Where to watch Rory let rip with the driver, Padraig wield the belly putter and Darren, Shane and G-Mac wage war on Monty's bunker-infused layout
Published 27/06/2013 | 05:00
DO you want to get up close and personal when Rory McIlroy really cuts loose with that crimson Covert driver? Or run the rule over Padraig Harrington's form with his controversial new belly putter?
Over the next four days on the wide-open spaces of the Montgomerie course at Carton House, Irish golf fans will have a glorious opportunity to see their favourites chase birdies and dally with danger in cavernous bunkers on a golf course set-up for adventure.
Much attention will focus on the 176-yards par-three 17th, where the European Tour makes a bold attempt to give spectators a taste of the raucous atmosphere which envelops the world-famous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale in Phoenix.
Grandstand seating for 1,500 has been erected down the left hand side and around the back of the green, creating the so-called 'Open House@17.'
With a bar close by to help fans oil their vocal chords and, allegedly, the biggest TV screen in Europe keeping everyone in touch with the action elsewhere around the course, this place really should be heaving, if that's the word, when the final groups come down the stretch on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Many people have already booked their seats in the grandstand, but there still will be quite a few available for general admission, especially today and tomorrow.
The 17th, already a tremendous challenge without this week's dramatic backdrop, is worth a visit, but you'll need to get there very early today to have any chance of bagging a seat to watch Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry play the hole with Thomas Bjorn between nine and 10 this morning.
However, there are so many other great vantage points on the wide-open spaces of the Monty Course at Carton, it'll be a lot easier for golf enthusiasts this weekend to get a good view of the action than their American counterparts at the recent US Open.
Carton is the polar opposite to the cramped confines of Merion and can accommodate crowds expected to average more than 25,000 a day in even more comfort than Royal Portrush during last year's record-breaking visit by our national championship to Antrim's Causeway Coast.
Thrills and the occasional spill are expected on the driveable par- four 13th hole, which, at 338 yards, may tempt the biggest hitters to take on the green ... especially if the Tour decide to move the tee up.
Be ready for real adventure if McIlroy or any of the tournament's other big hitters, Padraig Harrington and young American Peter Uhlein being prominent among them, needs to pick up a few shots when they arrive here in the fourth round.
The potential for excitement is huge down the finishing stretch at Carton according to Lowry, who owns a house on the property and probably knows this golf course best.
"Obviously 13 and the par-five 18th hole are going to be huge," he said. "Especially on Sunday afternoon.
"With that driveable par four and two par fives like 15 and 18 to finish, you can easily go three or four-under the last half-dozen holes ... but you can easily go the other way as well. I think those holes are going to be key this week."
Fifteen, which is 554 yards long, is difficult to hit in two with the deep bunker in front of the green swallowing plenty of shots. Yet there'll be plenty of birdies there to keep fans clustered on the mounding around its elevated putting surface well-entertained.
The drive will be critical at 18, a 513-yard par five, if McIlroy and Co are to have any chance of making one of the eagles this exciting finishing hole is likely to offer-up over the next four days.
The potential for excitement or disaster doesn't end with the tee shot, as Darren Clarke discovered on Monday morning in 2005 (that year's Open was blighted by foul weather). Just short of the green in two, he made double-bogey seven, including a chunked chip and lengthy three-putt, to lose out by two shots to Bjorn.
Anyone with sado-masochistic leanings might want to visit the fifth, 10th, 11th and 16th holes. "They are the tough holes," says Lowry. "Anyone who plays those well this week will be doing alright."
Certainly, Monty's clever design, with deep, threatening bunkers will require players to tread carefully, yet the absence of rough will give players like McIlroy the opportunity to really open the throttle.
So, it looks like the fans will be the real winners at this Irish Open.