McDowell: The Irish Open is the fifth major
Thu, 28 Jun 2012 1:55p.m.
World number 11 Graeme McDowell said that the Irish Open at Royal Portrush has the feel of a major championship.
The appearance of Northern Irish trio McDowell, Rory McIlroy and British Open winner Darren Clarke at this week's event, plus triple major champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland, has helped the European Tour to achieve a first by declaring a sellout for all four days.
Organisers are expecting around 100,000 people to turn up as the tournament returns to the famous old links course for the first time since 1947.
"The Irish Open there is always a sense of pressure and a sense of expectation from the crowds and what not and yeah we joke about it being the fifth major but any Irish player would be very proud to have the Irish Open on his CV," McDowell said. "To win in front of his home fans I think is a very special thing and that's just kind of exaggerated even more this week to be in my home town, a golf course that I've grown up on and theoretically know fairly well.
"There's no doubt there's added pressure and that's why I'm very motivated to try and get out of the gates the next couple of days and get into contention early this week."
Clarke added: "I think the biggest one (compliment) is that they said it's like the Open. I don't think any tournament can be praised higher than that because the Open is the biggest and best tournament in the world.
"Obviously because I won it last year I have to say that but it is the biggest and best tournament in the world and for guys to come along here and say that looking around everything feels like an Open Championship that is as big praise as anybody can give it."
Clarke also felt the conditions at Royal Portrush would favour the Irish golfers.
"The golf courses I've played at there have been some horrific conditions," Clarke said, "so hopefully that will be a little bit of an advantage as I'm sure it will be to most of the Irish guys that have played here before.
"It's a golf course that you need to know a little bit and that can only help in bad weather. As for myself I've been working away and hopefully things will turn around pretty soon and get back to where I should be playing."
For American Keegan Bradley this will be his first tournament in Europe as he prepares for his maiden Open Championship next month.
The world number 23 is looking forward to the challenge but admitted he does not know too much about links golf.
"I don't have any links experience except in America which is nothing compared to this," he said. "You get firm, big hops out here, you know by the ocean, cold and I've played links courses but they just don't play like this.
"They don't have these humps and these stuff which has just been here for hundreds of years and I would have come over here regardless even if I wasn't in the Open Championship because I wanted to play but it just so happens it fits in perfectly as a nice little warm-up to the Open and that's definitely some experience that I'm going to be able to have that's going to really help me come that time."
The Irish Open starts this Friday.
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