Any conversation with Simon Dyson about the highlights of his career invariably ends with the Malton man fondly recalling his final round at last year’s Irish Open.
“I have never played as well as I did that day. I had the ball on a string,” he will say of his one-shot victory over Richard Green.
Golfers strive to feel in complete control of their game almost as much as they yearn to win tournaments.
At Killarney Golf and Fishing Club last year, those two often elusive goals collided as Dyson landed his fifth European Tour title.
Dyson, who dropped just three shots in four rounds, said: “My main memories from last year were coming down the stretch on the final day, starting with my nine-iron tee shot into the par three 10th.
“That got everything rolling really. My four iron into the 11th to 12 feet was probably one of the best shots I hit all season, and the whole back nine was probably the best golf I played all year.
“I gave myself loads of chances and never got into any real trouble. To play that well and not win the tournament would’ve been heartbreaking, so the sense of relief when I got over the line was overwhelming.
“The Irish Open is a tournament you want your name associated with. I’m lucky enough to have won a few times on the European Tour, but that final round was definitely one of the highlights of my career.”
Dyson has the chance to become the first man since Colin Montgomerie in 1997 to defend the title this week, not at Killarney as last year, but at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
Having only played Portrush during an amateur career which included a victorious appearance at the 1999 Walker Cup, Dyson’s first-hand knowledge of the stunning 6,843 yards, par-72 layout in County Antrim falls short of the host nation’s quartet of major champions, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. But having received glowing reports from reigning Open champion Clarke and 2010 US Open champion McDowell, Dyson is relishing the prospect of making his first professional outing at Portrush.
He said: “I played Portrush in the Home Internationals for England, but I can’t remember too much of the place.
“However, I’ve been chatting with Graeme and Darren, and they both say it’s a fantastic course, so I’m really looking forward to defending my title there. I’ve never managed to defend a title before in my career, so the Irish Open wouldn’t be a bad place to start.”
Should he retain the Irish Open title, Dyson will join an exclusive club containing some of the game’s greats; Montgomerie, Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam.
He goes into the tournament in good form, having completed four rounds at the US Open and tying for 12th place in Germany last week.
BMW International Open winner Danny Willett looks to continue his good form, as does Richard Finch, the 2008 Irish Open champion, who on Monday qualified for next month’s Open.
Danny Denison is also in the field and, along with thousands of golf fans, will be asking: How on earth did McIlroy shoot 61 here and how on earth did he do it when he was just 16 years old?
Seven years on, McIlroy is back as world No 2 and as a major winner as well, but he is also desperate to hit back from four missed cuts in his last five starts.
Although the last of those was his US Open title defence just two weeks ago, the Holywood star sounds upbeat as he approaches what is bound to be a memorable few days for all those concerned with the event’s return north.
“The first European Tour event to sell out is something that’s obviously got a lot of people very excited and it’s shaping up to be a great week,” he said.
“In a way it couldn’t be a better time to come back here and play Portrush. It brings back so many good memories and you can feed off that.”
The main memory, of course, is that 61.
“I can basically remember every shot. I remember I missed a six-footer on the first for birdie – it could have been better.”
Alex Belt of Bridlington Links overcame a three-shot deficit to win the Yorkshire PGA Championship at Willow Valley.
Trailing Neil Cheetham (Dore and Totley), Belt fired a 71 yesterday to post a level-par total of 144 at the West Yorkshire course.
Cheetham finished second after adding a 75 to his opening 70 for a 145 total.
Matt Marsh (Hallowes) 74, 73, and Paul Carman (Huddersfield) 73, 74 finished tied third.