Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Golf Irish Open

Paul McGinley: Irish Open stars can do it for Christy O'Connor Sr

By Liam Kelly

Paul McGinley admits to a feeling of poignancy as he prepares for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at The K Club this week.

McGinley can hardly credit that celebrating his 50th birthday next December means he qualifies for the Senior Tour in 2017. He will surely play Irish Opens in the future, but the date on his birth certificate will accord him official veteran status.

Food for thought indeed, particularly after the passing of Christy O'Connor Sr, whose funeral takes place in Clontarf, Dublin today.

When it was suggested to McGinley that perhaps Christy Sr's memory could inspire the Irish at The K Club this week, he would not rule it out.

"It would be great to have an Irish guy in contention, and it would be quite poignant the week after Christy's passing," said McGinley.

Stranger things have happened.

Ben Crenshaw firmly believes that the death of his long-time coach Harvey Penick days before the 1995 Masters inspired him to new heights and drove him to win his second Green Jacket, 11 years after his first triumph at Augusta.

If an Irish player could pull off a home win nine years after Padraig Harrington's success at Adare Manor, that would be a great and enduring tribute to Christy Sr.

If not, 'Himself' will always hold a special place in McGinley's heart.

"Christy had a great innings, he was a trailblazer, and he laid down the foundation for this tremendous run of success we've had around the world," said McGinley. "His name is known no matter what corner of the world you go to.

"I played a lot with him in the Links Society over the years. My first memory was of seeing him play at the Irish Open in 1975 when my dad took me along to Woodbrook. I was only eight at the time.

"I always enjoyed Christy's company. He was very supportive of me in my career, very supportive with the Ryder Cup captaincy. He called me the night I became captain. It was one of the few calls that got through to me.

"He spoke to me that night, and a few times over my captaincy. He said he was very proud an Irishman had got it. When we won, he was on to me again with congratulations."

Looking to his own game, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain and Irish Olympic golf team manager hopes for the best.

Last year he was distraught at having to withdraw from the final round of the Irish Open in Royal County Down because of a back injury.

"Hopefully this isn't my last. I'm only going to play eight tournaments this year, probably less next year, but the Irish Open is an event I always want to be part of," said McGinley.

Rory McIlroy and his Foundation are central to the attraction of this Irish Open, and McGinley hopes for strong performances from McIlroy and the other home players.

"Rory's making a lot of birdies, and playing a lot of good golf, but he hasn't put it all together yet," said McGinley.

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy who features in a special event at Dublin's Convention Centre tonight along with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

About 2,000 people are expected at this fund-raiser for McIlroy's Foundation. A keen Man United fan, McIlroy will enjoy the occasion, but from tomorrow it's down to business.

"I've been saying I'm close for a very long time. It feels like I've been saying I'm close all year," said the Ulsterman.

"I feel like it's right around the corner, and it just takes one week for everything to click, and you get some momentum and you get a win, and you're off and running. Every week I get up on the podium before the tournament starts and say, 'hopefully this is the week'.

"Hopefully this is the week that can kick-start the rest of the season. But I feel like my game is in good shape. It's not far away at all."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph