Agony for McGinley; Padraig and St Jude; Lowry's wedge; and Rickie
  Søren Kjeldsen led the three qualifiers for The Open at Royal County Down. Credit: The R & A

Søren Kjeldsen led the three qualifiers for The Open at Royal County Down. Credit: The R & A

Paul McGinley was forced to withdraw from the Irish Open with back spasms and admitted: ”It’s one of my biggest disappointments in my whole career. Even pulling out of a Major wouldn’t have hurt as much as this.”

The Dubliner was just outside the Top 20 overnight and looking forward to a big finish in just his fourth start of the season.

But he was forced to admit defeat to a muscular injury on the range, explaining: “It seized up at around seven last night. I gave it everything I could with two sessions of physio, a hot bath and an early night.

“I got up early, had a session of acupuncture and a session of physio and did loosening up exercises followed by 40 minutes on the range. 

“But I couldn’t get my body through it — I wasn’t even close.”

The injury was a recurrence of the problem that kept him out of the BMW PGA at Wentworth last week

Bitterly disappointed, McGinley said: “I’ve hardly played for five months and it’s the Irish Open and I had a good position on a bright, breezy day and a chance to move up the leaderboard. It’s great to be competing again but that’s why it hurts so much.”

Open sesame

Irish Open champion Soren Kjeldsen earned a little more than € 416,660 for his win at Royal County Down.

He also landed one of three exemptions into The Open and a spot in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron in August, where there is no cut.

The Dane will be joined in the Open at St Andrews by Eddie Pepperell and Tyrrell Hatton as the leading three players not already exempt.

Kjeldsen’s first win after a 174-event gap was his fifth win on tour and the 31st by a Dane on the European Tour, moving him up to 18th in the Race to Dubai.

Søren Kjeldsen
"It's ridiculous. It's like I'm dreaming and I don't want anyone to wake me up.
"I'm very excited, for us The Open is the best Major there is. I've been fortunate enough to play all the Majors but we feel like it's our Open being European. Playing at the Old Course is going to be very, very special."
Eddie Pepperell
“This is something I can really look forward to for sure. I have been in St Andrews a lot in my amateur career and on Tour so to go back there for an Open Championship will be quite something.
“I'm going to embrace the experience and hopefully go there with my game in good shape and you never know what can happen.
“I grew up playing links in my amateur days so it's something I'm very comfortable with when I'm playing well.” 
Tyrrell Hatton
“I definitely seem to have a way of finding my way into The Open and I’m happy to have done it again.
“My first Open I felt I was quite unlucky with the draw and it was quite difficult but this is my fourth Open and I feel like I know what to expect now. Sadly I haven’t been able to make the cut yet but hopefully this will be my year.
"Obviously I'm very happy about qualifying for The Open. I was lucky enough to qualify for my first Open when I was 18 and that was at St Andrews so to be going back five years later is fantastic. It's a great place and I just can't wait to get back there."

By the numbers

Fota Island had bigger crowds that Royal County Down over the four tournament days but it had no answer to the Rory McIlroy backed Irish Open when it came to TV.

While the Irish Open was held at the Cork venue last year it attracted 97,889 fans over the four days.

The limited ticket nature of this year’s event because of the delicate dune system in Newcastle meant that just 91,347 fans came through the gates.

Practice day figures took the total figure for the week to 106,906 with 4,320 turning up on Tuesday and 11,239  for Wednesday’s Pro-am.

The difference this year was the presence of US TV.

“We have Golf Channel here from America,” said  Antonia Beggs, Championship Director for the Irish Open. “Our TV pictures are beamed into 40 million homes around the world, which is quite a lot of homes. And we also have Sky Sports, Golf Channel and RTE as well as highlights on BBC.”

As for the future of the event and the involvement of the Rory Foundation, she said: “We have always said that this is the first time and when he dust has settled we will sit down and chat about the future strategy.

“We very much hope that Rory will be involved in the Irish Open in some shape or form next year because he is the world No 1 and he is from Ireland.

“We can’t say any more for now but this isn’t a one-off as such. It’s just the first time we’ve done it so while we can’t say we are doing it for 10 years (with Rory hosting), the feedback has been very positive.”

Lowry's wedge better than his putter

Shane Lowry had a Newcastle nightmare on the greens and confessed: “I was better using my wedge.”

The Clara ace could only smile after a week he described as “frustrating”, especially with the putter.

He bent his by whacking it off a metal stake in anger on Friday and had to use a lob wedge for the rest of that round.

But after shooting 74 that day compared to yesterday’s 77, he beamed: “The best putting round I had was probably with my wedge! 

“To be honest I lost confidence on the greens earlier on in the week and just found them very hard to read. 

“I’m normally great on links greens but I really struggled.”

Padraig praying to St Jude

Pádraig Harrington needs a massive performance in Memphis next week to qualify for the US Open.

The Dubliner knows he must win the PGA Tour’s FedEx St Jude Classic if he is to not to miss the US Open two years running

Bidding to make the top 60 in the world qualify for Chambers Bay, Harrington vowed: “I’ll be there trying to put in a big performance. 

“It’s a big ask to go out and win on demand for sure but we will have to give it a go. I like the event and I have contended for it once before.”

Rickie will be back

Rickie Fowler reckons he has the edge on some of his rivals for the US Open and the Open thanks to his Irish Open trip.

And he confirmed that he will be back to Rory McIlroy again — especially if the Rory Foundation is involved.

Fowler said: “I had a great time. The fans were awesome at one of my favourite courses in the world.

“It was really cool to be asked my good friend Rory to come over and play and help support his Foundation. Everything they are doing for children’s cancer is pretty special.

“I’m happy to be a part of it and looking forward to do more things together.”

As for his links game, he said: “I have quite a bit of links coming up orb course with a links feel to them. So this was good prep for the US Open and The Open.”