Links specialist Des Smyth hopes to blast his way back into the winner’s circle in the €450,000 Irish Seniors Open at windy Ballyliffin.

But the former Ryder Cup ace, 55, admits that he will have to find some form soon if he is to keep his card on the megabucks Champions Tour in the US.

Bidding to end a 10-year wait for a home winner of the Irish Seniors title, Smyth said: “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.

“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 wants to hold on to his American playing rights by finishing the season inside the top 30 money winners.

And while he admits that he is nearing the end of his golden run, he won’t give up without a fight.

Without a top-10 finish for nine months, Smyth added: “I won’t be making any decisions on what I am doing until I finish the year. I am going to play out and see where I am.

“It is still mid-season and I can still find my form. 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.”

This year’s Irish Seniors Open boasts a star-studded field with defending champion Costantino Rocca facing a massive challenge for the €67,500 top prize from the likes of “new boys” Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam, 2006 winner Sam Torrance, as well as 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.

Measuring just 6,867 yards, the par-71 Old Links was lashed by winds gusting over 30 mph yesterday.

And with more wind and rain forecast, Smyth reckons that the spectacular Donegal track will be more than tough enough for the top senior players in Europe.

A big fan of Nick Faldo’s recent redesign, Smyth said: “It is a tough golf course but it is very fair. It is not tricked up in any way and the bunkering is fair.

“It will give you a chance to score if the wind dies down, but if it stays the same it will be a tough challenge.

“It is a terrific place and we are all enjoying it. The views are terrific and the whole area is gorgeous.”

Former Ryder Cup skipper Torrance added: “It’s beautiful and it is a great test. It’s a bit wild at the moment but it is a great layout and from what I have seen so far it is very fair.”

Cork ace O’Sullivan loves the challenge, explaining: “Last week’s was rather an unfair golf course but this one if totally fair. 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.”

Smyth will be making just his second appearance in the Irish Seniors Open and looking forward to putting one over on his older brother Val, who is one of three Irish amateurs in the field.

Smyth joked: “I’m looking forward to seeing how he does. I think the family will all be on his side. I’ve had my share of success so they will all be supporting him.”


Today (Friday)
Irish Seniors Open, Ballyliffin GC (Old Links, Par 71)
1st round tee-times
*Denotes amateur
8:00 J Hall (Eng), P O'Hagan (Irl), A Tapie (USA);
8:10 G McGimpsey* (NIr), T Charnley (Eng), A Garrido (Esp);
8:20 T Allen (ENG), J Quiros (Esp), V Smyth* (Irl);
8:30 D Merriman (Aus), M Bembridge (Eng), M Piñero (Esp);
8:40 T Gale (Aus), P Oakley (USA), B Larratt (Eng);
8:50 R Drummond (Sco), J Hoskison (Eng), G Cali (Ita);
9:10 D O'Sullivan (Irl), J Chillas (Sco), K Tomori (Jpn);
9:20 D Smyth (Irl), J Bland (RSA), B Longmuir (Sco);
9:30 B Cameron (Eng), L Higgins (Irl), S Owen (NZ);
9:40 G Hopkins (USA), G Encina (Chi), I Mosey (Eng);
9:50 J Rivero (Esp), P Teravainen (USA), N Job (Eng);
10:00 C Rocca (Ita), G J Brand (Eng), J Heggarty (NIr);
10:20 A Fernandez (Chi) E Polland (NIr), T Price (Wal);
10:30 S Lyle (Sco), T Johnstone (Zim), B Charles (NZ);
10:40 B Heuchan (Can), A Sowa (Arg), P Leonard (NIr);
10:50 J Rhodes (Eng), S Ebihara (Jpn), J Bruner (USA);
11:00 M Gray (Sco), T Gideon (Ger), D Cambrudge (Jam);
11:10 B Boyd (USA), D Good (Aus), K Spurgeon (Eng);
11:20 I Woosnam (Wal), E Darcy (Irl), S Ginn (Aus);
11:40 S Torrance (Sco), C Mason (Eng), D Hospital (Esp);
11:50 A Murray (Eng). N Ratcliffe (Aus), A Franco (Par);
12:00 L Carbonetti (Arg), M Poxon (Eng), J Benda (USA);
12:10 B Lincoln (RSA), DJ Russell (Eng), H Carbonetti (Arg);
12:20 E McMenamin* (Irl), A Barrera (Arg), T Rastall (Eng);
12:30 E Rodriguez (Esp), M Miller (Sco), P Dugeny (Fra).