The Irish Open is definitely my fifth Major and I prepare for it like I would the other four. I’ve been down to Lahinch a couple of times before playing the Canadian and US Open and last week when I got back. I’d rarely do that for a regular event.
The tournament deserves an Irish player go deep into the final round. I’d love to give myself a chance of doing it and the weekend in Lahinch would be amazing if one of the Irish lads could do it. We’ll all be watching if an Irishman goes down the 18th on Sunday in contention.
I just hope it’s me.
I’m happy with my form this year, so it’s just a question of keeping it going and freewheeling from each event. I honestly can’t pin-point one thing that has improved my game this season, if I knew I’d bottle it and sell it! It’s just a question of going with the flow.
My putting’s been very good but if I miss my approach shot to the green or make a bogey, I’m not too disappointed with myself. You move on a bit quicker, though, to be honest, my caddy ‘Bo’ (Brian Martin) has been a great help for that, as well. He’s such a chilled-out character and he’s been great for me on the course.
I really feel like he’s helped me over the last while and he’s relaxed me a bit more on the course than I used to be.
However, ‘Bo’ won’t be on the bag this week because his wife is due to give birth. He was half-thinking about doing Lahinch, but I told him not to. Wendy and I had our daughter, Iris, a couple of years ago and you want to be home. That’s all there is to it. The only reason he’s doing the Open Championship in a fortnight is because it’s in Royal Portrush. He’s from the North and it means a lot to him.
Dara Lernihan is caddying for me instead. He’s a good mate and the pro at Bray golf club. ‘Lerno’ came down with me to Lahinch a couple of weeks ago for practice and I jokingly mentioned the possibility of him caddying for me – and he kind of ‘bit’. I was like, it’ll be good fun.
We’re staying in the same house together down there. His wife’s coming down, as well. It’ll be a bit of fun. It’ll be a nice week and hopefully, I can do all right.
I actually caddied for him in the Irish PGA Championship at Roganstown one year! Hopefully, I’ll do better than he did in that. Mind you, I could be the one keeping him calm next week.
The first Irish Open I really remember was Sergio Garcia’s win at Druid’s Glen in 1999, but the first Irish Open I went to was Portmarnock in 2005, when Michael Campbell won. I was lucky enough to win it 10 years ago at Baltray as an amateur and it really kick-started my career.
I enjoy playing in front of the home crowds. Even though it can bring its own difficulties, it’s great to have family and friends there close by.
I didn’t really set myself goals at the start of the season, but obviously to win a tournament would go without saying.
I got that out the gap early when I won in Abu Dhabi last January, but I must be getting greedy as I’d love to win another one now! It would be my first time winning two tournaments in a season, so I’d give anything to win another Irish Open this week.
I’ve had a couple of practice rounds at Lahinch to get my eye in again as I haven’t really played it that much since I was an amateur and it’s changed a fair bit. I played there a few weeks ago but the wind was 40mph. It was impossible. If we get that sort of weather this week, it’ll be horrible. I was hitting a six-iron 130 yards, it was absolutely ridiculous.
I got a run around and got to see it though and that’s what I wanted, not to have to start from scratch to get to know the course again. I’ll play nine holes Tuesday afternoon and the same on Wednesday – like I normally do. You have to play a few ‘blind’ shots at Lahinch and I don’t particularly like them. I’m not a big fan of blind shots as I find it hard to get the lines with them.
There’s no masterplan as yet but if you want to put a score together you’ll have to birdie the two par-fives,12 and 18. Then you’re going to have to play two, three, six well and then there’s a few very hard holes, like 10, 14 and 15. They’re very tricky holes, the key holes and I’ll need to manage them. So much of it depends on the weather.
They get very few calm days down there every year. So, I can’t imagine we’ll get four days of good weather, but hopefully we get a couple, anyway, and it won’t be too difficult. I like a tough course, anyway. I don’t like it raining, though, that’s the only thing I hope we avoid. I wouldn’t mind a good bit of wind and it being difficult that way.
But the rain is a bit of a leveller. I don’t want it to be wet.
All about the ‘A’ game
Irish players have done fairly well recently in the Irish Open. Padraig Harrington won it at Adare in 2007, then I did in 2009 at Baltray and Rory won at the K Club in 2016. It’s not easy and you just have to look at the top players that are due to tee off here this week.
Jon Rahm, a former winner. You’ll have Tommy Fleetwood, a former Race to Dubai champion, Ian Poulter’s coming, Lee Westwood’s going to be there and he always plays well. Matt Wallace is playing, he’s a multiple winner on the European Tour and former Masters’ champ Danny Willett. Former Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen’s playing, so there’s a lot of good players.
Golf’s a funny game. You look at Canada a few weeks ago for instance. When Rory McIlroy shows up playing like that, he’s unbeatable on Sunday. I think that’s the way golf is. I’ll try to bring my ‘A’ game, but if somebody better than me brings their ‘A’ game, they’re going to beat me and that’s the way it is.
But if I bring my ‘A’ game, I’ll beat the ones who aren’t playing as well as me.
Hopefully that’s how it will turn out, anyway.