Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Olazábal is a link to the past at Baltray

José Maria Olazábal

Double Masters champion José Maria Olazábal will re-acquaint himself with links golf at the ‘3’ Irish Open next week.

Olazábal — who did not play in his own national championship last week — has confirmed he will include Baltray in what is his very limited schedule these days.

It will be Olazábal’s first outing since the Masters last month and he will be joined by former champion Thomas Björn of Denmark, former US Open and Irish Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand, double Major champion John Daly of the USA and Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain as an international field comprising 22 nations prepares to descend upon Co Louth.

And Graeme McDowell believes the move back to a links course after two years at Adare Manor will help to lift attendances this year.

With the Portrush man in the field alongside huge interest in Rory McIlroy, thousands of fans are expected to attend from Northern Ireland.

“We thrive when there are people in the grandstand and crowds supporting us,” he says.

“This tournament has been well-supported over the years and hopefully we can get back to that.

“I think this could be the year. We’ve got the players and the talent to get the people to come in and watch us.

“Guys come back to events because they enjoy them. No disrespect to the Irish Open, but for the last four or five years we’ve had some terrible weather, which has made for unenjoyable weeks.”