McIlroy's 61 was the best round I've ever seen - Murray
Published 26/05/2015 | 02:30
Ewen Murray's relationship with the Irish Open goes back almost 40 years when he played as a professional at Portmarnock.
This week his dulcet tones will relay the action from Royal County Down to the Sky Sports viewers at home and abroad and the common theme across the decades is Murray's enthusiasm for this tournament.
He didn't enjoy great success as a player in the Irish Open, but he always loved competing in one of the European Tour's flagship events in the 1970s and '80s.
"Everyone wanted to play in the Open, they were big weeks. If you asked any golfer of my era 'take away the Majors and say what's the best tournament you played in?', they'd all say the Irish Open, at Portmarnock, or Royal Dublin.
"Playing in front of Irish crowds was a great privilege. Maybe I shouldn't say that as I'm Scottish, but I remember standing on the first tee at Portmarnock, one of the strongest courses in the world, and I remember thinking there was nowhere in the world I'd rather be," said Murray.
Happy memories indeed, but the dark shadow of Bradford on May 11, 1985 remains in his consciousness.
This was the day when the wooden stand at Bradford football ground went up in flames and 56 people died.
Murray was there and escaped with his life. The memories were stirred by the recent 30-year commemorative ceremonies to honour those who lost their lives.
"It was a tragic day, a day that I still have visions of now and again, but I was one of the lucky ones," he said.
On a happier note, Murray is delighted that the fallow years when the Irish Open fell from its pre-eminent position in Europe are now over.
The Scottish commentator credits Padraig Harrington and his three Majors in 13 months between 2007 and 2008 as inspiring the rise in Irish golf, which has seen Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy all join the Dubliner in the Major winners club.
McIlroy, in Murray's opinion, is the greatest talent to emerge from both Ireland and Britain, and that includes six-time Major winner Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, who won the European Tour Order of Merit eight times.
"With great respect to them, I think McIlroy is up another level," said Murray.
"How far can Rory fly? That's the question, one that Rory has answered himself in the past few weeks. Having witnessed his 61 at Quail Hollow, it was the finest round of golf I've ever witnessed as a player and professional. If Rory really wants it, it is there for him."
Sky Sports will broadcast all four days of the Irish Open