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LIV Tour saga hangs in the shadows as golf world comes together on final day of McManus Pro-Am

The same question was on everyone’s lips – how does JP McManus do this?

YOU ARRIVE at the JP McManus Pro-Am and you leave asking the same question. 

How, exactly, does he do it? 

The field assembled at Adare Manor was extraordinary. A firmament of celebrities playing alongside 10 of the world’s top 12 golfers and Tiger Woods, all of whom flew in without an appearance fee to play for a prize fund that is traditionally handed back to the local charities for which the event is run. 

“I couldn’t tell you how many people have asked me that over the last couple of weeks”, smiled Shane Lowry, “and I still don’t have the answers. When you get here and you see the hospitality that everyone gets, how good a time everybody is having…speaking to a few of the American golfers, they can’t believe how good the place is.

“The wives are getting looked after: that’s a big thing, keep them happy and the players will be happy! It’s been an incredible few days, and if he was to have it again in a few weeks’ time, I think everyone would come back again.” 

The welcoming gifts are generous, and a brand new set of clubs were among the benefits showered upon the amateur players. 

This was the sixth staging of the event and it has long reached the point of administering a nigh-lethal dose of FOMO to anyone within a whiff of an invite: Westlife made sure there was a gap in their schedule ahead of two concerts at the Aviva this weekend to make it down to Limerick. 

Tiger Woods was the rocket booster that sent this Pro-Am into the stratosphere, though he hasn’t yet detached from it. Perhaps he never will. 

Woods will play four events this year: three majors and the JP McManus Pro-Am. Having withdrawn from the US PGA Championship, Woods then skipped the US Open. “Physically I was not able to do that”, said Woods this afternoon of the latter. “I had some issues with my leg and it would have put this tournament in jeopardy, and so there was no reason to do that.” 

Woods didn’t just draw the crowd. Michael Carrick flew in at short notice when he heard he had the chance to see him, while John Terry relegated himself to a rare role as the shy, bashful guy in the room when he said he simply wanted to get a photo with Woods.  

Padraig Harrington indicated ahead of the Pro-Am that McManus is a good friend for a golfer to have, and Woods’ friendship with him is genuine. Despite countless opportunities, neither have ever explored the deeper strata of their friendship publicly. But their mutual respect for discretion is one of their common traits: Woods, after all, once bought a yacht and named it Privacy.  

tiger-woods-and-jp-mcmanus Tiger Woods and JP McManus speak on the course. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We know how much JP means to golf and what he’s done for our sport”, said Woods, “and any time we can help out any which way we possibly can, we do. This is one of the ways we can pay tribute to JP and what he’s done. I know he hates limelight and he hates getting in front of cameras, but we’ll go ahead and do that for him.” 

Such is McManus’ impression on his event, its conversations have bent to his passions, too. “Enjoy the hurling at the weekend, Bill?” said one fan to Bill Murray, in that curiously familiar way Irish people have of talking to the rich and famous. Murray was at Croke Park with McManus on Sunday, and he later sympathised with a Clare fan by praising their comeback against Wexford, which he also attended with McManus.

Adam Scott spent Sunday in a Limerick jersey too, marvelling at their hurlers’ intensity.

“They would run through walls!”, he told Johnny Murtagh, expressing amazement that they did this for free. ‘You’d make a fine centre-forward’, Murtagh told Scott.

McManus brought the golfing world together at the very time the sport is tearing itself apart, and the LIV Golf schism hung in the background throughout. Padraig Harrington made the case to put it one side: “Being here is a little like Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with your family, you could be a Republican and the person opposite you might be a Democrat, but politics isn’t mentioned over the dinner table”, while Lowry assured us there was no divisiveness behind the scenes. “It’s absolutely not divisive. Look, there’s Lee Westwood! I like him!”, to which the passing Westwood shouted back, “I love you.” 

Woods, meanwhile, was bafflingly not asked anything about the LIV Tour at his press conference. 

graeme-mcdowell Graeme McDowell. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Graeme McDowell’s burgeoning quality of giving unmissable interviews continued apace, however, as he gave a remarkably raw account of his reaction to the world’s reaction to his comments upon joining the Saudi tour. McDowell revealed he has been inundated with death threats since joining the LIV Tour; admitted the decision to join was motivated by money; lamented the fact he didn’t simply say nothing on joining the tour; trashed the Belfast Telegraph over a headline reading, “I’m proud to help the Saudis”; conveyed deep disappointment at being sidelined from the Irish Open and the majors; and spoke with the conflicted emotion of a man still chafing at accepting the consequences of his bumper pension plan. 

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“Listen, fuck, like some guy from Amnesty International, sent me the quotes, asked me to respond”. said McDowell. “How am I supposed to respond to Amnesty International? That’s called fighting a losing battle.”

On the course, Lowry made a late charge for the individual professional’s title but fell two shots short of winner Xander Schauffele. He whipped the crowd into a frenzy while doing so, stopping at one point to sign his autograph on the bald head of Rory from Rory’s Stories

Other important issues were settled too: which of Alan Hansen, John Terry, and Kenny Dalglish are the most famous in Ireland? 

john-terry-and-kenny-dalglish John Terry and Kenny Dalglish on the course at Adare Manor. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Recency bias didn’t swing it for Terry, with Dalglish inundated with requests for autographs and photos during his round with Padraig Harrington. Kids ran from the fringes and onto the fairways for their moment with Dalglish, perhaps sent sprinting like soldiers over the first trench by their fathers. 

Harrington starred, tying the course record set yesterday by Schauffele with a sparkling 64, which slightly but nonetheless further stirs the delicious prospect of him carrying this form toward a tilt at a third Claret Jug at St Andrews next week. 

The Pro-Am will surely return, though retaining it’s intended five-year intervals will be complicated by the small issue of the Ryder Cup that will be hosted at Adare Manor in 2027.

Such is the grandeur of the house that JP built. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the JP McManus Pro-Am, Adare Manor

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