A major success at Portrush
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster presents Irish Open winner Jamie Donaldson with the trophy on the Final Day of the Irish Open at Portrush.
It has taken ten years since first joining the golf's elite, but Jamie Donaldson has finally claimed his first European Tour victory in his 255th appearance with a four shot triumph in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
Huge crowds flocked to the iconic course to hopefully see one of our local players claim the rejuvenated event but it was Welsh-born Donaldson who spoiled the party with a stunning final round of 66 capped by a 25-foot putt at the 72nd hole.
It was one of four birdies in the last five holes that finally shattered the dreams of England's Anthony Wall, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti who finished joint second on a day that will be best remembered for the thousands who turned up to support the event.
Record crowds of 112,000 cheered on Europe's best over the four days hoping to will home favorites Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and tournament host Darren Clarke to the title. But although a strong Irish contingent performed admirably it was Donaldson's day in the end.
Donaldson, a former amateur partner of Luke Donald and Paul Casey, was thrilled with his win.
"I'm buzzing," he said. "And so happy to have won on this course - we haven't played a better one on the European Tour."
Despite an almost permanent smile, it was a disappointing day for Harrington.
Just two behind the overnight leaders, he had a chance to light up the town but could only manage a 70 and had to settle for seventh. Had Harrington capitalized on some sublime iron play he would have definitely threatened Donaldson's winning score.
As for McIlroy, who came in on the back of four missed cuts in his last five starts, he was delighted with his ball-striking and hopes the improvement will continue when he next competes at Royal Lytham in a couple of weeks. Again had McIlroy holed his fair share of putts he too would have threatened top spot.
''Tee to green it was a big improvement," said the world number two after his 67 for tenth place. "That's what I've been working on and maybe neglecting my short game.
"I've just got to get that sharp now and prepare for The Open - and I'd love to see it come here to Portrush."
And certainly the town enhanced its credentials for an Open Championship to return for the first time since 1951 - it certainly produced the crowds, the course and a quality winner.
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This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 05 Jul 12