Graeme McDowell reckons sponsors “3” could get the magic number they need to boost the Irish Open - the European Tour’s first 59.
Just four of the world’s top 20 have made the trip to the Kingdom with No 11 McDowell joined by No 8 Rory, No 18 Justin Rose and No 19 Padraig Harrington.
A big home challenge is vital if the event is to break even on the gate, but US Open champion McDowell is convinced that there could be an even bigger publicity boost in the shape of Europe’s first sub-60 round.
Just days after shooting his first 59 in a practice round at the Valley Course in Portrush, McDowell said: “I would say there’s a 59 out there this week. I felt lit had the potential to get quite firm on Monday, but obviously if there is going to be a little bit of rain, it will keep the greens a bit more receptive.
“If it’s going to remain soft and there’s not much wind, I think the putting surfaces are good enough. That’s the key to shooting very low - the putting surfaces have to be good and I think they are good enough out there this week, so it could happen.”
English ace Rose agrees that a 59 is on, but only if the tour opts for easy pin positions on the undulating greens.
Rose said: “Guys are good. There was a 59 in America at the John Deere and Carl Pettersson lipped out for 59 in Canada last week. So it shows that if the course is in any way vulnerable, and normally by that, generally soft conditions is what make a course vulnerable, it just takes one guy to get hot.
“Obviously GMac is in fine form, if that’s the way he see things, which is good. But I think it depends on pin placements.
“By looking at the yardage book, it looks like there’s little bowls and a lot of areas where you could feed the ball into if the pin was placed there.
“But if you start putting the pins up on the high spots on the greens, I think it will make it a very different test.”
McDowell is in the form of his life following his incredible US Open victory at Pebble Beach and the excitement of carding the first 59 of his life around his home course a few days ago.
But he confessed that shooting his first sub-60 round was still a nerve-racking experience despite the fact that he was only out for “a knock” with his dad Kenny, uncle Uel and a pal.
Describing how he fired 12 birdies and a bogey, McDowell said: “I was quite nervous actually - it’s like a 147 in snooker, although maybe not quite as good as that.
“I was sort of trying to put pressure on myself and said I needed to birdie two of the last four.
“Then I got them and needed a par at the 195-yard last. As soon as I hit my five-iron to 12 feet I thought, ‘Done it - I’m not going to three-whack from there’.
“The second putt was about six inches and it was a special feeling. I’ve always dreamt of doing it.”
Grouped with Padraig Harrington and Damien McGrane for the first two days, McDowell is still disappointed that more big names have not turned up in Killarney despite the move from May to late July.
European No 1 Lee Westwood and Irish Open regulars such as Robert Karlsson and Miguel Angel Jimenez have decided to rest before next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and the following week’s US PGA at Whistling Straits.
McDowell said: “I’ve tried to tell as many guys to get themselves here this week. The field isn’t as strong as maybe we would have hoped but it’s great to be down here.
“Schedule is obviously hugely important and there’s so many big events around the globe right now, different players do their own things.
“The top players in the world are chasing appearance money in different part of the globe, and that’s just the nature of the 21st century golfer. There is no really great date anymore, unfortunately.
“When you look back 20 years ago at events like the Irish Open and the English Open and Spanish Open, they were premiere events and the premiere players played in those and it’s not like that anymore unfortunately.
“Like I say we need sponsors like 3 who can come in and revive a golf tournament like this and try to give it a little extra added dimension.
“I think getting this July date is obviously a huge factor. The Irish Open has had some bad luck the last six or seven years. It’s simply had bad luck due to weather and hopefully we can turn that around this week.
“We have a great sponsor and great date on the calendar this week. It’s disappointing that Westwood and Thomas Björn and some of the really top, top players are not here.
“But scheduling is hard nowadays and with the four majors and three WGCs; that’s the framework of every top player’s schedule nowadays, and it’s very difficult to get the best players playing at a regular golf tournament every week.”