Sport Golf

Monday 11 December 2017

Irish Open: 100,000 crowd expected to make Portrush tournament one to remember

WHEN Simon Dyson won the Irish Open in Killarney a year ago he had no idea his title defence would be such a special tournament.

Royal Portrush is the venue this week and that means the event takes place in Northern Ireland - "major golf capital of the world" as the banners proclaim - for the first time since 1953.

The back-to-back US Open wins by Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy and then the Open Championship triumph by Darren Clarke last July brought an unprecedented spotlight on the country and this is their reward.

Or at least the first of their rewards - the hope is that it will lead to The Open, last held at Portrush in 1951 with Max Faulkner the winner, returning in the not-too-distant future.

The three local stars are all delighted to be playing at home, of course, and Dyson said: "All of the boys had said that it was a fantastic place to play golf and I know they were promoting it really well.

"That's what is deserves. The Irish Open is a fantastic tournament and it's set up a fantastic week - the crowds are going to be great."

Around 100,000 people are expected to watch over the week and for the first time in a regular European Tour event the "sold out" signs have gone up.

Even given how well he played last year, Dyson is delighted by the move.

"There was a smile on my face a little bit when I heard it was coming to a links course," he said.

"Links is my favourite type of golf by far. I've won Dunhill (at St Andrews) and I won at Kennemer (the Dutch Open) a couple of times.

"It kind of suits my eye and if I keep the form I've got at the minute and hole a few putts I like it - I like it a lot.

"I think it's the fact that you stand o a tee box and you've got to visualise a shot.

"It's not a 500-yard par four where you know you've got to hit it 320. This is more about manoeuvring the ball, which someone like Darren Clarke is fantastic at.

"I think that's probably the best aspect of my game - I can hit pretty much any shot.

"When I'm playing well obviously I can hit the high draw, the low draw, the high cut, the low cut.

"A lot of the course we play now are 7,500 yards and it kind of takes that out of the game, so it's nice to come back to how golf was first played."

Dyson was out for a month with a pelvic problem recently, but made the cut on his return at the US Open - no meant feat even if he was fully fit - and feels ready to re-ignite his bid for a Ryder Cup debut.

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