Adare is new Valderrama says O'Leary

By Brian Keogh

Adare Manor could become Ireland's answer to Valderrama.

That's the frank view of 1982 Irish Open hero John O'Leary after watching the course bring Europe's top players to their knees.

The Dubliner, 57, was inundated with text messages from around the world in praise of the Limerick venue.

A Director of the European Tour, O'Leary revealed that he will be advising top players such as England's Luke Donald to pencil it into their schedules next year.

O'Leary said: "We have seen the start of something here. Adare Manor is a very special place and the owner, Tom Kane, has got a similar spirit and soul to Jaime Patiño at Valderrama.

"To me, the No 1 test in Europe is Valderrama for all the energy and care and concern that is put into it.

"But you are now looking at Adare as a course with the potential to be on a par with that."

O'Leary points to world No 10 Donald, who took last week off to prepare for this week's BMW PGA at Wentworth, as the calibre of player who should make a point of challenging Padraig Harrington next year.

He said: "The golf course is an acid test. Luke Donald said three weeks ago that he loved playing in Europe but the courses are a little too straightforward and they can't find the pin positions because of the way the courses are designed.

"I will be saying to Luke when I see him next: 'Luke, I hope to see you are Adare next year, because with your ability it is one of the courses you can play and you won't finish out of the top ten.' It is going to bring the best player to the top.

"I remember Sam Torrance saying the same when The Belfry opened. It was a brute with the old clubs. And Sam said to me: 'This is great. Everyone is going to struggle here.'

"For Sam, the Belfry went way beyond all those things. He always won individual tournaments there and of course the Ryder Cup. When the Belfry opened, 74 was a good test."

Adare was a brute last week but O'Leary knows that the tour officials will find the perfect balance between length and difficulty.

He said: "Just give it time and wait for the feedback. You don't want it at the stage that it is brutal. That is up to the tour guys."

As for Harrington's final day duel with Bradley Dredge, O'Leary says it was a perfect day.

He added: "The day ended perfectly, that's the bottom line. It was meant to be: Europe's No 1, Irishman, Irish Open.

"It had to be for Adare Manor, for Padraig Harrington, for Europe's No 1 and for the European Tour. Remember, this was an event that had people asking, 'Where is the Irish Open going to go?' It's great. What more can you say."

As for Harrington, O'Leary has seen the Dubliner completely rebuild his swing from the bottom up.

But he also had words of encouragement for runner-up Bradley Dredge.

O'Leary said: "The way he has developed has been unbelievable. But I will say one thing about Bradley Dredge. If you look at Bradley, he is very similar to Padraig.

"Padraig has worked and worked, Done one thing, put that in his locker, moved on, found another secret and worked hard and put that in his locker.

"If you take Darren Clarke and Padraig when they started, you were looking at three shots difference a round in Darren's favour.

"So Bradley Dredge is very similar to Padraig in that sense. When I first saw him, he was very closed at the top. He is not that way any more. Technically he is a much better player.

"What odds would you give me against him making the next Ryder Cup team? If you got even money I think you would have a good bet. He has just developed and developed."