Creaking knees and bad legs are just run of the mill occupational hazards for the wily veterans who will begin battle for the €450,000 Irish Seniors Open at Ballyliffin’s beguiling Old Links today.
And while Tiger Woods’ spectacular US Open victory and his subsequent withdrawal from the rest of the season with injury was a hot-topic on the windswept Inishowen Peninsula, Ireland’s Des Smyth was too busy trying to find his game to chat for long about another man’s problems.
Without a top-ten finish for more than nine months, Smyth has more than enough on his own plate, though he was enthralled by Woods’ ability to come up with the goods again and again at Torrey Pines.
Languishing 63rd on the Champions Tour money list, the links specialist from Laytown and Bettystown badly needs a confidence-boosting result in Donegal that will send him back to the US with at least some hope of retaining his playing rights there for a seventh season.
Yet the 2006 Ryder Cup vice-captain is brutally honest in his assessment of his form and while he still hopes that the second half of the season will yield the kind of results that will secure his place inside the top 30 money winners who retain their American cards, he appears almost resigned to his fate.
“My form has been poor and I need to pull the bunny out of the hat in the States because I am really behind the eight ball,” said Smyth during the wind-slashed pro-am on the 6,867-yard Old Links that was recently revamped by six-time Major winner Nick Faldo.
“I am 63rd in the money list over there, which means I am finished. So I need to come up with either big performances or a win.
“I am not as optimistic as I was a couple of weeks ago. I thought I was getting places with my swing, but it hasn’t quite happened for me yet.”
With two wins and over $4.2 million in earnings in the US, Smyth has no intention of giving up such a lucrative gig without a fight.
“It is still mid-season and I can still find my form,” said Smyth, whose brother Val joins fellow amateurs Garth McGimpsey and Enda McMenamin in a star-studded field. “But I am a realist. Unless I find my game and have some big performances, I’ll have difficulties.
“I am not overly disappointed though, because I went there for three years and this is my sixth year there. I was feeling I was running out of steam last year anyway.
“But it is one thing being pushed out and another leaving on your own terms. I’d like to leave on my own terms, if I could. So I am prepared to work hard. It could be my last year.”
Smyth will be making just his second appearance in the Irish Seniors Open, having finished tied for fifth on his debut at The Heritage in Co Laois three years ago.
And with a top prize of €67,500, he will face serious competition from senior rookiers Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam as well as 2006 winner Sam Torrance, defending champion Costantino Rocca and Irish stars Eamonn Darcy and Denis O’Sullivan
Woosnam, 50, captured his maiden seniors title in Poland just three weeks ago and finished second to Peter Mitchell in Wales last weekend.
But the fiery Welshman will have to play the course blind after only arriving at the spectacular venue late yesterday due to the death of his mother-in-law earlier this week.
Now 60, Corkman O’Sullivan is feeling good about his chances, despite slipping from sixth to 31st with a closing 78 in last week's Wales Senior Open on links terrain at Conwy.
“Last week’s was rather an unfair golf course but this one if totally fair,” said O’Sullivan, who is 28th on the money list after five starts. “You could miss the the fairway by a foot last week and you wouldn’t have a shot.
“But everyone loves this. The weather is tough but it is a pure links and a fair links. There is a bit of room and if you miss the fairway you are not buried and you can get it going forward.
“The wind will suit me and I’ve played quite well recently and was sixth in Jersey but just didn’t finish it off last week in Wales.”