Herbert has Irish eyes smiling becoming third Aussie to win Irish Open

by | Jul 4, 2021 | 0 comments

Lucas Herbert with his caddie Nick Pugh after winning the Irish Open trophy (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Bernie McGuire

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Lucas Herbert had Irish eyes smiling through dismal conditions to lead from start-to-finish in superbly capturing the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Co. Kilkenny.

Herbert, 25, was never headed over the four rounds, and while tied for the lead with nine holes to play, the Bendigo-born golfer fought on through the rain to emerge a brilliant three-shot winner in signing for a closing four-under par 68 to win by three shots at 19-under par on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet course.

Herbert had captured a maiden European Tour win on Australia Day 2020 with his Omega Dubai Classic play-off success and now a second win on American Independence Day, where he’s now based in suburban Orlando.

Sweden’s Rickard Karlberg sensationally chipped-in for birdie at the last in a round of 67 to secure second place at 16-under par while American Johannes Veerman, who partnered Herbert over the last day, bogeyed two of his closing three holes in a 71 to end in third place on 15-under par. All three players earned exemption into next week’s 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.

In becoming only the third Australian in 71-years to capture the Irish Open, Herbert spoke not only of his joy in winning a second Tour title but also the pain of contesting the event two years ago at Lahinch when, despite a closing 65, the then 23-year-old finished well down the field and wondering if he had a career in the ancient club-and-ball game.

Herbert arrived into the Media Centre proudly clutching the gleaming Waterford Crystal trophy and was smiling in remarking: “You’re not going to get my hands off this one for a little while I think. This one is coming with me for a bit. I’m looking at the names on that trophy, as well. It’s pretty special. To add my name to that list is something that no one can take away from me now, and, yeah, very, very satisfying to win.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

It was, however, not all plain sailing for the Bendigo-born Herbert over the last day of a 65th European Tour event. He commenced the final round a shot clear and stormed three ahead with back-to-back birdies at two and three.

Though it turned slightly pear-shape in leaking a drive right off the tee at the par-5 fifth that bounced off a cart path and deep into trees from where he took an ‘unplayable’ penalty drop on route to a bogey ‘6’. Herbert was again well right off the tee at the par-4 seventh but managed to hole an ‘knee-knocking’ eight-footer to save par.

Then at the par-8th, a hole Herbert had birdied over the three prior rounds, his tee shot headed left and deep into the trees from where he had a slight ‘window’ back to the fairway but only to clip a branch. Herbert then hit a third short of the green before a chip to some 10-feet from where he holed-out for a great par-saving putt.

Walking the course with Herbert was SKY Sports Wayne ‘Radar’ Riley who contested the 1995 Irish Open and finished T11th with then World No. 1 Greg Norman when the event was last held at Mount Juliet. And ‘Radar’ summed-up Herbert’s poor driving with the following on-air remark:

“Lucas off the tee has been going in every direction like the fireworks off the Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year’s Eve,” said Riley.

Herbert headed to the inward nine now sharing the lead on 16-under with Italy’s Francesco Laporta and was in more trouble off the par-5 10th tee with his ball again left into the trees.  Any anxiety was eased with Herbert finding the fairway and then clearing the tree tops at the dog-leg hole to find the green before holing a super 25-footer for birdie to get back to a one-shot lead on 17-under par.

Herbert parred the next four holes and as the heavens again opened, he leaked his drive down the right side of the par-4 15th and then hit another super shot over trees to find a greenside bunker well short of the flag from where he brilliantly pulled off his ‘shot of the tournament’ in landing the ball within tap-in distance for pa. With Johannes taking a bogey ‘4’, Herbert was now two shots clear.

A fifth birdie of his round at the par-5 17th delivered Herbert a now three-shot leading cushion and with just a hole and with three putts up his sleeve to win the title, he rolled-in his par putt at the 72nd ahead a jubilant right fist pump.

Victorious 2014 European Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley and now one of the more astute TV analysts in the business, summed-up Herbert’s victory on SKY Sports.

“Lucas has shown great resilience today,” said McGinley. “He’s not had his best game but he’s played the difficult shots when needed and all credit to him. There was some calmness about him. A little bit of extra class about him. Others were looking to secure a place in The Open, and seeking to win for a first time whereas Herbert, and in the heat of battle, was superb.”

The new World No. 54 ranked Herbert will next tee-up in Thursday’s starting Scottish Open on the links-like Renaissance Club to the east of Edinburgh before heading south to Kent for the rescheduled 149th Open that was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Any time you can get into The Open championship, it’s a great experience,” he said. “There’s so many good courses on that rota, and I haven’t played Royal St. George’s yet but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think there’s any bad Open Championships to play. I’m very much looking forward to that.

“I think I just kind of want to celebrate this one a little bit first and then I’ll be able to move on to that one.”

And although not being born when Norman captured the 1993 Open at Royal St. George’s, Herbert revealed he’s watched video footage of Norman’s second Open Championship success

“I’ve been back and watched a little bit. I don’t think I’ve watched it fully just because I’ve never played the course before,” said Herbert.

“It’s just hard to relate as much. But I’ve definitely watched old footage of Greg winning that event. The flowing blond locks that he had; he had like a black sweater on with a shark logo on it, pretty iconic from Greg, as well. Yeah, I’ve gone back and watched it a little bit but I’ll definitely be revisiting that footage. I’m pretty sure it’s on YouTube so I’ll be looking at it before I go down to Royal St. George’s for sure.”

LUCAS HERBERT – DUBAI DUTY FREE IRISH OPEN VICTORY FILE

  • Second European Tour victory in his 65th Tour event
  • The third Australian to win the Irish Open after Ossie Pickworth in 1950 and Brett Rumford in 2004
  • Will jump from 91st to 54th on the World Rankings and now the fourth highest ranked Australian
  • The 136th Australian-born golfer to win in the 49-year history of the European Tour.
  • The first Australian to win on the European Tour since Min Woo Lee captured the 2020 (Feb) ISPS Handa Vic Open.
  • Earns a place in the 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.  It will be a second Open after contesting the 2018 Open.
  • Full scoring HERE

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