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Irish Open 2015: Ewen Murray thrilled to relive the magic as golf's big guns serve up special treat

By Liam Kelly

Ewen Murray's relationship with the Irish Open goes back almost 40 years when he played as a professional at Portmarnock.

This week his dulcet tones will relay the action from Royal County Down to the Sky Sports viewers at home and abroad and the common theme across the decades is Murray's enthusiasm for this tournament.

He didn't enjoy great success as a player in the Irish Open, but he always loved competing in one of the European Tour's flagship events in the 1970s and '80s.

"Everyone wanted to play in the Open, they were big weeks. If you asked any golfer of my era 'take away the Majors and say what's the best tournament you played in?', they'd all say the Irish Open, at Portmarnock, or Royal Dublin.

"Playing in front of Irish crowds was a great privilege. Maybe I shouldn't say that as I'm Scottish, but I remember standing on the first tee at Portmarnock, one of the strongest courses in the world, and I remember thinking there was nowhere in the world I'd rather be," said Murray.

Happy memories indeed, but the dark shadow of Bradford on May 11, 1985 remains in his consciousness. This was the day when the wooden stand at Bradford football ground went up in flames and 56 people died.

Murray was there and escaped with his life. "It was a tragic day, a day that I still have visions of now and again, but I was one of the lucky ones," he said.

On a happier note, Murray is delighted that the fallow years when the Irish Open fell from its pre-eminent position in Europe are now over. The Scottish commentator credits Padraig Harrington and his three Majors in 13 months between 2007 and 2008 as inspiring the rise in Irish golf, which has seen Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy all join the Dubliner in the Major winners club.

McIlroy, in Murray's opinion, is the greatest talent to emerge from both Ireland and Britain, and that includes six-time Major winner Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, who won the European Tour Order of Merit eight times.

"With great respect to them, I think McIlroy is up another level," said Murray.

"How far can Rory fly? Having witnessed his 61 at Quail Hollow on Saturday, it was the finest round of golf I've ever witnessed as a player and professional. If Rory really wants it, it is there for him."

Among the golfers sampling the Royal County Down course yesterday were crowd favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The 51-year-old Spaniard, known for his love of cigars and fine wine, has just become the first European Tour member to reach 10 career aces as he surpassed Colin Montgomerie to claim the outright record.

Jimenez celebrated his third hole-in-one this season with a trademark dance in Saturday's third round at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Tributes have been paid to Hugh Boyle, a member of the 1967 Ryder Cup team, who has died at the age of 79 following a long-term illness.

The Irishman turned professional in 1952 and became the first player from these islands to win an event in Japan when he lifted the 1966 Yomiuri International Open.

He also finished seventh in The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club that year but his finest season came the following year when he won the Irish PGA Championship, one of five victories during the 1967 campaign.

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