The biggest names in world golf descended on Adare today for the first round of the JP McManus Pro-Am and this writer was fortunate enough to be in attendance.
Upon entering the immaculately manicured grounds of Adare Manor I spied Tom Hoge teeing off on the 13th hole, one of his amateur playing partners was former EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, no mention of the infamous Oireachtas Golf Society scandal was made before he teed off.
Next up on the 12th fairway I found the first of the LIV Golf rebels – Pat Perez, he sent his approach shot long and over the back of the green, his short game saved him getting up and down for par.
The man setting the early pace was Brandon Stone who I caught on the 11th, a good look for birdie went narrowly by for the South African who seemed to really be embracing the event, laughing and joking with his playing partners while also giving them the odd read on the greens.
The four man committee I was part of then decided it would be best to find a position to set up base for the day, just across from the first green was ideal to get a close look at the world’s best in action.
Come the afternoon it was big name after big name, Tyrrell Hatton made par playing alongside Kenny Daglish, Alan Hansen and John Terry, the latter seeing a birdie putt slip past the hole, shades of a rainy Moscow night in 2008…
Another LIV rebel and big hitter was next, Bryson Dechambeau who opted for an iron off the tee meaning we were just about safe from his drive and he went on to make par. Next up was the World Number 3 Jon Rahm who made a great lag putt to set up par.
Then came the first of the home favourites Shane Lowry, the Offaly man almost got his round off to a phenomenal start with an eagle as his approach shot spun back towards the hole but he would happily settle for a birdie. Justin Thomas followed Lory with a solid par to settle any pre-round nerves.
Yet another LIV rebel arrived in the form of Brooks Koepka, a man much maligned for his moodiness Koepka was in great spirits laughing with his playing partners who managed to make birdie as the American settled for par.
One of the finest iron players in the world arrived before us next in the form of Collin Morikawa, his approach found a high mound to the right of the green. The two time major champion delivered a deft chip that went close to going in but ultimately resulted in a fine opening par.
Jordan Spieth was next to reach the first green he had a good look at birdie but got his line wrong and added the growing list of pars. Just as Spieth was holing out the roar came.
That roar could be for one man only. Tiger Woods. As I looked up the fairway all I could see was a swarm of bodies either side of the fairway as a cavalcade of golf buggies advanced towards the green. Tiger sadly was driving one as he continues to battle the damaged sustained to his right leg in his car crash last year.
Woods didn’t let his leg get in the way though as he played a superb approach shot to about 15 feet which was met with rapturous applause. Tiger has long been a great ambassador for the game of golf and he opted to walk across the small bridge onto the green directly across from me to the delight of those gathered around the green. While he wouldn’t make birdie, to see one of, if not the greatest player, of all time putt 20 yards away was a spine tingling moment and is one item ticked off my bucket list.
Another home favourite was next up, Leona Maguire who received warm applause as she made par to get her round up and running. Then came another roar or to be more precise Rory.
McIlroy made the most of his driving ability and his second shot rivalled that of Lowry only a foot between the two men. However McIlroy’s putter has gone cold of late and he missed what looked to be an easy birdie putt settling for par.
To my astonishment the crowds then began to disperse from the first green, most opting to follow Tiger or Rory, despite the fact the World Number 1 Scottie Scheffler was about to deliver his approach shot. The Texan hit the green too hot and skidded into a hollow to the left. But as one would expect from a player in as rich a vein of form as Scheffler he proceeded to chip the ball onto the green rolling it inches from the hole for a tap in par.
Dustin Johnson was the last of the big names teeing off on the front nine and he too would have to settle for par. He was soon followed by another Irish favourite Seamus Power who was in a bit of trouble off the tee and his approach left a long birdie putt that resulted in par.
Time was flying by but we decided to wait and see one of the nation’s greatest ever golfers. Before that we were treated to the colourful Ian Poulter sporting a green and navy checked pants. The Englishman did well to manoeuvre his approach shot around a tree to have a look at birdie but once again the first hole offered up only a par.
The final player we would admire was the recently crowned US Senior Open Champion Padraig Harrington. Harrington smashed his drive down the fairway leaving just a wedge in. The Dubliner produced a thing of beauty to land his ball 5 feet from the hole. He proceeded to make a birdie to get back to level par for the day.
With that we headed for the car park after a truly unforgettable day on a very special golf course in pristine condition. The one man we didn’t see however was the man setting the course alight.
Xander Schauffele takes a three-shot lead into the final round tomorrow. He fired eight birdies in a brilliant bogey-free start with an eight-under 64 giving him a commanding advantage.
JP McManus is putting on a real show for golf lovers and all for the benefit of charities in the mid-west, all I can say is thanks JP, there few men in this country that could pull off an event like your Pro-Am.