FOUR of Irish golf’s hometown heroes will be in the spotlight when what should be a fascinating 2013 Irish Open gets underway Thursday at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
The event is already in the history books, becoming the first regular European Tour event to completely sell out over the four days.
The tournament is being held in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1953 and the quality field and ticket sell out is giving it the atmosphere of a major.
Much attention is focussed on the region’s recent major winners – Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington.
Unlike McDowell who was a whisker away from claiming his second US Open title in San Francisco a couple of weeks back, McIlroy hasn’t been in the best of scoring form.
But the 23 year old continues to learn and hopes to finally use his local status to his advantage.
“To be honest the last couple of years, I didn’t really enjoy the tag of the home favourite,” McIlroy said in the lead up to the event.
“I just didn’t feel very comfortable with it – this year I really want to embrace that. You look at so many people and when they have got a home advantage, it is an advantage, and it should be not just me, but also for the other guys from here as well. It’s something that you really have to embrace, and that’s what I’m going to try and do this week.
“I think everyone has waited a long time for the Irish Open to come back up north and to have it played at one of the best golf courses in the world, Royal Portrush, is fantastic.
“The first ever European Tour event to sell out is something that’s obviously got a lot of people very excited, and it’s shaping up to be a great week.
“It’s going to be fantastic. Yesterday I played an early practice round and the people who came out to watch really created a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to playing in front of all of them this week, and hopefully I can put on a good show.
“The golf course is in great shape – the rough’s thick and greens are running well. Hopefully the weather cooperates a little bit, and it should be a great week of golf.”
US PGA Champion Keegan Bradley heads the international contingent while Australia’s best hope appears to be Marcus Fraser, who lost the BMW International in Germany on the weekend after a marathon playoff.
Other Australians in the field include Andrew Dodt, Matthew Zions and Brett Rumford.
2013 Irish Open TV Schedule
The Irish Open is being telecast in Australia on Fox Sports beginning Thursday at 11pm.
Round 1, Live: Thursday, 11pm – 3 am; Round 2, Live: Saturday 12am – 3am; Repeat: 10am – 12pm. Round 3: Live: Saturday 10.30pm – 2.30am. Final Round, Live: Sunday 10.30pm – 2.30am, Repeat: Monday 8am – 9.30am, 1pm – 2.30pm.2012 Irish Open Leaderboard