Home advantage could prove decisive at Royal County Down claims Des Smyth

Irish golfing legend Des Smyth meets pupils from Fairview Primary School
Irish golfing legend Des Smyth meets pupils from Fairview Primary School

Royal County Down will be an unknown quantity for the majority of the field competing in the Irish Open and that could play into the hands of the ‘home’ players according to Irish golfing legend Des Smyth.

“I think there will be a big advantage for the home players at RCD because no-one has played it,” said the Dubai Duty Free tournament ambassador.

“The rest of the field won’t realise just how difficult it will be and if there is a bit of wind, their expectations might be too high.

“The guys who have played it know how tough it can be and they will be able to manage their games accordingly, so don’t be surprised if something strange happens.”

With the stage set and the field gathering for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation the famous links is primed to take centre stage after a 76 year absence.

Smyth rates Royal County Down as one of the most demanding courses in the world and believes the players will need to get a couple of practice rounds in to really get a feel for the place.

“It depends on the wind, just like any links course, it needs a breeze to blow,” he added.

“RCD is right up there in terms of difficulty alongside Carnoustie and Birkdale but these are world class players and they are used to judging a course fairly quickly.”

From the outside it’s hard to gauge how Royal County Down will play this week, but the last time a professional championship was held at the course was back in 2002 when Japan’s Nobaru Sugai won the Senior British Open with a score of just three under par.

Regardless of the scoring, Smyth is looking forward to an event which has already drawn comparisons with the glory days of the Irish Open back in the 1980s.

He continued, “I played all those years back and don’t get me wrong, they had great players involved, the likes of Seve, Norman and Lyle.

“I look back with regret that I never won it. I think I finished third a couple of times and I had some good runs at it but I just wasn’t good enough.

“They were great Irish Opens but this is right up there. The combination of Rory’s Foundation, The European Tour and Dubai Duty Free has really created a stir.

“When you think that Rory is the world number one player and he is bringing Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia; it is really big stuff.”

As part of his ambassadorial role Smyth has spent the last couple of weeks touring schools that won the inaugural Irish Open Trophy Tour competition.

The four winning schools hosted a visit not only from the Irish Open Trophy but also the Claret Jug and participated in a Q&A session with Smyth, and representatives of The European Tour, Rory Foundation and Royal County Down Golf Club.

The pupils also took part in a Confederation of Golf in Ireland ‘Golf Awareness Clinic’ which gave them a fun introduction to the sport.

“We got a very good reaction,” added Des

“I was a bit out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed the whole experience.

“They all recognised the Claret Jug big time, but they were also quite fascinated with the Irish Open Trophy as well, especially the schools in Northern Ireland [Woodlawn PS and Fairview PS] because they knew the tournament was happening soon.”