Ian Poulter sealed his first win of the year with victory in the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan. Poulter led the event after each round and although challenged early on day four, he kept his cool in gusty winds to take victory with a final round 69 to finish 11 under par 269, 3 shots ahead of fellow FootJoy wearer, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño. Englishman Luke Donald completed the FootJoy 1-2-3 finishing on 7 under. With this win in Japan, Poulter obtained his ninth worldwide victory, and his first in Asia.
Renowned for his flamboyant dress sense, ‘Poults’ sported some FootJoy Classics golf shoes colour coordinated to match the rest of his attire. And to complete his outfit Ian opted for a FootJoy SciFlex golf glove which helped him get his hands on the trophy.
FootJoy - #1 Shoe in Golf
The southwest of Ireland is a place I could never get enough of. Having played these courses the week prior, it is nice to be back through the area with some familiar faces. We arrived to the Dingle Golf Club and were greeted by heavy rain and stiff winds. Dingle played like a tiger that day as the long holes all seemed to play in the wind and the rough gobbled up many of our balls. We must of take our rain gear on and off 4 times as the rain would appear and then just as quick as it appeared it would blow through. The 18th hole is a par 5 up the hill that played directly into the wind. We had a bet to see if anyone could make a par and the best score that was managed on the hole was a 6. It was a round of golf that took a lot out of us but it didn’t damper our spirits later in the day as we put up a fine effort in trying to visit as many pubs as we could in Dingle. Dingle is a town that is buzzing every night during the high season and one that I am sure to visit on every trip.
After a short drive the next morning we arrived at Tralee Golf Club. The rain had moved out but the wind was still a big factor. I had originally visited Tralee in 2001 and our group had 2 of the best caddies I have ever had. As luck would have it, we got paired that morning with one of the caddies from my original visit named Morris. Morris is a slight man, with a weather faced, which reflected the many rounds he has played and caddied at Tralee. Morris had us all laughing before we even teed off as he told us the to put the yardage book in our “***” pocket as it won’t do us a bit of good in this wind. As we walked up the first fairway Morris told me “he had has been dead and reborn.” He then explained he had a heart attack a year ago so now I wondered if I should be the one carrying the bag. With Morris’ company we have a fantastic day on the links and as many laughs as we do strokes, (which is a lot). Tralee was a hit within the group and we top it off with a pint in the bar and then hit the road for our early round in Kinsale the next morning.
As we pulled into Old Head, it was clear we had gotten pretty lucky. The sun is shining without a cloud in the sky and the wind was relatively calm, especially for Old Head. The boys were blown away at the views we were afforded that day. One of the guys in our group had played Pebble Beach before and said the views there don’t even compare to what you get at Old Head. The caddies take an interest in the little match we have set up and decide to set up a bit of a wager between them on whose twosome will take the match. I am not proud to say that being 1 up with 2 to play, my partner and I spit the bit and lost the last 2 holes. I must say, my one shining moment was when I made a birdie on a par 3 and my caddie informed me I had beaten Phil Mickelson on this same hole by 9 shots as he carded an 11 on the hole. I am sure he got me on the other 17 holes but this is the one I can hang my hat on. Following the round, we ate lunch and enjoyed a cigar on the deck outside the clubhouse. It is here you will find one of the best places in the world for a post game drink as you look out over the lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean.
Ballybunion awaited us the next morning and this was the one day we were to play 36 holes. I would not recommend 36 holes a day while visiting Ireland as there is just too much to see and do after your rounds. However, with both courses on site we decided to give it a go. I had not played the Cashen Course at Ballybunion so I was curious to see what it held as I had heard varying reports. Our morning round on the Old Course was a blast as we had 2 good caddies who provided proper guidance and found almost all of the golf balls we tried to lose by hitting into the knee deep rough. I find the 17th and 18th holes at Ballybunion to be a great way to finish a round as they are two solid par 4’s that if played correctly, give you a chance to make a birdie. However, if you make a mistake off the tee, you are in for a big number.
We enjoy a long lunch and a pint or two between rounds and head out to the Cashen course for our afternoon round. I had heard that the Cashen Course, while shorter than the Old, was much more difficult. Well, we found that to be true as well. I must say, we did not enjoy the round as much as our round on the Old Course. I had heard that they had a number of proposals in to redesign the course which I think may be a good idea as it did not measure up to the Old Course experience. Of course, there are not many courses that would so you have to keep that in mind.
Well, only a couple of rounds left and I this great adventure is over. We are heading up to County Clare and I will check back in a couple of days.
Lee Westwood captured the Quinn Direct British Masters at The Belfry with a flawless final round of 65 (-7) and a total of 273 (-15). Westwood secured the victory following a birdie-eagle on holes 16 and 17 to finish five shots clear of runner-up and fellow FootJoy wearer Ian Poulter. The overnight leader Mark Foster shot a final round 73 to finish solo third at 9-under par.
It marked the 18th career PGA European Tour title for Westwood and his second in 2007, following his winning success at the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia earlier this season.
Westwood and Poulter had more than just their 1-2 finish on Sunday. They both chose a pair of white pebble and purple patent FJ Classics Dry Premiere as a perfect compliment to their brilliant play.
FootJoy's latest exciting new signing, 18-year old Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland, finished in 42nd place with a 2-over par 290 total in his professional debut. Just as Westwood and Poulter, McIlroy laced up Classics Dry Premiere shoes for his first tournament. In all, 6 of the top 10 finishers put their trust in FootJoy golf shoes, as did 56% of the field.
FootJoy - #1 Shoe and Glove in Golf
These last few days have been a lot of fun. I first made a return visit to one of Ireland’s most well known courses, Ballybunion. When most people think Irish golf, the Old Course here is one of the first courses out of their mouths. This was my 4th time playing the course and it is a pleasure to play each time. It is not an overly long course by any means but when the wind is blowing it can be a humbling experience which was the case for me. The 15th hole is a par 3 measuring just less than 200 yards and when we got to the tee my caddy handed me my driver and said. “This should get you to about 20 yards short of the green.” I took his word for it and hit a drive square to about 15 yards short of the green. This hole plays into the wind almost all the time and the ladies play it as a par 4 which is a little unfair since they really don’t have anywhere to land the ball short of the green other than the rough. I beat the ball around for most of the day like a 20 handicap but my game comes together on the last 2 holes and I finish par-par. The 18th is a slight dogleg left to an elevated green next to the clubhouse allowing those on the deck to supervise your finish. Although my game was not up to muster, I enjoyed the round and the feeling of history you get when walking the links at Ballybunion.
The next morning I had an 830AM tee time at Lahinch so I headed up there after my round at Ballybunion so I could be close to the course in the morning. That night I made the acquaintance of a few members of Lahinch and what started as “I’ll just have one more, ended with 5 or 6 and usual statements about having to sleep on the couch once they got home.” It reminded of a song from the Irish band Gaelic Storm, “Don’t go for the one.” If you have never heard the song, give it a listen and you will get a good laugh.
I grab a nightcap at Frawley’s Pub. This is a landmark in Lahinch and is run by Mr. Frawley who is said to be the oldest publican in Ireland. It is a tiny pub with one beer on tap, (Guinness of course) and one bartender, Mr. Frawley. He is a man in his 80’s and the bar closes a few times a day so he can have his tea, dinner, and so on. Getting a pint here is like taking a step back in time and an experience not to be missed if every in Lahinch.
The next morning at Lahinch I headed off into a windswept rainstorm for my last round in Ireland with unfamiliar faces. The next morning, 3 friends from the States were to arrive and join me for my last week. Lahinch is a golf course rich in history and tradition. Alister McKenzie designed much of the course as you see it today back in 1927 but there have been some recent upgrades designed by well known architect Martin Hawtree. Both men’s work is superb and the course is a golf experience not to be missed. Lahinch is most well known for its 4th and 5th holes, “Klondye” and “The Dell” respectively. The 4th is a short par 5 downwind that you must play your second shot blind over a towering dune to the green. The 5th is a completely blind par 3 to a green located in the hollow between 3 dunes. There is a white rock placed on the top of the mound to give you a direction to hit. I must say, while these holes are the ones most people associate with Lahinch, I find them to be the 2 weakest on the course. I am partial to the last 5 holes. 14 and 15 are to very long par 4’s that provide a challenge for the longest hitters and 16, 17, and 18 are a par 3, 4 and 5 respectively all heading towards to the clubhouse. It is one of the best finishes in all of Ireland. I toasted my last round with a few pints and called it an early night as my friends were due to arrive at 630AM.
My friends arrived into Shannon in good order and we made our way down to the Ring of Kerry to kick off our week together with a round at the Dooks. I had figured it would be a nice introduction to links for the boys but the day greeted us with strong winds and rain. Instead of a nice, leisurely first round we grind our way around the course trying to keep all of our balls in play with little success. It is a rude introduction to Irish golf but a good time none the less. We overnighted in Killarney and visited as many pubs as we could with the boys having not slept in close to 24 hours.
The next day greeted us with a blanket of sunshine and warm (relatively speaking) temperatures. The boys all played well at Waterville and we were blessed with a caddie who seemed to know every inch of the course. Waterville is a course that grows on you every time you play and I would say that it would fall into the top 5 of all the courses I played this summer.
We are off to explore the rest of Kerry and Clare before we head home. I’ll check back in a few days.