Wednesday 21 August 2019

10 key moments for Irish golf in Open history

Irish eyes smiling: Darren Clarke in 2011. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Irish eyes smiling: Darren Clarke in 2011. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

1. 1913 - Michael Moran at Royal Liverpool. Only three strokes behind the holder, Ted Ray, and two adrift of eventual winner JH Taylor, Moran shot 89 in high winds in the third round, running up a disastrous 10 at the first. That the diminutive Dubliner rallied to finish third, carding a 74 in the final round, said it all about a great player, tragically killed in France during World War I in 1918.

2. 1947 - Fred Daly becomes the first Irish winner.

Daly finishes one stroke ahead of Reg Horne and amateur Frank Stranahan, winning £150. He led by four shots from Henry Cotton and Sam King at halfway, shot 78 in the third round on Saturday morning to fall into a tie for the lead with Cotton, Arthur Lees, and Norman Von Nida but closed with a four-over 72 to post 293.

3. 1949 - Harry Bradshaw at Sandwich.

Astounded to discover that his drive at the fifth had finished inside a broken beer bottle, and with no rules officials at hand, Bradshaw opted to play it where it lay and ran up a double-bogey six on the way to a second round 77. He eventually lost a 36-hole playoff to Bobby Locke.

4. 1965 - Christy O'Connor Snr at Royal Birkdale.

Rory McIlroy in 2014. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy in 2014. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Having finished a shot outside a playoff in 1958, O'Connor was only two shots off the lead going into the final round but could only match Peter Thomson's 71 and tie for second, two strokes behind the great Australian.

5. Close calls. 1982, 1985 and '91 - Des, 'Junior' and 'the Darce'.

Des Smyth finished fourth, two behind Tom Watson at Troon in 1982, then three years later Christy O'Connor Jnr opened with a course record 64, then had "the best 76 I probably ever had in my life, in a hurricane," in round two. He finished two behind eventual winner Sandy Lyle, taking 37 putts in the final round. Three years later, Eamonn Darcy was tied fifth at Royal Birkdale. One behind with a round to go, the great Delgany player had to settle for fifth behind Australia's Ian Baker-Finch.

6. Getting closer - Darren Clarke at Royal Troon in 1997.

Clarke's first big chance, he birdied the first in the final round but then shanked his two-iron tee shot out of bounds at the second on the way to a double-bogey six and finished joint second alongside Jesper Parnevik, three strokes behind Justin Leonard.

7. And closer. Pádraig Harrington at Muirfield in 2002.

Chasing a birdie, the Dubliner bogeyed the last for a 67 to miss out on a four-man playoff by a single shot. "I would have been much happier to lose by three shots than one," a devastated Harrington said as Ernie Els triumphed.

8. Bingo. Padraig goes back to back.

Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale are two of the toughest tracks on the rota but Harrington was sublime, beating Sergio Garcia in a playoff in 2007 to end Ireland's 60-year wait for a winner before overcoming a wrist injury to win by four shots from Ian Poulter the following year.

9. Northern Ireland comes of age 2010-2014.

Rory McIlroy came third in 2010 at St Andrews, finishing a distant eight strokes behind Louis Oosthuizen. The following year, Clarke finally achieved his life's dream, winning by three at Sandwich at the age of 42. McIlroy would follow in his footsteps in 2014 at Hoylake, winning his third major title.

10. Royal Portrush returns.

Sixty-eight years after Max Faulkner won the only Open held outside the England or Scotland, the great Dunluce Links returns to the rota. It's an historic Open and a milestone for the event, which may some day look to broaden its horizons further and take The Open to the world. Holland anyone?

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