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Irish Open 2015: Golf stars Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els are worth the ticket price alone

By Peter Hutcheon

Published 26/05/2015

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 08: Rickie Fowler reacts on the 17th green during round two of THE PLAYERS Championship at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course on May 8, 2015 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 08: Rickie Fowler reacts on the 17th green during round two of THE PLAYERS Championship at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course on May 8, 2015 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 14: Sergio Garcia of Spain hits his second shot on the 9th hole during Day 1 of the Open de Espana held at Real Club de Golf el Prat on May 14, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
South African golfer Ernie Els watches his drive on the seventeenth tee on the second day of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, south west of London, on May 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

The last time Rickie Fowler was at Royal County Down, he was a very happy man.

He and his fellow American players had just defeated Great Britain and Ireland to win the Walker Cup.

That was back in 2007 and, like several of his teammates that day, he hasn’t really looked back.

It was supposed to be the Rory McIlroy show and his last hurrah in the amateur game, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

Looking now at the fortunes of the players on both sides since, it’s not hard to see why.

Fowler, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson have all gone on to establish themselves on the PGA Tour. Only McIlroy and to an extent Danny Willett have done the same from the home team.

Until Jordan Spieth leapt into the limelight with his superb display in winning the Masters, Fowler was touted as the man most likely to challenge McIlroy’s position as world number one.

He has a habit of cropping up prominently on the leaderboards at the majors and has chalked up six top ten finishes so far.

His biggest win to date came just last month when producing outstanding golf to when the Players Championship.

Surprisingly until then he has only one PGA Tour title to his credit – the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship – and it was perhaps the fact that he beat a certain Rory McIlroy in the play-off which sparked the talk of a lengthy rivalry to come in the years ahead.

Despite some acrimony between McIlroy and some of his American opponents back in that Walker Cup, he and Fowler have since become good friends which accounts for his presence back at a course where he can only have fond memories.

And the Rory factor has been crucial in assembling the most diverse and interesting Irish Open field since the tournament’s heyday in the seventies and eighties.

Outside of the PGA Championship the likes of Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia rarely grace a European Tour event with their presence these days, but both are teeing up at RCD.

The 45-year-old Els may be in the twilight of his career but his fourth major win came only three years ago and he showed in the first round of this year’s Masters that on his day he can still knock it round with the best of them.

The putting may not be what it once was, but the Big Easy’s laconic swing is still a thing of beauty.

Only Ulstermen and those with the hardest of hearts will have wanted to see Garcia fail in his pursuit of Rory McIlroy in the closing stages of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool last summer.

CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 22: Mikko Ilonen of Finland celebrates with the winners trophy after the final round of the Irish Open at the Fota Island Resort on June 22, 2014 in Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 22: Mikko Ilonen of Finland celebrates with the winners trophy after the final round of the Irish Open at the Fota Island Resort on June 22, 2014 in Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MAYNOOTH, IRELAND - JUNE 30: Paul Casey of England celebrates his eagle putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Irish Open at Carton House Golf Club on June 30, 2013 in Maynooth, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 01: Jamie Donaldson of Wales hugs his caddie Craig Connelly of Scotland after he had holed a birdie putt at the 18th hole to secure his first European Tour win during the final round of the 2012 Irish Open held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 1, 2012 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
KILLARNEY, IRELAND - JULY 31: Simon Dyson of England kisses the trophy after winning the Discover Ireland Irish Open held at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club on July 31, 2011 in Killarney, Ireland. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
KILLARNEY, IRELAND - AUGUST 01: Ross Fisher of England poses with the trophy and his wife Jo and daughter Eve after victory during the final round of the 3 Irish Open at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club on August 1, 2010 in Killarney, Ireland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
BALTRAY, IRELAND - MAY 17: Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates after winning on the third play-off hole during the final round of The 3 Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club on May 17, 2009 in Baltray, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LIMERICK, IRELAND - MAY 18: Richard Finch of England celebrates the final round of the Irish Open at Adare Manor on May 18, 2008 in Limerick, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LIMERICK, IRELAND - MAY 20: Padraig Harrington of Ireland with son Patrick and wife Caroline on the 18th green after the final round of the Irish Open on May 20, 2007 at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Limerick, Ireland (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
KILDARE, IRELAND - MAY 22: Thomas Bjorn of Denmark celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Nissan Irish Open on The Montgomerie Course at Carton House Golf Club on May 22, 2006 in Kildare, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MAYNOOTH, IRELAND - MAY 22: Stephen Dodd of Wales tees off on the 16th hole during the final round of the Nissan Irish Open on The Montgomerie Course at Carton House Golf Club on May 22, 2005 in Maynooth, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BALTRAY, IRELAND - JULY 25: Brett Rumford of Australia celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Nissan Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club on July 25, 2004 in Baltray, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - JULY 27: Michael Campbell of New Zealand celebrates his play-off victory over Thomas Bjorn and Peter Hedblom at the Nissan Irish Open on July 27, 2003 at Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 30: Soren Hansen of Denmark and Padraic Liston of Murphys enjoy a couple of pints after the final round of the Murphy's Irish Open played at Fota Island Golf Club, Cork, on June 30, 2002. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
1 Jul 2001: Colin Montgomerie of Scotland on the 1st hole during his final round at the Murphys Irish Open at Fota Island Golf Club, Cork, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Munday/ALLSPORT
1 Jul 2000: Patrik Sjoland of Sweden hits a birdie during the Final Round of the Murphy's Irish Open at Ballybunion Golf Club, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Michael Cooper /Allsport
4 Jul 1999: Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates on the 12th hole after holing a birdie during the 1999 Murphy's Irish Open played in Dublin, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Redington /Allsport
5 Jul 1998: David Carter of England celebrates after the play-off during the Murphy's Irish Open at Druids Glen Golf Club in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Carter won the event. \ Mandatory Credit: Andrew Redington/Allsport
DUBLIN - JULY 5: Colin Montgomerie Scotland in action during the 1997 Murphy's Irish Open held on July 5, 1997 at the Druids Glen GC in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
WICKLOW,IRELAND- JULY 3: Colin Montgomerie of Scotland walks on water as he approaches the 17th green during the Pro-Am in the Murph's Irish Open at the Druid's Glen Golf Clun on July 3, 1996 in North County Wicklow, Ireland. ( Photo by: David Cannon/Getty Images)
30 JUN 1995: Sam Torrance shows his pleasure after playing his second shot to the 18th close to the hole on his first day of the Irish Open at Mount Juliet. Mandatory Credit: Steve Munday/ALLSPORT
3 JUL 1994: BERNHARD LANGER OF GERMANY WITH A SHOT DURING THE 1994 IRISH OPEN GOLF TOURNAMENT, WHICH LANGER WON, AT THE MOUNT JULIET GOLF COURSE IN KILKENNY, IRELAND. Mandatory Credit: Steve Munday/ALLSPORT
KILKENNY, IRELAND - JULY 04: Nick Faldo of England with the trophy after his win in the 1993 Carrols Irish Open at Mount Juliet on July 4, 1993 in Kilkenny, Ireland. Faldo also came out ion top in the '91 & '92 Irish Open tournament. (Photo by Stephen Munday/Getty Images)
Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain triumphed at the Portmuck Irish Open in 1990. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
British golfer Ian Woosnam won the Irish Open in 1989. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
British golfer Ian Woosnam won the Irish Open in 1988. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 1987: Bernhard Langer of Germany plays in the 1987 US Open golf tournament from June 18-21, 1987 held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros competing in the Irish Open at the Royal Dublin Golf Club, Dublin, Ireland, 1986. Ballesteros won the tournament. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images)
Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros receiving the trophy after winning the Irish Open at the Royal Dublin Golf Club, Dublin, Ireland, 1985. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

His face was pure agony as he found the sand on the short 16th, which all but waved McIlroy, playing the hole behind with Fowler, through to take the Claret Jug.

Colin Montgomerie might dispute it, though few would agree, that the Spaniard is surely the most talented man never to have won a major.

Even though both Els and Darren Clarke have shown that when it comes to the Open, it’s never too late, Garcia may by now be thinking that his day to join the ranks of major winners have gone.

But he remains big box office and the point of rounding up all these big name players is to provide a golfing treat the likes of which the Northern Ireland public has not witnessed before.

Naturally the bulk of the attention and the largest galleries will be for McIlroy, but there will be recognisable figures dotted about all over the course.

And walking 18 holes with the likes of Fowler, Els or Garcia will be worth the admission prices alone.

 

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Irish Open 2015: Northern Ireland's Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke player profile  

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