At the K Club there were a number of good news stories around The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open that made it another very memorable event. Not least an Irish winner in Rory McIlroy finally breaking his own hoodoo and lifting the Waterford Crystal trophy. The win arriving after a number of difficult years where more off course events distracted him and delayed the world number three a rightful place alongside other Irish golfing greats. With a date that suited his schedule this season it allowed him arrive to Kildare playing well. In 2009 McIlroy was on hand to see Shane Lowry seize a historic home win and little did he think it would take him seven years to equal that feat.
In the shadow of his year win came inspiring other stories with Mathew Southgate recovering from illness to finish in the top ten; rookie Russell Knox posing the winner trouble on the final stretch and Welshman Bradley Dredge finishing second – for the second time – albeit nine years apart having regained his tour card.
Dredge qualified through European Tour school in 1996 securing playing rights to the Challenge Tour and after a victory at the Klassis Turkish Open earned a card for the European Tour proper in 1998. The following year Dredge finished inside the 100 of the Order of Merit – the precursor to the Race to Dubai – and remained there until 2012 when he failed to regain his card at Qualifying School. Three years later he finished 81st in the Race to Dubai – with two back to back second places – to make a return to the Tour. Since racking up four top ten finishes this season with the Irish Open securing him a cheque for over €300K. On Sunday was to see a golfer at ease with his game once again and the eighteenth seeing an eagle chance just slip by.
A few groups ahead of the Welshman saw Matthew Southgate reach the 18th and celebrate a fourth place – a result that triggered much emotion. His name and history virtually unknown since he had popped up on the leader board a couple of days earlier in the week at The K Club. A result coming on the back a cancer diagnosis last year that never stopped his battle through all stages of Qualifying School to earn a card. No surprise therefore at the joy with which his fourth place finish at the Irish Open was celebrated as he clung to his £150,000 and a Tour card for next season. The 27-year-old Englishman missing the cut in five consecutive tournaments earlier this year before claiming a top-20 finish at the Shenzhen International, and only arriving as first reserve for the event hosted by Rory McIlroy.
His top five finish qualifying Southgate for the BMW PGA Championship this week.
Peter Lawrie has had different woes in recent years after losing his card around the same time as Dredge. It has been a battle over the past two seasons to regain those automatic rights and it is proving a less successful venture even on home turf at The K Club. A setback in terms of the of our work this close season as progress last Friday was the minimum target we expected. As it had been at Valderrama and Royal Golf Dar es Salam.
Things were looking good on Thursday with Peter just seeing an eagle three chance slip by on the eighteenth green after playing some good fight back golf on Thursday in the tougher weather conditions. A one over par finish though was to prove insufficient as the leaders moved away at the top of the leaderboard as that half of the draw benefited from more benign weather. On Friday Peter was struggling to stay inside the cut line in his afternoon tee off time dropping a few shots either side of the turn. As I was not on the bag felt a bit helpless as he fired a few stray drives and thankfully clawed back a couple of strokes with a few birdies. But in the end he went on to finish +3 for the day and unfortunately two strokes outside the cut mark. A missed objective.
Next week it’s a US Open Qualifier followed by two European Tour events – the first in Sweden and the following week in Austria. At this stage a lot of our work has been in progress and another tune up ahead of 36 holes at Walton Heath next Monday might make sense. But qualifying for Oakmont will bring its own headaches and challenges. However, first things first as in the short term we need to deal with the Irish Open aftermath and review a few things together.
Russel Knox just over six months ago was an alternate for his first World Golf Championship and had to scramble to secure a Chinese visa to make the event in time when he received a late call. As things happen in life the Scotsman arrived and then won the HSBC Champions building on that success to the point he almost won the Irish Open on Sunday. In fact, was leading McIlroy with three holes to play and forcing two shots that will be talked about for years from the world number three — onto the 16th green for a two-putt birdie and to 3 feet on the 18th hole for eagle – to finally lose out.
“I got beat by two of the best shots I’ve ever seen in my life,” Knox said Monday night from the BMW PGA Championship.
“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”
P. G. Wodehouse