David Carter returns to the scene of his maiden European Tour triumph to defend the Murphy’s Irish Open title this week at Druids Glen Golf Club.
Twelve months ago the Englishman deprived Colin Montgomerie of a hat-trick of championships over the superb County Wicklow course at the first extra hole of a sudden-death play-off after the pair tied on a six-under-par aggregate of 278.
In a dramatic finish, Carter sank a 20 foot putt for a bogey to force the play-off after the Scot had made up a four-shot deficit over the inward half. But in the play-off, Montgomerie found water from the heavy rough and when Carter landed a six iron safely on the green the contest was conceded and Carter was champion.
Carter, who only 17 months earlier underwent life-saving brain surgery in a Dubai hospital, went on to crown a magnificent season by winning the World Cup of Golf with Nick Faldo at the end of the year.
Carter and Montgomerie join a world-class field for the 44th edition of the Championship which was first played in 1927 and won by George Duncan. The Championship took a break from 1953, returning to the European Tour schedule more than 20 years later in 1975 when Christy O’Connor Jnr took the title at Woodbrook.
Since then a host of great players have added their names to the illustrious honours board including major championship winners Ben Crenshaw, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo and José Maria Olazábal. Murphy’s Irish Stout took over the sponsorship in 1994 and two years later the event was hosted by Druids Glen for the first time when Montgomerie triumphed. The following year the European Number One for a record six successive seasons produced some of the best golf of his career to shoot a course record 62 in the final round to win by seven shots.
Among the entries this year are Spain’s Sergio Garcia, making his fourth professional appearance on the European Tour, and American John Daly, twice a major champion. Ten of the champions of the 1999 European Tour season are also in the field.
Joining Carter and Montgomerie this week are past champions Ballesteros, Woosnam and Langer while Lee Westwood, 1998 European Tour Golfer of the Year, is also in the starting line up.
Druids Glen Golf Club was named after the Druids altar from pre-Christian days which stands on the hillside overlooking the 12th green. The course was designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, the former Walker Cup player, and lies in the scenic Co. Wicklow, renowned as the Garden of Ireland.