Padraig returns to Tour life for the first time in seven months as he attempts to win his national championship for a second time. He last won the event back in 2007 at Adare Manor. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is being staged at Galgorm Castle this year behind closed doors due to the ongoing pandemic. Padraig has being hitting plenty of shots at home but it is always different with a card in your hand at a Tour event! He tees off in the opening round at 1pm local time with John Catlin and Justin Harding.
Opening round of one over par 71 sees Padraig in a tie for 38th place going into day two. He got off to a nice start with a couple of birdies early on but dropped consecutive shots on the par four 6th hole and the short par three 7th hole to be out in level par. He then found trouble on the par five 10th hole to record a seven but bounced back nicely with a birdie on the way home. Five under par leads and he tees off early Friday at 9.30am. It was a good start to his first tournament in seven months!
Thursday 1pm & Friday 9.25am with John Catlin and Justin Harding.
This week is my first tournament since the first week of March. It’s actually hard to believe that it’s that long ago, but like everyone in the world I never thought I would see anything like what we have been going through. If you had asked me in March what I would think of having six months off, I would have said I’d hate it. However I have to say that it wasn’t a bad thing for me – I have been playing for 25 years and so six months off has got me refreshed and ready to go again. I spent the six months practicing, hit a lot of balls and put my body through a lot and as a result I am carrying a knee injury. I got some good work done over the few months and got some things clear in my head. Now I am ready to play golf – I’m rusty but in your first event after a break that’s always the case. I’m looking forward to playing and giving it a go.
I have to say, I was expecting an easier course than it is. I have played two practice rounds – on Tuesday it was blowing, the course played very tough and our group lost over a dozen balls between us. On Wednesday it was a calmer day and as a result the course was much more playable. The trouble is all off the tee here, so if you drive it well then you can score as the greens are big and they all have wide fringes so it is nearly impossible to short side yourself. Off the tee it is a very good test, the rough is up and it can be hard to find your ball. The lack of spectators is a big loss when it comes to finding your ball, as normally the fans have it found by the time you get up to it. When we played on Tuesday there were a few drives that were as tough as you will get – the 3rd is a dogleg right to left and the wind was in from the left so it was practically impossible to hit the fairway. The 13th has a hazard all down the right and trees along the left – it feels like threading a needle which is not easy when its blowing!
I would have liked an easier test to take on after a six-month break! I know that I am rusty from the lack of tournament play but I would have hated to miss the Irish Open. I am back and really looking forward to playing. I have no expectations for the week but I will be trying hard and giving it everything I have. The way the course sets up, I feel that a more conservative strategy from the tee is the best approach considering I haven’t been playing. If I was a normal season and I had been playing, then I could see myself being a bit more aggressive but as I play my way back into it, I definitely feel a more conservative approach will work best.
This is my first week in the “Bubble” and I have to say the European Tour is doing a great job. I feel totally at ease with all the precautions they have taken. We are all social distancing and wearing masks, tested upon entry to the bubble and then having our temperature-checked every day. They really have done a great job in creating a safe environment for us to compete in. Unfortunately it means that there are no spectators at the moment and for an Irish Open that is very strange. It will be very odd tomorrow not to have the great Irish fans out watching us. However, for the moment it is for the best and hopefully soon we will be able to return to some sort of normality.
This week is a strange week for me for another reason as I should have been in Whistling Straights captaining the European Ryder Cup team. While it’s disappointing for it not to be going ahead this year, it was the right decision to postpone it. I am looking forward to this week next year even more so now.
For the moment I am concentrating on this week here in Galgorm. I am playing at 1pm on Thursday and 9.25 am on Friday with Justin Harding and John Caitlin. As I said, I have no expectations but I am looking forward to getting back to competing.