Keegan Bradley played his first round of links golf on Tuesday. hoto Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieKeegan Bradley quickly discovered the secret to beating jet lag on his first pro visit to Ireland - a drop of the hard stuff.

The US PGA champ touched down on Monday and immediately donned his tourist’s cap with a visit to the famous Bushmills Distillery.

Just seconds after hitting his first ever shot in links golf - a perfect drive down the middle of the first - Bradley confessed: “After the overnight flight from Newark I am grinding at the moment and struggling with jet lag.

“But I’ve done the tourist thing and been to the Giant’s Causeway and was given a tour of Bushmills Distillery - and did a little sampling!”

Bradley’s ancestors hail from Co Cork and he admitted that it didn’t take much to persuade him to come over this week.

He said: “I came to Ireland once before when I was seven but my Irish heritage is something I have always been proud. I’ve always wanted to play in the Irish Open since I was little, so I’ve finally got the chance.”

Bradley revealed that Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy encouraged him to come over but it was Darren Clarke who made up his mind.

He said: “I spoke with Darren at the Grand Slam of Golf last year and he was saying, ‘You’ve just got to do it.’ I really like those guys and I trust them a lot.”

Major respect

Club pro John Kelly stood aside for a couple of major winners yesterday - then did his homework.

The St Margarets man was heading out for a practice round with pal Padraig Harrington when the three-time major winner said: “Do you mind if Keegan Bradley joins us?”

After watching Harrington drive off the first, Kelly turned to US PGA champion Bradley and quipped: “You’d better go first. I haven’t won a major yet.”

The Dubliner was just delighted to get the chance to learn from the best, explaining. “Brendan McGovern is caddying for me and he said, ‘This is where you want to be. Playing with these guys shows you where you want to get to.’”

Kelly, 40, made the cut in Killarney last year but wants to do even better this time.

Beastly for the boys

Royal Portrush could prove to be a beast of a test this week.

The weathermen are predicting heavy rain and 20mph winds tomorrow and Friday followed by 25mph gusts on Saturday.

And Tournament Director Miguel Vidaor has no plans to go easy on the pros unless it turns really nasty, explaining: “The weather is going to be all over the place. It’s going to be a proper championship.

“Obviously we will use commonsense. A hole like Calamity - the 14th - is already 210 yards off the back. That’s a driver into that hole with driving rain.

“If you play well, you are going to have a chance. If you don’t play well, you have no chance.”

As for The Open returning to Portrush, he sad: “As a golf course there is no doubt that it could host the Open. But infrastructure wise, you’re going to have to ask the R&A.

“The Open is a monster. This is a big event but the Open is the biggest event in the world.”

Diamond geezer backs Rors

Harry Diamond is backing pal Rory McIlroy to emerge from his slump and drive his way to Irish Open glory.

After playing a practice round with his best friend at the weekend, the Belvoir Park amateur insisted: “He’s got a new driver and he’s really hitting it well.

“Even when I got a good drive away he was bombing it 30 yards past me.”

McIlroy has missed four of his last five cuts but Diamond said: “He’s playing some really good stuff and I definitely think he’s the player to beat this week.

“He’s actually a little nervous because it’s a Royal Portrush and he badly wants to do well. I think there’s no question that he will.”