Im­mel­man con­fi­dent to steal McIl­roy’s show

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

For­mer US Masters cham­pion Trevor Im­mel­man is hop­ing to reg­is­ter his first ma­jor win in ten years when he tees up at the Dubai Duty-Free Ir­ish Open at the K Club, Straf­fan, in the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land, start­ing on Thurs­day.

The 36-year-old Cape Town-born golfer earned his green jacket in 2008 by edg­ing out Tiger Woods by three strokes and has since been dogged by a spate of in­juries. This made it im­pos­si­ble for him to make a mark on the greens at home and in the Euro­pean and PGA tours re­spec­tively where he cur­rently swings his clubs com­pet­i­tively.

He fin­ished a dis­ap­point­ing 97th at the SA Open Cham­pi­onship at Glen­dower GC, Ekurhu­leni, on Jan­uary 10. He failed to make the cut at the Joburg Open at Royal Jo­han­nes­burg & Kens­ing­ton GC a week later.

He says he would like to use the Ir­ish event as a step­ping stone to re­gain his win­ning ry­thm.

The con­test sanc­tioned by the Euro­pean Tour is spe­cial in that it is hosted by for­mer three-time ma­jor win­ner Rory McIl­roy on be­half of his Rory Foun­da­tion for chil­dren.

It is the flag­ship com­pe­ti­tion on the tour that will fea­ture the cream of the crop show­cas­ing their tal­ent and bat­tling to lay their hands on the €4 mil­lion (R69 mil­lion) prize money.

Led by reign­ing Masters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett from Eng­land, the field in­cludes eight ma­jor cham­pi­ons among 12 top-50 play­ers in the of­fi­cial world golf rank­ing. World num­ber three McIl­roy heads up the Ir­ish con­tin­gent of big win­ners, which in­cludes 2007 Ir­ish Open cham­pion Padraig Har­ring­ton, Dar­ren Clarke, Ger­many’s Martin Kaymer, Korea’s YE Yang and Im­mel­man, mak­ing up one of the strong­est fields in the com­pe­ti­tion’s his­tory.

Im­mel­man said he was con­fi­dent of boost­ing his mo­rale by win­ning the Ir­ish con­test.

“I’m fired-up be­cause it has been a long time since I last tasted the vic­tory of a big event like the Masters” said Im­mel­man.

“The fact that the Ir­ish Open is co­hosted by a top player like Rory makes for great com­pe­ti­tion among all top par­tic­i­pants. I in­tend to give it my best shot and win the tro­phy.”

Den­mark’s Søren Kjeld­sen is the reign­ing cham­pion af­ter pre­vail­ing in a three-man play-off with Aus­trian Bernd Wies­berger and English­man Ed­die Pep­perell at Royal County Down Golf Club to claim his fourth Euro­pean Tour ti­tle last year.

The Ir­ish Open has a rich his­tory, hav­ing made its mark on the Euro­pean golf­ing cal­en­dar in 1975. Its list of cham­pi­ons reads like a who’s who of golf it­self and fea­tures lu­mi­nar­ies in­clud­ing the late Span­ish great Seve Balles­teros, re­tired New Zealan­der Michael Camp­bell and Sir Nick Faldo – an English pro­fes­sional golfer on the Euro­pean Tour, who is now mainly an on-air golf an­a­lyst.

PHOTO: RICHARD HEATHCOTE / GETTY IM­AGES

CARE­FUL Trevor Im­mel­man stud­ies the green dur­ing the Joburg Open TREVOR IM­MEL­MAN

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