Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Crowds take us a major step to the Open: Hoey

Michael Hoey has been enjoying what he has been hearing in the locker room all week.

And he's been having a fun time out on the course too.

The Belfast man had hoped to finish as the top Ulster golfer in the Irish Open yesterday but, despite falling short on that aim, he gave a good account of himself which was appreciated by the locals.

Hoey finished on seven under par, following a final round 70, at Royal Portrush to stand in joint 28th place.

It would have been much better but for three dropped shots in the last four holes on Saturday, which knocked him out of contention for a popular victory.

Yesterday he was much more solid down the stretch, hitting birdies on 15 and 16 to go with a couple on the first and third. There were bogeys at two and four but the Shandon Park ace announced himself content with his week's work, which sets him up for a busy period to include the forthcoming French Open and The Open Championship.

“I would say I had a really good week. If three or four putts could have been holed, I could have challenged for top Northern Irishman. The French Open is next so the circus just keeps going. I'll take the positives from this week and I've got The Open as well so obviously a lot of big stuff is coming up,” said Hoey who, like all the homegrown heroes, was cheered by the thousands of fans from tee to green.

He admitted: “That was quite draining actually, trying to acknowledge everyone and trying to stay relaxed because you can get too excited, it's like a football match.

“All of the players are saying this is by far the best tournament they have been to crowd-wise and it's been great to hear.

“I played with Oscar Floren, a Swedish player in my final round. Golf is massive in Sweden and they get big crowds but nothing like this,” added four-time European Tour winner Hoey.

“He said that he would need earmuffs on the 18th in case I holed my putt.”

Now that the Irish Open has been played up north for the first time since 1953, 33-year-old Hoey is hopeful the tournament will return in the near future to Portrush and The Open Championship itself won't be too far away.

He said: “Logistically they have done an unbelievably good job here, getting 130,000 people in. That's a big part of having The Open Championship and the golf course here has been awesome, along with the atmosphere. It's a step in the right direction to getting The Open here.

“These crowds are maybe even bigger than the Open crowds. It's been unbelievable.”

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