Thomas Björn launches his defence of the Irish Open title at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort warning of a new generation of players poised to take The European Tour by storm.
“I think one of the things that people have got to take a very big note of on The European Tour is that we have a major generation change,” said the Danish winner of nine European Tour titles. “It might be that people don't know many of the players on this Tour, but in five years, people will know a lot about these guys and they will come through and be the strength of the Tour. We're just going through a generation change.
“Players like Oliver Wilson and Ross Fisher, I think they are two players that are going to go into a great future. Alvaro Quiros out of Spain is a great player. You see a lot of talent. When you stand on the range next to them you can certainly see that there's a lot of potential. They are players that will take this game to a different level. I just think that we've got to start looking at all of the talent we have coming through instead of saying, well, the top guys are not playing. Well, the top guys are just changing.
“There's no fear. That's the difference. When I came out on Tour, you had a lot of respect for your Faldos and Olazábals and your Montgomeries, and it took you quite a while to just feel comfortable.
“These kids don't care. They just come out. They have one goal in mind, and they just want to win golf tournaments and they don't care who they are up against. That's the big difference I see today. They are going to come out in strength and come out in bigger numbers as well. They just don't care and think about themselves and winning golf tournaments which is the right approach.”
The Irish Open moves to the luxurious Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort for the first of three years with players facing one of the longest courses on the circuit at 7,453 yards.
Padraig Harrington, who won the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor two years ago, shooting a course record 63 on the way, will be attempting to repeat that victory to become the first home winner since John O’Leary 25 years ago.
“If somebody breaks 63 this week, I'll pat them on the back, there's no question about that,” said the World Number 12. “The rough is heavy out there and the fairways are narrower, and obviously the greens are more tournament speed than they were the last time. It was very windy the last time, but as I say the wind is not a big factor on this course because there are so many holes that are sheltered. Yeah, if somebody shoots 63, I'll pat them on the back and say well done.”
Harrington is also looking forward to the festival atmosphere associated with the Irish Open, with some of the prizes on offer adding some extra excitement to the event.
“I think the million Euro bonus (for winning this week and next), McInerney Homes the hole in one prize of the house (Home In One), the Audi car and associated prizes like that adds to the excitement and the buzz of an event. I think that's what's going to bring people back,” he said.
It's not necessarily the prize itself; it's the talk, the excitement, just people, the interest, making an event more exciting, spectators turning out. It's a top class championship golf course, no question about that. There won't be a player who will walk off this place that will not have good words to say about the quality of the golf course.”