Talk to you soon, Padraig