FOTA ISLAND has emerged as a strong rival to Carton House as host venue for next June's Irish Open.
Paul Casey won this year's Irish Open on the Montgomerie Course at Carton and it had been widely assumed that the Maynooth resort would get a second bite at the cherry in 2014, this time on the picturesque O'Meara layout.
Indeed, when the European Tour unveiled its tournament schedule for 2014 yesterday, they initially identified the venue for the Irish Open as Carton House, Maynooth, Co Kildare.
This 'error' was soon corrected with the letters 'TBA' in the space reserved for the tournament venue.
It's understood that Fota Island resort, recently bought from NAMA by a Chinese hotel group for a reported €20m, has now moved purposefully into the frame.
The 5-Star Co Cork resort previously hosted the final two editions of the Murphys Irish Open in 2001, when it was won by Colin Montgomerie, and 2002, when Dane Soren Hansen was crowned champion.
Next year's Irish Open will be played from June 19-22, a week earlier than in 2012 and directly after the US Open at Pinehurst.
The European Tour's 2013-14 season begins next Thursday with the 103rd playing of the South African Open in Johannesburg.
It traverses five continents, with a minimum of 48 tournaments taking place in 26 destinations before the curtain comes down once again with the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, at Jumeirah Golf Estates, from November 20-23 next year.
The Tour has also announced an extension of its Race to Dubai contract with the emirate for another four years through to the end of 2017.
Next year's season will once again conclude with the four-tournament Final Series, culminating in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Controversial rules requiring players to appear in two of the first three Final Series events to play in the grand finale will be reviewed after Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel missed last weekend's DP World Tour Championship.
"The European Tour and I personally share the disappointment that three leading players are not here in Dubai because they didn't fulfil some of those regulations that were introduced," said Tour chief executive George O'Grady. "We are going to try and make sure that doesn't happen again."