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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Royal County Down on Display This Week

PI love links golf, and one of the world's great links courses was on display this year at the Irish Open. If we were tuned in to see Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler battle it out, we were sadly disappointed. Instead we saw some up and coming Europeans, and some lesser known grinders battle the course, the weather, and themselves, until a diminutive journeyman Dane, Soren Kjeldsen, was the last man standing, winning in a playoff. 

The course, aided by the cold wind and the frequent rain squalls, made life interesting and difficult for the players and the Irish fans who turned out in droves and huddled cheerfully under their umbrellas to watch the players struggle to match par on this venerable old links. Only five men finished under par at the end of seventy two holes. It was a major test, and was surely fun for those players who embraced the challenge, which included unpredictable and sometimes unlucky bounces, which is part and parcel of links golf. 

There is golf, and there is links golf, the purest form of the game; the way golf was meant to be played. Only those who truly love the game would want to be out there in the wind and the rain testing their mettle against a course that was laid out by Old Tom Morris, but designed by the Creator. As I watched those pros struggle mightily, including the best player in the game, I found myself wondering what I could manage if forced, or rather blessed, to play in their stead. Could I break a hundred, or maybe ninety? It looked hard. But it would be fun to try to find a way to negotiate that links, with the humps and bumps, and blind shots; definitely not a track for the faint of heart. 

There are those who would likely argue that Royal County Down was not the winner this week because the cream of the field did not necessarily rise to the top. The course and the conditions may have conspired to send the best player in the game packing, but it did identify a worthy champion. Hats off to Soren Kjeldsen. You played some grand golf, old son.

Rory has once more learned that his game is not currently adaptable to the sort of conditions experienced this week, something he apparently intends to work on. If he does, this experience will only make him a better, more complete player. Messrs Wiesberger and Pepperell had a great chance this week and will likely only improve on their season after their playoff loss. Both seem likely to become better known to North American fans in the future, perhaps eventually finding themselves on a Ryder Cup team. Wiesberger, especially, looks to me to have big time game. 

As for Royal County Down; it's definitely on the bucket list.