Rory's Ryder re-do
Europe’s elite are playing this week at the Irish Open at County Louth, or Baltray as it’s also known. With the European Tour returning to the British Isles, here’s what’s exercising my mind right now.
• Rory’s Ryder retraction – I’m not surprised Rory McIlroy softened his initial comments about the Ryder Cup. Calling the Ryder Cup an exhibition match doesn’t go down well on these shores. Rory is as media savvy as they come. I wasn’t surprised when he backtracked. Take it from me, Rory will give it his all when he plays in his first Ryder Cup.
• Heavenly Links – It’s nice to see the Irish Open played on a links for a change. When you think of Ireland you think of the great links, yet in recent years the Irish Open has been played on inland courses more than seaside layouts. One of the great ironies about that is the European Tour plays very little links golf. We don’t get to see Europe’s elite play enough links golf. We’d like a bit more, please.
• Lowry’s luck – It’s no surprise that amateur Shane Lowry is playing well at the Irish Open. The soft conditions of County Louth should be a breeze for him after the conditions he’s been used to in amateur golf in recent weeks. Lowry contended in harsh conditions at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in the Lytham Trophy and finished in third. He also tied fifth in the recent Irish Amateur Stroke Play Championship in appalling conditions. If the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup selectors had any doubts about his place in the 10-man GB&I team for Merion, then Lowry’s performance at County Louth should dispel those doubts.
• McGinley’s got my vote – Paul McGinley as Ryder Cup captain for 2014 would suit me. He’s well respected by the players, he’s got a great golf brain and arguably no player on the European Tour has overachieved the way McGinley has. I think he’d be a great manager.
• Three not enough for Monty – Colin Montgomerie said he was happy with the extra wild card pick given to him as Ryder Cup captain. The European Tour’s tournament committee handed the Scotsman three wild card picks rather than the two of recent years. Monty stuck to the party line and said he was happy. Rubbish. If Monty had his way, he’d pick all 12 players.
• Molinari’s mistake – Amazing that Italy’s Francesco Molinari could sign for a wrong score. It boggles my mind that players continue to make this mistake. I can see amateurs making this error, but when your livelihood depends on it … Come on!
• Welcome back, Pablo – Former Oklahoma State star Pablo Martin seems to be on the comeback trail. He returned a 7-under 65 in the second round of the Irish Open. It follows good results in recent weeks. Hallelujah! Welcome back to one of the best amateurs I’ve ever seen.
• The caddie go-round – I’m constantly amazed at the turnover of bagmen on the European Tour. The Irish Open is no exception. Lee Westwood has dumped former Colin Montgomerie bagman Alastair McLean in favor of Billy Foster, who most recently caddied for Sergio Garcia and Darren Clarke. McLean took Westwood within one shot of a playoff at last year’s U.S. Open. He is now with Jose Maria Olazabal. Maybe Foster can get the majorless Westwood into golf’s most elite club.
• Hapless Harrington – How can Padraig Harrington win three majors and then miss the cut in his home Open? More importantly, why would he tinker with his swing after that trio of victories? Yet that’s what Padraig is doing. Wish I could get my head around that one.
• Dinner, yes . . . tee time, no – Speaking of Harrington, he has decided not to play in next week’s BMW PGA Championship at the Wentworth Club, the Euro Tour’s flagship event. He’s not alone. Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have decided to skip the event, too. Garcia has only ever played in the tournament twice, the last time in 2000. Harrington and Poulter have defended their decision on the basis that they never play well in the tournament. The difference is that Harrington will be at Wentworth. He will attend the European Tour dinner that week. That’s bound to please sponsor BMW, considering the millions they are spending on the tournament.