Killarney to Open up
Amid all the hard-talking about the long-term future of the European Tour on the sunny Algarve this week, at least one issue relating to Ireland has been resolved with a clear all-round consensus.
The Tour is planning an official announcement next Tuesday of arrangements for the 2010 ‘3' Irish Open and I understand Killarney is the unanimous choice as venue for the event on the August Bank Holiday weekend, two weeks after the British Open.
Killarney Golf and Fishing Club has hosted Ireland's premier golf championship twice before, Nick Faldo completing the first two legs of his hat-trick of Irish Open titles on the Killeen course in 1991 an 1992.
Along with its eminent credentials as a Tour venue, Killarney also enjoys the support of sponsors '3', whose representatives have visited the site on several occasions over the past month, and Failte Ireland who own a tract of this peerless lakeside property.
The staging of the Irish Open represents a significant tourism boost for Killarney and Co Kerry, which has been particularly hard hit as the number of international visitors dwindled during the recession.
Certainly, the world-famous lakes should be seen at their best in high-summer, while the tournament itself will thrive in its new location on the European Tour schedule after being battered for several years by appaling weather in May.
Coming just four events before the race for places on the Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor is complete should also give a significant boost to the Irish Open's appeal among Europe's golfing elite. After much of the week had been dominated by the public difference of opinion between Padraig Harrington and Thomas Bjorn over changes to the rules governing membership of the Tour, golf finally grabbed some of the attention yesterday as the Oceanico Portugal Masters swung into spectacular action.
Italian Francesco Molinari, 26, took most spectacular advantage of idyllic scoring conditions yesterday by landing eight birdies and an eagle during his first round 63, now nine under.
Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Gareth Maybin fired opening rounds of three-under-par 69.
Graeme McDowell is two over after a 74 with Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Damien McGrane on three under.
Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry are two under while Gary Murphy is two shots further back on level par.