It had been billed as a celebration of Ireland’s four Major Champions but England’s Simon Dyson took the honours and the glory at the end of a weird and wonderful week at the Irish Open.
For the second year in succession Killarney is the toast of Europe after 85,179 paying customers — 3,441 more than in 2010 — made a roaring success of an event which only survived the loss of its sponsor last winter because the Tour and Failte Ireland kept the faith.
The attendance would have topped 100,000 had Rory McIlroy or his predecessor as US Open Champion Graeme McDowell managed to force themselves into contention over the weekend — sadly Open Champion Darren Clarke and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington missed the cut.
Though passionate and hotly controversial in defence of his close friend and caddie JP Fitzgerald after the Dubliner had been savaged on Twitter by TV commentator Jay Townsend, McIlroy couldn’t find any fire or brimstone on the golf course.
Ultimately, McIlroy would finish tied 34th with, among others, fellow Ulsterman Michael Hoey on three-under after failing to convert a procession of chances during a final round of level par 71.
McDowell, one shot ahead of McIlroy after his closing 70, hit the nail on the head when he said: “It’s been a weird week.
“There were big expectations, the four Major Champions here at the Irish Open, we all were excited and it just didn’t quite happen.
“The crowds were fantastic and they really shouted for us on every hole. It was everything we expected it to be,” he added.
“From my personal point of view, I just struggled on the greens and couldn’t quite get it done.”
With respect to Dubliner Peter Lawrie (69), top Irishman for the first time in 10 appearances after tying eighth with Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli and overnight leader David Howell, the home hero was sharp-shooting amateur Paul Cutler.
Cutler, 22, heads for Thursday’s European Amateur Championships in Finland and next week’s Home Internationals in Co Sligo with confidence soaring after proving he really can mix it with the professionals.
“This week has been an eye-opener,” said the amateur medal-winner, who opened with an eagle two on Thursday and played the first 36 holes in six-under, including an accomplished 67 on Friday.
The Portstewart prospect hopes the Walker Cup selectors took note.
“I think I’ve got a fair chance of making the team, though I’m sure they’ve got their own ideas,” said the West of Ireland and Irish Close champ, who plans to turn professional in the autumn.
Cutler, who missed the cut in Killarney last year, finished in a share of 21st with Irish pair Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton on five-under.
Lawrie smiled at suggestions he’d upstaged the four Major Champions, saying: “I can’t really take much out of that, especially as Darren came here less than two weeks after winning The Open.
“Yet I’m still happy to be leading Irishman.
“Once again, Irish golf has shown what it has to offer with the venue and the crowds in a wonderful week,” said Lawrie, 37, who played with trademark precision from tee to green, putting the cherry on top of yesterday’s 69 by holing from 10 feet for birdie at the 18th.
Yet Dyson, 33, another of McIlroy and Clarke’s colleagues in the prolific International Sports Management stable, clinched the €250,000 first prize and his fifth European Tour title by one stroke after Aussie left-hander Richard Green three-putted from distance for a bogey at the last.
“It's a shame you can't bottle how you feel sometimes,” said Dyson.
“It's amazing — it really is. The golf I've played this week is probably the best I've ever played.”
Two birdies in the final three holes for a closing 67 and 15-under-par total gives Dyson a place in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and possibly a spot back in the world's top 50.
“That was the main aim after The Open,” he added.
“I knew after that I could cut it with the guys in the Majors and I was thinking if I keep swinging it as I am I'm going to give myself chances.”
Green led for most of the last day and was one ahead when he matched Dyson's two-putt birdie on the long 16th.
Dyson, though, pitched to three feet at the next to draw level and then, having missed from nine feet for a third successive birdie on the last, saw Green send a near 60-footer 10 feet past and miss the return.
Dyson said: “I would have much preferred to win it with a birdie, but I will take whatever I can get.”