Irish Open: Hoey would just love a showdown with McDowell for old times’ sake
Michael Hoey is gunning to take down Graeme McDowell on his home patch at the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
The Belfast man was crowned North of Ireland Amateur champion here 12 years ago — but missed out on the chance to beat his fellow Ulsterman when G-Mac unexpectedly lost his semi-final that year.
“I really thought it was going to be Graeme in the final and I was disappointed when I found out he'd lost his semi,” said Hoey.
“He was winning everything at the time and he was the man to beat.
“It would have been nice to have had the chance to play him in the final back then, but who knows what'll happen this week.
“It would be great if it was me against him coming down the stretch on Sunday,” he added.
Hoey is many people's dark horse at Portrush this week when the main focus of attention will be on the three Ulster Major champions — McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
But Hoey is no stranger to the winner's circle these days since his breakthrough European Tour win a couple of years ago and he has won three times more in the past 15 months.
It's finding the consistency in his game which has been the problem in between times and he says if he feels confident in his game as this week progresses, there's absolutely no reason why he can't add an Irish Open title to his haul.
“If I'm swinging the club well I have a lot of confidence,” he said. “And if I’m not I have no confidence.
“My game is up and down — inconsistent — and that's what I'm
working on improving,” he added.
“I hit the ball the best I've ever hit it in Morocco this year when I was 19 under for three rounds.
“If I was in contention here that would mean I was playing well so then I would believe I could do it. It's getting into that position in the first place that's the problem.”
Confidence is one of the most elusive things to capture in sport and Hoey admitted that Royal Portrush might not be the best place to try to find it.
“Golf is a frustrating game at times,” he said.
“I think if your shot is not totally on the money here you are likely to get a weird bounce.
“It's the hardest thing in the world to accept a poor shot and I struggle with that at times.
“But sometimes that confidence just comes when you are out there playing in the middle of a round and you just take it from there.”
To win an Irish Open in front of massive home support would take Hoey's career to the next level.
He's proved he can handle the pressure and knows what it takes to win. He says winning here would be much bigger than any of his previous victories — including the prestigious Dunhill Links event he closed out in thrilling style at St Andrews.
“The world ranking points might be bigger there, but on this course this tournament at home will be much bigger,” he said.
“The atmosphere is going to be closer to an Open atmosphere.”