Links specialist Simon Dyson is relishing the chance to defend his Irish Open title at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Dyson played “the best golf of my career” when taking the title 12 months ago at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, but the Englishman will have a very different challenge to contend with this week, when Harry Colt’s design hosts the €2million event for the first time since 1947.
The 34 year old feels very much at home on links courses, having won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the KLM Open twice at Kennemer Golf & Country Club and finished inside the top ten when Royal St George’s hosted The Open Championship last year.
Despite his dominant performance in Killarney last year, Dyson admitted to a twinge of excitement when he first discovered the 57th staging of Ireland’s National Open was moving north of the border to the Dunluce Links.
He said: “I love links golf – it just suits my eye. Killarney was a fantastic venue, and I loved playing there last year. But I’ve got to admit, there was a bit of a smile when I heard it was coming to a links course here.
“It’s what I grew up on. Playing amateur golf you play a lot of links golf, and I lived ten minutes down the road from Ganton Golf Club, one of the better links courses in Britain. So links is my favourite type of golf, by far.
“When you stand on a tee box, you’ve got to visualise the shot. It’s not like on a 500-yard par four where you know you’ve got to hit it 320 yards off the tee – this is more about manoeuvring the ball, which is probably the best aspect of my game.
“When I’m playing well, I can hit the high draw, the low draw, the high cut, the low cut, and I like to visualise every shot. A lot of the courses that we play now are 7,500 yards, which kind of takes that aspect out of the game. So it’s nice to get back to how golf was first played.”
Having fully recovered from a stressed pelvis which kept him on the sidelines for six weeks, Dyson is determined to get his season back on track and make a late bid for a Ryder Cup berth.
After an encouraging performance at last week’s BMW International Open in Cologne, where he finished in a tie for 12th place, Dyson feels his form and fitness are slowly returning.
He said: “I made the cut in the US Open for the first time two weeks ago, which was pleasing. I had a decent weekend and moved up a little bit. Then I played some really good golf last week. I started to find my swing, and probably if I had been a little bit more match fit, I could have contended. But for my second week back, it was a pretty good performance, and hopefully I can build on it this week.”
Dyson will begin the defence of his crown in the company of Irish Major Champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell.