Weather hoodoo hits Ireland

By Brian Keogh

Paul McGinley is worried that horrible weather is wrecking Ireland's reputation as a tournament venue.

With the weathermen forecasting more rain again this week, the Dubliner is not surprised that so many stars are opting to stay away from Ireland these days.

Just two of the world's top 50 played the Irish Open at Adare Manor in May.

And with the likes of Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jimenez opting to skip this week's event, McGinley admits that factors beyond the organisers' control are seriously affecting the field.

Reflecting on his European Open memories, McGinley said: "All I remember is the bloody weather we seem to have every time. And we are going to have it again this week.

"It started out as a bit of a joke but it is actually becoming serious now because it is starting to affect the field. And that is disappointing.

"Fellas laugh when you ask, 'Are you playing the European Open?' They say, 'What, go over in that weather again.'

"The Irish Open is going the same way. As an Irishman I know the effort that is going in and how crucial the weather is to these weeks.

"You have to go back to Fota Island for an Irish tournament with decent weather - and that's including the Ryder Cup. That's a long way back.

"Guys like Jimenez won't come. It will be a while before you see guys playing golf in Ireland again.

"I asked Jimenez if he was coming and he said: 'No, I will sit in my villa in Malaga in 34 degrees, smoke cigar and drink wine. You play in pissing rain!"

Tournament director Jamie Birkmyre is at his wits end with the bad weather he has suffered in Ireland in recent years.

And after spending three and a half weeks in the rain at The K Club, where his team is setting up the course and the tented village, he wonders what he has done to deserve such bad luck.

Birkmyre groaned: "I keep asking myself what I have done to deserve this. We moved in here three and a half weeks ago and it has rained every day. In fact, I think it has rained every single year I have been involved.

"We are expecting huge crowds on Thursday with 37,000 free tickets handed out by Ulster Bank.

"But with rain forecast we were worried about the tented village becoming a sea of mud so we have just bought €16,000 worth of decking, around 800 square metres, to prevent it becoming a mud bath.

"We had to move one of our car parks as well because it was completely unusable and I don't know how many tons of bark mulch we have used. We even have five tractors on

"It is all going to rain all week but I don't think it will stop people coming."

The presence of Irish Open champion Padraig Harrington and US Open champion Angel Cabrera will help bring in the crowds.

And while McGinley is not surprised that Cabrera won the title at Oakmont, he has seen a worrying trend in the recent list of US Open winners.

McGInley said: "I was talking to Ernie Els last week and he was saying the US Open, the latest winners it throws up, they are not the straight hitters you think they are going to be.

"It is throwing up the big hitters. Ogilvy won last year and Mickelson was up there.

"This year it was Cabrera and Tiger. You go back over the years, it is not the straight hitters that seem to be winning. It is the guys that are overpowering the golf course. The big hitters are coming through."