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John Duggan's five takeaways f...

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John Duggan's five takeaways from the Irish Open at Lahinch


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The Irish Open at Lahinch was a tremendous success.

I know, I was there. 

Here are five things I took from the week:

1. The Irish Open should be a festival

Having attended the Irish Open at the K Club in 2016, I was aware of the class of the event, which had a brilliant winner in Rory McIlroy, at a top golf course. The only thing that was missing was a sense of festival, which the town and people of Lahinch delivered in spades.

It helps that Lahinch Golf Club is a few hundred yards from the town, but a pedestrianised street, packed pubs, good restaurants, a beach, a bought in community and the novelty of a first ever Irish Open in Clare delivered a magical atmosphere.

European Tour events are now very big projects and one could get the sense of the scale of it all, which is why the Banner county welcomed some of the top golfers in the world and the tournament itself with a massive embrace.

2. Jon Rahm is a major champion in waiting 

The Spaniard is the hottest player in golf right now.

A second Irish Open in three years has capped a run in which Rahm, ranked number eight in the world now, has posted nine top 10's on the US PGA Tour in 2019, including a third place finish in last month's US Open.

Conditions were benign at Lahinch and Rahm took full advantage over the weekend, shooting a 64 and then a 62 to take the title.

All facets of Rahm's game were working.

His brute strength allowed him to gain position with accurate drives, his irons were very sharp and his putting, especially on Sunday, was deadly.

One thing I have noticed from Rahm is that his temperament seems to have improved. A mistake on 13 on Sunday was followed by birdies at 14, 15 and 17. He doesn't show fear and a total of 22 birdies and two eagles over the week is a reflection of his gung-ho approach.

Rahm can play on any course and the 24-year-old must now be a very strong contender for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush next week.

3. There should be a rota of courses, including Lahinch

The Royal and Ancient have a set rota of 10 courses and one has a sense of where the tournament is going.

Currently, St Andrews, Royal Portrush, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry, Royal Lytham and St Annes, Royal Birkdale, Hoylake and Royal St George's are on the rota.

We know we have great golf courses in Ireland, but it would be nice to have some certainty over which courses are going to be used and when the tournament can be fixed in the schedule. Next year, the Irish Open may have to be moved from July due to scheduling issues around a World Golf Championship event in the United States, the Tokyo Olympics and the Ryder Cup.

Great strides have been made in the outstanding work done by Rory McIlroy and Paul McGinley to host the tournament, attract sponsorship money and big names. It's now a Rolex Series event and prize money has doubled over the last decade.

We know where the Open will be until 2021.

It would be good to have similar visibility of our own national championship.

4. Social media and satellite television accentuate great things

If the Irish Open had been staged at Lahinch in 1999, it would have been a well received event, but I get the sense that the majesty of the location, the course and the atmosphere would not have been showcased as well.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook play their part in sharing the sights and the sounds, while SKY Sports golf is now a HD operation of immense quality.

Some of the aerial shots of Lahinch were incredible, aided by good weather.  However, you make your own luck and McGinley, the management of the golf club and Clare county council took full advantage.

It should be a huge boon for tourism in the area, from near and far afield.

5. Padraig Harrington is a national treasure 

Thursday at Lahinch was just one of those beautiful days.

A backdrop of blinding sun and favourite son Padraig Harrington going around in a seven under par round of 63 wrote the headlines for the back pages the following day.

Harrington couldn't repeat the feat over the weekend, but it warms the heart to see that he can still produce excellent golf at 47 years of age, with Ryder Cup captaincy commitments across his schedule a potentially complicating factor.

I have always believed Harrington's ability to get the best out of himself, not to change, to be an ambassador for Irish golf, to never let himself down and to win 3 majors in a global sport makes him our greatest ever sportsperson.

Harrington will tee it up at the Scottish Open this week and he can't be ruled out making the frame at the Open.

 

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