Irish stars relishing Mount Juliet homecoming

by | Jun 30, 2022 | 0 comments

Shane Lowry in Mount Juliet (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Séamus Power are excited to tee it up in front of the packed home crowds at Mount Juliet Estate for this week’s Horizon Irish Open.

The home favourites will be backed by Irish golf fans in their thousands, with a sold-out weekend and only a limited number of tickets remaining for the first two days, as all three players return to compete on home soil for the first time this year.

Harrington, the 2007 winner of this event, arrives in County Kilkenny having secured his maiden Senior Major title at last week’s U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley, where he earned a one-stroke victory over fellow former Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.

“It’s great to be back after a win,” said Harrington. “Great to have won on the Champions Tour.  I’ve gone out there for that very reason, to win, rather than play regular events and finish in the top ten.

“Coming here, the crowds, it was a nice atmosphere with people congratulating me. I’m sure it will be like that for the rest of the week. It can be tough being at your home Open, especially if you don’t play well or you’re in the middle of the pack and things aren’t going so well, you feel like you’re letting down the fans.

“I think Mount Juliet lends itself to a great event. It’s got a great atmosphere. All the players are on site. So the players enjoy themselves, and with the crowds coming in, there should be a great buzz. Whoever wins here or gets themselves in contention this week will know all about it. I’m looking forward to it.

“The fans are out and it’s a great week, great venue, Mount Juliet, so I’m going to enjoy myself no matter what, wave to the crowds.

“My display of golf today wouldn’t give you any great confidence about how the rest of the four days, but 24 hours is a long time in golf so I’m hoping that I’ll be well rested by tomorrow.”

Power, the World Number 36, returns to his home Open for the first time in three years and the first time since becoming a PGA TOUR winner at the 2021 Barbasol Championship in Kentucky.

“It’s one I’ve had circled on the calendar for probably six months now, it’s going to be great,” said Power. “I haven’t played since 2019 as obviously the last couple years with COVID has been tricky. I think it’s going to be sold out, and it’s going to be a great week.

“As soon as I saw the draw with Shane, I thought this is going to be pretty cool. Probably some of the biggest crowds that I’ve seen, I’d imagine, with Shane. I’ve known Shane a long time. Haven’t played a ton of competitive rounds as professionals together. We played quite a few practise rounds together, so I think it’s going to be really, really good out there. Big crowds and hopefully the weather is good.

“It’s a completely different experience for me. I’ve played in the States for a long time. I haven’t played that many Irish Opens, and obviously none really as someone near a featured group.

“So it’s going to be a different experience. I feel like I have a good plan set up for it. At the end of the day, I’m going to start a golf tournament tomorrow morning. No matter where it is, I still have to be prepared, do proper warm-ups, having everything taken care of preparation-wise and see where my game stands.”

The highest-ranked player in the field at Mount Juliet is 2019 Open Champion Lowry, who currently occupies 24th on the Official World Golf Ranking, and arrives home off the back of an excellent run of form during which he has missed only one cut in 2022.

“I say it every year, it’s always great to come back to this event,” said Lowry. “It’s kind of close to me, and I owe a lot to it for where I am in the game with the start that I had with the Irish Open in 2009 and it gave me the kick start to my career that I really needed. It definitely gave me one up on the rest of the guys around my level at the time.

“It’s nice to come back here every year. I’m playing some good golf, and I’m just kind of excited for the week ahead, and I’m very hopeful that I put in a good performance.

“It’s been a nice stretch for me, and I feel confident, I feel good about my game. It’s just about managing expectation in a week like this really, but I feel like I’m doing that every week because I feel like every week I play now is such a big week, and every week I really want to do well.

“I’d love myself to do well this week. I’d love myself to be the Irishman to do well. I think obviously Séamus or Padraig, or even anybody, we were all up there on Sunday afternoon, and one of us won it. So it would be great for the tournament and it’d be great for golf if that was the case.”

Australia’s Lucas Herbert will defend the title he won in wire-to-wire fashion at Mount Juliet last year, while Rolex Series winners Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, Aaron Rai and Min Woo Lee will also tee it up this week.

Make-A-Wish Ireland, the Official Charity of the Horizon Irish Open, will benefit from the Birdies for Wishes initiative this week whereby every birdie on the 18th hole at Mount Juliet during tournament play will result in a €500 donation to the charity.

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