Our team on the ground at this week’s sold out Irish Open bring you all the action from behind the scenes at Royal Portrush Golf Club…
Murphy relishes his Big Break
One of the great stories at this week's Irish Open is that of Mark Murphy, who earned a place in the field after winning the Golf Channel TV show 'Big Break Ireland'. Murphy, originally from Waterville in County Kerry but currently residing in New Orleans, beat Canadian Julien Trudeau in a thrilling finale to the show, winning on the 19th hole of sudden death at The K Club in Kildare. The victory earned him a spot in the Irish Open as well as the Trophée Hassan II on The European Tour and he has taken full advantage, making the cut in Morrocco before wowing the crowds at Royal Portrush Golf Club this week by making the weekend's play. The 34 year old was certainly showing his showman side too, as you can see by the above picture, playing to the crowds with some extraordinary celebrations.
Dyson hoping for déjà vu
Simon Dyson is hoping lightning strikes twice this week, as he prepares to defend the Irish Open title he won in some style 12 months ago. Dyson earned his sixth European Tour title at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club last year and, after recovering from a recent pelvic injury sustained by too much road running, the Yorkshireman is back in business and aiming to repeat the feat this week. As an avowed links lover, he is quietly confident of mounting a strong title defence at Royal Portrush, and his prospects of achieving ‘a Dyson Double’ were done no harm by his team’s victory in the Wednesday morning Pro-Am. With a combined aggregate score of 28 under par, Dyson and Co. prevailed by two strokes from Michael Hoey’s team, with Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal leading his team – which included Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill – to third place. Having also won the Irish Open Pro-Am last year, the omens are good for Dyson to become the first man since Colin Montgomerie in 1997 to retain the trophy.
Murray tops the Bill
Whilst Dyson took the plaudits, the star of the Pro-Am show was Hollywood actor Bill Murray, who entertained the galleries with his wacky antics. Before setting off with his brother Joel, Graeme McDowell and his brother Gary, Murray was joined on the first tee by Sam Cole, the Mayor of Coleraine. After the introductions were over and pleasantries had been exchanged, Murray promptly borrowed Mr Cole’s chain and proudly declared to the assembled spectators that he was in fact the new Mayor of Coleraine, to much merriment. Having contributed to his team’s combined aggregate score of 11 under par, Murray then stole the show during the prize presentation, stealing away the Claret Jug and the Amateur Championship trophy from under the nose of the MC and passing them around the room so that the Pro-Am competitors could have their pictures taken with them. With that, the comedian was off to sign yet more autographs – no mean feat given the vast crowds who turned out to watch the Pro-Am.
Portrush is picture perfect
The players have been universal in their praise for Royal Portrush Golf Links, with Gareth Maybin tweeting that the course was in the best condition he’d ever seen, whilst local resident Darren Clarke hailed the “incredible” job undertaken jointly by the club’s and The European Tour’s greenkeeping staff in getting the course ready to host this week’s extravaganza. The Dunluce Links is staging the Irish Open for the first time in 65 years, and you get the distinct impression that Harry Colt’s masterful creation has not changed one iota since Harry Bradshaw took the title back in 1947. This week, The European Tour’s rules officials have changed some of the tee boxes and made a few tweaks to the course this week to make the players think long and hard about the optimum lines to take and the best tactics to employ. The minor moderations were given the seal of approval by Clarke, who said: “I drove around the golf course with the Tournament Director this week, and I pointed out things to him about where the guys would try and take short cuts and cut corners. I also showed him where some of the really difficult pins are, so that they can hide the flags away a little bit. I’m sure he’ll use his expertise to set up the course for a very fair test – all I did was try to point him in the right direction, and the rest was down to him.” Looks like the reigning Open Champ may have a future career in course design when he decides to hang up his clubs.