Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Golf Irish Open

Irish Open 2015: Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer used to charm the fans, and now big names stars are back

Published 26/05/2015

Severiano Ballesteros of Spain celebrates after making the final putt to win the Irish Open Golf Tournament held at the Portmarnock Golf Club, Ireland, 22nd June 1986. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Severiano Ballesteros of Spain celebrates after making the final putt to win the Irish Open Golf Tournament held at the Portmarnock Golf Club, Ireland, 22nd June 1986. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
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
Nick Faldo of Great Britain with the trophy after winning the Carroll's Irish Open Golf Championship held in Killarney on 23rd June 1991. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Irish Open honours board reads likes a who’s who of European heroes.

Seve Ballesteros is up there as a winner three times, as is Sir Nick Faldo. Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam each won it twice and while Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal have also lifted the trophy.

When Seve was king many considered those years in the 1970s and 1980s to be the glory days of the Irish Open when Europeans played in Europe and Americans knew their place.

Only kidding: Ben Crenshaw travelled over to Portmarnock in 1976 and walked away with the title.

But something was lost as the European Tour began to stretch out to encompass large swathes of Asia and the Middle East. The star names had more interest in the riches the PGA Tour was offering across the Atlantic as the nineties turned into the 21st Century.

But now it feels like the magic is back for the Irish Open. The field gathering for battle at Royal County Down is the strongest assembled since those halcyon days of the eighties.

Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia rarely grace the European Tour with their presence these days while American Rickie Fowler adds a little trans-Atlantic glamour to the occasion.

Fowler in particular, responded from overtures from Rory McIlroy to play. There are other reasons why some of the games biggest names have decided to come to the tournament

Undoubtedly the move to bring the tournament back to Northern Ireland after a gap of more than 60 years when it was held at Royal Portrush in 2012 stimulated a huge amount of interest.

That event smashed all European Tour attendance records and the Tour immediately acknowledged that they would be mad not to return. The Nick Faldo designed course at Lough Erne has been confirmed as the venue in two years time.

It has also helped that Northern Ireland has two courses which routinely feature towards the top end of the world’s best in the golfing magazines and naturally the Tour would have been indeed crazy had they considered anywhere else first.

Royal Portrush was the first tournament in European Tour history to be completely sold out and Royal County Down will become the second.

It was declining attendances and a similar decline in sponsors and therefore prize money which led both the European Tour to expand eastwards and the top players to disappear in the opposite direction over the last 20 years or so.

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)

Established events like the English Open and the European Open disappeared from the calendar while others struggled to attract front line sponsors.

Even Royal Portrush only happened because the Stormont Executive stepped in as erstwhile sponsors – seeing the potential for golf as a major selling point for Northern Ireland on the back of the major successes of Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.

Securing Dubai Duty Free as the main sponsor for this year’s tournament is something of a breakthrough in the commercial side of things and again the link to McIlroy is more than a little responsible for that.

Looking ahead to the long-term future, it can only be right that the Open continues to alternate between both sides of the border.

Royal Portrush is out of the picture while preparations continue for it to stage the Open Championship, but there is no good reason why it cannot come back to Royal County Down at some point in the future and Lough Erne is also gaining a solid reputation.

Online Editors

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph