The Irish Open: a triumph for Willett, an embarrassment for McIlroy
 Danny Willett

Danny Willett

The recent Dubai Duty Free Irish Open gave us a number of exciting memories. Taking place at the Royal County Downs Golf Club from 28th to 31st May, the event showcased some of the best British talent out there today, including one youngster whose name was the word on everybody’s lips afterwards.

The youngster in question is of course 27-year-old Danny Willett, who had a strong start to the event alongside fellow Brit Andy Sullivan. Coming up against World #1 and Irish superstar Rory McIlroy would doubtless have been a daunting task for Willett, but with McIlroy’s disappointing performance, it seems the tournament was his from the word go.

Twenty-six-year-old McIlroy suffered after carding nine bogies and no birdies in the opening 80 at the event. Willett, meanwhile, started two shots off the lead with a total of 69.

His stunning performance comes just six months after a memorable tournament at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa. Sheffield-born Willett had an equally strong start at the event in Sun City, beginning just one shot behind former World #1 Luke Donald.

Willett certainly has plenty of reasons to enjoy golf in the region. Over in Sun City, golf fans can also enjoy the best of the nearby Sun City Casino Complex, or for those who cannot prize themselves away from the action, Uptown Aces provides the same thrilling experience for the mobile. With a selection of games that can be played on any mobile device, the site rivals some of the region’s best entertainment. Willett said at the time: “I've played good golf down here in South Africa before. I love the place, love the people, everything about it is great. It's been a truly fun test of golf.”

Over in Ireland however, while Willett was enjoying himself, McIlroy admitted that he had been less than on form in May. He said: “It was not quite as difficult as I made it look. I was hitting it well on the range, keeping it down and hitting half shots, but the wind was not up that much on the course and I was caught between trying to play two ways. 

“That led to missing greens, which led to lots of eight- to 12-foot putts for par, which led to missing all of them.”

It’s a somewhat shocking admission from the youngster who has performed so incredibly in recent years to give himself World #1 status. Starting out aged just 17, he was destined for great things from the word go when he topped the World Amateur Golf Ranking back in 2007. 

Later, he went on to win his first European Tour in 2009, and was surely on the path to greatness aged just 20 in 2010 when he won his first PGA Tour. Perhaps his greatest achievement however was becoming the youngest ever player to reach $10 million in earnings on the PGA Tour. 

Perhaps most embarrassing for the star then was the fact that he hails from County Downs, and as such should be accustomed to the course. While McIlroy may not have had the advantage of South African weather on his side, his supporters in Ireland are confident that he can return to his former glory as the PGA Tour continues this summer.