by Jeff Skinner
There’s going to be one big party at the Irish Open this week. The European Tour’s Irish Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1953 and the most famous faces of Irish golf all will be there to kick off the festivities.
Royal Portrush Golf Club is playing host to the Euro Tour for the first time since 1947 and many are speculating that this week could very well be a test case to see if an Open Championship could ever come back to this highly touted course. The Open Championship was last held here in 1951.
Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, the Mount Rushmore of Irish Golf, as they are being billed, are in the field and all are thrilled to see The Irish Open return to Portrush.
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open Champ and Clarke the 2011 Open Champion are members of Royal Portrush and Clarke had just moved back to the area before he claimed his first major. Both played on Portrush as children, then teenagers and honed their game across these hallowed links.
McDowell is excited about this week, “When these crowds come in over the next few days it’s going to feel like a major championship,” McDowell said.
“The golf course will certainly be major championship standard and there’s no doubt there will be a little bit of added expectation from the fans looking to see the Irish boys play well.”
“To be one of the three or four guys who helped make this happen through our major successes also gives me a huge sense of pride – it’s great to have played a part and it’s kind of a dream come true.”
McIlroy is one of the most famous and recognizable faces in golf and he continued the Irish run of major wins with his 2011 U.S. Open title. The Northern Irishmen will be joined by Paddy Harrington who started the ‘luck of the Irish’ with his two Open Championships (’07, ’08) and a PGA Championship (’08).
Royal Portrush is consistently ranked as one of the top course in the world and this week certainly will allow the Irish to showcase these highly regarded links.
The buzz created by this tournament has been huge. Consider this: for the first time in European Tour history the entire tournament is sold out.