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Adam McKendry

Irish Open restrictions are tough but it will all be worth it for Galgorm to get its day on the big stage

Adam McKendry



Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Padraig Harrington

I took a walk around a few of the holes at Galgorm Castle on my arrival yesterday and one of the first groups I found was that of Padraig Harrington and Paul Dunne playing the 17th.

Normally such a pairing would be the gold standard for fans to follow at an Irish Open - the Ryder Cup captain and one of the leading Irish lights on the European Tour checking out the course a couple of days before the tournament begins.

But, of course, this isn't a normal Irish Open. There were no fans following them around. There were no handshakes on the 18th green when they finished. Instead it was akin to your average four-ball finishing their round at your local club, a simple "see ya around" and on you go with your day.

Such is the way of tournaments inside the 'bubble' that the European Tour has created, and it's no different this week.

Players are staying in one of two hotels booked out and fully sanitised by the Tour. There are hand sanitising stations on every tee box. Face masks must be worn at all times when indoors, and are "strongly recommended" even when outdoors.

And, of course, everyone has to be tested on arrival.

I'm not talking a simple temperature check here, I mean the whole nine yards - a long swab firstly stuck down your throat and then uncomfortably far up your nostril.

As someone who was fortunate enough not to have had a test prior to yesterday, let me confirm that it is as unpleasant as it sounds - and Jonathan Caldwell informed me that the tests done this week were gentle in comparison to other weeks!

But it is a necessary procedure that must be carried out in order to secure everyone's safety, so kudos to the European Tour for doing everything right to keep the players safe.

That being said, despite all the precautions, this week will still not be an ordinary week in the slightest.

Players have to stay apart even in their hotels, dining only with one buddy which, in every case, is their caddy. The restrictions are ridiculously tight, but necessarily so.

Because if it means we get world-class golf on our doorstep this week, then all the restrictions are most definitely worth it. Galgorm deserves its chance to sparkle on the big stage.

Belfast Telegraph