THE wild and woolly Royal County Down Golf Club was probably the star of the show at a 2015 Irish Open where the course dominated the players.
This was ably demonstrated by eventual winner Søren Kjeldsen of Denmark, whose 5-over 76 in the final round was still good enough to get into a playoff with Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (73) and England’s Eddie Pepperell (69). They all finished regulation at 2-under, with only two other golfers beating par over the four rounds.
Australia’s David Green (72) did well to finish T10 on a course that also saw event host and world No.1 Rory McIlroy post an inglorious 80 in the first round and miss the cut. Reigning US Open champion Martin Kaymer and world No. 7 Sergio Garcia also missed the weekend.
County Down, at Newcastle on Northern Ireland’s east coast, has long been rated as one of the world’s top ten golf courses but a lack of local infrastructure has limited it’s use for big professional events.
The links style course certainly looked daunting, even at the odd times when the sun was shining, and a real terror in some lashing wind and rain.
There are calls for County Down to host a British Open, as nearby Royal Portrush is likely to do in 2019.
Graeme McDowell, who finished T30 at 7-over, is one of those who believes the Ulster course should host a future Open Championship.
“We don’t get to experience these conditions very much and this is raw, this is what it’s all about. This is proper Open Championship golf,” McDowell told local media.
“You could put the grandstands up and play The Open here, but if you [play the course] wrong, it can eat you alive.”
The 40 year old Kjeldsen birdied the first playoff hole for his first win on the European Tour since 2009.
“Three weeks ago I was 112th in the Order of Merit and my game was not in good shape,” Kjeldsen said.
“With turning 40 (a fortnight ago) you wonder was that it? Now I am standing here and it’s pretty remarkable really.”
Kjeldsen had led going into the final day of his previous three wins on The European Tour, but had to battle nerves after his overnight lead was wiped away on the very first hole.
The European Tour moves on to the Nordea Masters in Sweden this week with the 2015 Britsh Open returning to St Andrews July 16 to 19.Irish Open Leaderboard