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Golf Australia Express : OTG Express 148
W ATCHING the Irish Open from afar this past weekend was magical and memorable for multiple reasons. Royal County Down is one of the most revered courses in the world for the manner in which it combines genius architecture and the odd quirk with a spectacular dunescape setting next to the sea and Ireland’s tallest peaks. I had the great fortune to play County Down a few years ago and loved the place at first sight then perhaps more so after it had forced nearly 90 swings out of me to complete the 18-hole journey. The outward half ranks among the best nines anywhere and the inward side is only a breath behind. We love the majors and our own national Open but for me the 2015 global golf calendar had an extra red circle on it as soon as I learned the Irish Open was headed for the famous Newcastle links. And the players seemingly felt the same way. The field resembled a major and was arguably stronger than for the previous week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, long regarded as the flagship stop on the European Tour. So why the spike in interest for this Irish Open? It was all about the golf course. There’s a lesson in that for every professional circuit. The US PGA Tour visits some pretty lacklustre golf courses that are better fits with target corporate markets than architecture buffs. Australia, blessed with an abundance of phenomenal courses, does it pretty well. We see a Melbourne sandbelt venue annually at the Australian Masters and while the menu options are shorter in the Harbour City, the Australian Open at least visits one of Sydney’s top-four courses every year. The Perth International is held at the best course in the west. And the Australian PGA? OK, let’s just tweak Meatloaf’s lyrics for a moment and say three out of four ain’t bad... Early last decade a debate surfaced in Australian golf that hasn’t ever really gone away or been resolved, concerning the need to draw more leading overseas players to our shores. Prizemoney, appearance fees, family holidays attached and all manner of lures are thrown around any time the discussion resurfaces yet each one ignores the built-in advantage we have and perhaps do not exploit enough: Australia is home to a collection of the best courses on the planet. Appeal to players’ desire to compete in the best arenas and we offer a drawcard that other, usually better financed, nations cannot. Kevin Streelman, a mostly unremarkable player on the PGA Tour, ventured to Royal Melbourne two springs ago to partner Matt Kuchar in the World Cup of Golf. I suspect many in the media expected Kuchar, then ranked 7th in the world, to be the better interview of the American duo but Streelman arrived in town ahead of his compatriot and promptly rhapsodised about being here. Being from golf-savvy Chicago, Streelman reasoned, meant he was better schooled in great course architecture than most of his peers. He knew only too well what the greatest appeal of flying to the Southern Hemisphere would be. Northern Ireland last weekend was much the same. Royal County Down last held the Irish Open in 1939 (although three Senior British Opens were held there from 2000 to 2002) and one suspects the field would never weaken if RCD hosted the Irish Open permanently, or at least frequently. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure it out: great courses inevitably equal great fields. OTG the VIEW FIELDS OF DREAMS WHEN IT COMES TO LURING PLAYERS TO NON-MAJOR AND NON-WGC EVENTS, THE BEST CARROT TO DANGLE IS ALWAYS A WORLD-CLASS GOLF COURSE. by Steve Keipert Golf Australia deputy editor Awarded #1 Overall Winner in the ‘2015 MyGolfSpy Most Wanted Driver Awards’ # 1 MOST WANTED DRIVER 2015 LEARN MORE
OTG Express 147
OTG Express 149