Thursday 22 February 2018

Rory McIlroy's life is changed utterly

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

1: THE 2011 Irish Open signed off in dramatic fashion with the outcome being decided in favour of England's Simon Dyson on the last green at Killarney.

It was a hectic week as controversy surrounded Rory McIlroy and TV analyst Jay Townsend and then came the disappointment of Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington failing to make the cut.

So what lessons have we learned during a historic week which began with four Irish Major winners in the field?

FAME and glory are already exacting a toll on the 22-year-old, as he is quickly finding out.

Charismatic Rory's every word is analysed and generates millions more in comment and speculation -- and that was before the 'Twitter War' with Townsend.

At times this week he has looked somewhat deflated, and on the course he hasn't been his usual perky self.

The personal protection squad around him, albeit discreet, underlines how much life has changed in such a short time, and the celebrity aspect drew headlines about his split with girlfriend Holly.

So many distractions available, so much scrutiny for a lad who has lived a pretty sheltered life outside golf to date.

2 HARRINGTON'S TOUGH STREAK EMERGED

THE weekend sacking of coach Bob Torrance, after saying on Friday that he didn't envisage any personnel changes in his team, showed the tough side of Harrington.

His game is in a slump, so something had to give, and it was his link with Torrance. If he wins soon, people will say it was a good decision. If he doesn't, they'll say it was evidence of panic.

The reality is that Harrington made the call for a variety of carefully thought-out reasons, but that won't matter if he remains in the doldrums.

3 LOCATION , LOCATION, LOCATION

KILLARNEY, beautifully situated with the backdrop of the lakes and the mountains contrasting with the hustle and bustle of a busy tourist town, has been an almost perfect fit for the Irish Open.

All agendas were catered for: TV coverage presented the raw beauty that Mother Nature bestowed on Killarney to a worldwide audience, and justified the Failte Ireland investment in the event.

Players, caddies, officials and visiting fans had a huge variety of accommodation available, and the challenge of the Killeen Course was tougher than many players expected.

The town's festival atmosphere and calendar of events offered plenty of entertainment for all the visitors apres golf, so all in all that's a hard act to follow.

David Howell identified that overall package as a key element in maintaining interest in the tournament.

"I think it's (Killarney) a fantastic course and, as we all know, more importantly, it's a fantastic venue. I've always been concerned that it's venues we need as much as golf courses, and this has got both."

4 THUMBS UP FOR THE EUROPEAN TOUR

THE Tour could have killed off the Irish Open a couple of years ago when Nissan ended their sponsorship after three years in 2006, leaving the future of the event in the balance.

However, they went ahead without a title sponsor in 2007, and struck gold when Padraig Harrington won the Irish and British Opens that year.

Harrington's success injected new lifeblood into the home event and helped the Tour find a new sponsor as 3 Mobile came on board for three years from 2008-2010.

Had the Tour decided to drop the event, who knows what would have happened?

The Irish Open has no God-given right to existence, as is proven by its history. It began in 1927 and ran until 1939 after which World War II intervened.

Resuming in 1946, it was staged until 1953, and after that it lay dormant until 1975 when Carrolls famously revived the tournament.

5 A TITLE SPONSOR IS VITAL

A high-profile financial institution is reported to be on the verge of taking over the Open and it's clear that only a multi-national with big financial clout can take the tournament forward.

We're lucky that Irish golfers are so dominant in European and world golf as drawing cards, but the prize money needs to be restored way beyond the €1.5m mark to restore this Open to its former glory.

The speculation concerning Zurich as the new sponsors is expected to be confirmed soon.

6 the HOME PLAYER HOODOO HAS STRUCK AGAIN

THE traditional hoodoo on home players winning the Irish Open is gaining momentum once again.

In 56 stagings of the tournament since its inception in 1927, only six Irishmen have won the title.

They are Fred Daly in 1946, Harry Bradshaw in 1947 and '49; Christy O'Connor Jnr (1975), John O'Leary (1982), Padraig Harrington (2007) and Shane Lowry, as an amateur, in 2009.

The longest gap between home winners was 25 years between O'Leary and Harrington.

And yes, it's only two years since Lowry's victory, but four years have elapsed since the last win by a professional.

7 BOX OFFICE ATTRACTION IS GUARANTEED

THERE should be no problem getting bums on seats and feet on the fairways for the next few years in the Irish Open.

Rory and Graeme are a great headline act as Major champions who will contend for a long time at the highest level; Darren may not win another Major but the afterglow of his Claret Jug success freshens up his profile for the next few years, and if Padraig can be the Comeback King, then it's happy days at the box office.

And don't forget that Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, 2009 champion Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey have all won Tour events.

8 THE NORTH IS THE HUB OF IRISH GOLF

THE balance of power in Irish golf has swung from the the Republic to the North at most levels.

Let's face it, the North has the headline stars in the professional game, with Rory and G-Mac and Big D winning Majors over the last year. And the likely lads of the next generation are also from Ulster.

Paul Cutler has won the West of Ireland and Irish Close amateur titles this season and showed by his Killarney exploits that he can be a force in the pro game.

Alan Dunbar, Irish Amateur Open champion in 2010, is another Walker Cup candidate who hails from the North.

9 BEWARE OF EXPECTATIONS

THE frustration and disappointment of Clarke and Harrington in particular and of McIlroy and McDowell to a lesser degree highlights the danger of heaping the weight of expectation on any golfer.

As the small print on investment schemes says, "past performance is no guarantee of future dividends."

McDowell put it bluntly: "You can't know what's in the mind of a crazed professional golfer because that's what we are.

"The game drives us absolutely bananas and that's why we love it and that's why we hate it. And that's why it keeps us out there grinding every day."

10 THE PASSION IS BACK

TWO years at Killarney have re-ignited the passion of the national Open. It's easy to forget that the big crowds and the excitement surrounding the tournament had dropped off considerably.

Despite having title sponsors and the Celtic Tiger flying in the last decade, the buzz just wasn't the same as in former years.

The tournament is now poised to grow bigger and better -- if they get the right sponsor and the right venue.

Irish Independent

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