Finds Winner’s Circle
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND | Keep
knocking, they say, and the door will eventually open. It did for Jamie Donaldson in his 12th
year on the European Tour, when he captured
the Irish Open in strangely benign conditions at
Royal Portrush on Sunday.
As things turned out, the 36-year-old Welshman effectively surged to a breakthrough, with
a hugely impressive final round of 66 for an
18-under-par winning total of 270. And as further evidence of the gods smiling their approval,
his 255th tournament had been kick-started by a
hole-in-one at the short sixth last Thursday.
“If I kept getting better at what I was doing,
I felt one day it would all come together,” said
Donaldson, who has never played four rounds in
a major championship. “Now, to be finally sitting
here with the trophy is quite amazing, surreal.”
There was inescapable irony in the four
“home” major winners, who had done so much
to get the event to Portrush, being consigned
to supporting roles. From a strong position,
two strokes back overnight, Padraig Harrington
was the best of them with a
closing 70 for 276.
It meant that sustained
cheering for him down
the final hole was of af-
fection rather than
acclaim. A recent
putted the first for a bogey and later missed
three birdie efforts from inside six feet.
“I was struggling to read the greens and just
couldn’t get any momentum going,” he said
afterwards. “But the crowds were wonderful
and I found myself taking a little extra time to
appreciate that applause down the last.”
Rory McIlroy, who had missed four of his
previous five cuts, was a lot more positive after
a closing 67 for 277. “My game was very good
tee to green and I’m now ready for two weeks’
work in preparation for Lytham,” he said.
“There’s a lot of left-to-right tee-shots there, so
I need to make sure my fade is in good order.”
Meanwhile, John Daly emerged as the best
of the three American challengers, when a start
of par, eagle, birdie, led to a final round of 67 for
280. But a lost ball in each of the first two rounds
cost Keegan Bradley a place at the weekend,
after the cut was made on 2-under par.
After Saturday’s chilling rain and high winds,
conditions for the final day were greatly welcomed by remarkably stoic crowds. But a great
links was rendered virtually defenceless.
“It’s not playing like a true links right now,” admitted Graeme McDowell after a seven-birdie 66.
And fellow local resident Darren Clarke
remarked: “If the ball was releasing four or five
yards on the greens, you would see vastly dif-
Still, Donaldson wasn’t complaining after
what he described as “the round of my life.”