Turn your Ireland golf trip into a tournament

By Mike BaileyMay 16, 2011, 8:01 pm

If you've ever dreamed of competing on some of the great Irish links courses and doing it in a competitive format, The Great Irish Links Challenge, scheduled for May 22-25, is your opportunity.

Limited to the first 600 golfers who register, the eventwill be played on three top golf courses inIreland -- Ballybunion Golf Club, Doonbeg Golf Club and Lahinch Golf Club, all of which were recently voted amongGolf World magazine's Top 100 courses in the world.

The tournament, which is sponsored by TaylorMade in conjunction with Shannon (Ireland) Development, will begin with a welcome reception at the host course, Doonbeg, and end with an awards ceremony there.

Each team consists of four players, and the format is better ball using the Stableford scoring system. Each team is broken into two groups to play along with another team as they alternate courses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Players must have a verifiable handicap. Cost to play in the event – which includes welcome reception, breakfast, transfers between courses and the Shannon Airport, awards reception and prizes – is £545 per person (approximately $900 U.S.).

Joe Russell, general manager of Doonbeg, said the idea for the tournament was triggered by the fact that so many Irish courses were on the Golf World survey.

'We were all delighted to see nine Irish links courses featured,' he said. 'Obviously with the three of us being so close together there is an excellent opportunity to create a promotion such as this.'

The Great Irish Links Challenge host courses

Ireland, not surprisingly, has more links golf courses than most of the rest of the world combined, save Scotland. What makes the links experience so unique is that as the wind off the Atlantic changes, the way you play the courses also drastically changes. Lahinch, Ballybunion and Doonbeg are all within 90 minutes of each other with Doonbeg being in the middle. Lahinch is 40 minutes north and Ballybunion is an hour south.

While Doonbeg doesn't have the history of the other two courses, it follows the same traditions and looks. Designed by Greg Norman, the clubopened in 2002 and was named as Golf Digest's 'Best New International Course that year.' Located in County Clare, the course, like its links predecessors, follows the natural lay of the land for the most part, and the fescue, bentgrass and rye grasses are native to the area.

Ballybunion is located on the northwest coast of County Kerry, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The club has two courses, the new Cashen Course and the Old, the latter of which was ranked as the top course in Ireland by a British online golf publication. Originally founded in 1893, English golf architect Tom Simpson tweaked the course in 1936. With great views of the ocean, and twists and turns through grassy dunes, the Old Course is one of Ireland's top treasures.

The Old Course at Lahinch is also one of Ireland's favorites and often listed among the favorite courses of tour pros. Stewart Cink, who won the 2010 British Open, played Lahinch the week before.

'The first 10 holes at Lahinch are some of the coolest links holes I've ever played,' Cink said.

Founded in 1892, the Old Course at Lahinch was adjusted in 1894 by St. Andrews' own Old Tom Morris and in 1927 by Alister MacKenzie, who designed Cypress Point and Augusta National. Classic designers combine with great natural terrain help make Lahinch one of Ireland's most treasured attractions.

Where to stay for the Challenge

Although it's not included in the entry fee, the Great Irish Links Challenge has partnered with a number of hotels and bed and breakfasts. The host venue is offering the five-star Lodge at Doonbeg, but players can also stay at accommodations at or near Lahinch or Ballybunion.

Besides hotels, there are also several guest houses available, such as the 19th Lodge in Ballybunion or the Dough Mor Lodge near Lahinch. More information can be found at www.greatirishlinkschallenge.com.

The schedule of events will begin on May 22 with a transfer from the Shannon Airport to the Lodge at Doonbeg based on individual flight schedules. Registration begins at 10 a.m. Breakfast each day is at 6 a.m., followed by the tournament rounds at 7. The event concludes with a dinner Wednesday evening at The Lodge at Doonbeg, followed by an awards presentation. Prizes, including crystal trophies to the overall winners, will be given for the first three places as well as the top teams at individual courses.

Upon registering, a 25-percent, nonrefundable deposit is required.

For more information or to register, visit www.greatirishlinkschallenge.com or call +353 65 9055602.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.