French Open and Bridgestone now scheduled for same week
Published 12/08/2015 | 02:30
Ireland's world stars are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war centred on next year's French Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational tournament.
A clash of dates due to golf's return to the Olympic Games means that both events are being staged on different sides of the Atlantic from June 30-July 3 next year.
Once the PGA Tour adjusted their tournament calendar, by moving the $9.25m Bridgestone Invitational, won last Sunday by Shane Lowry, the onus was on the European Tour to respond.
They did so by withdrawing sanction for the American event and refusing to award Ryder Cup or Race to Dubai points to it - causing a huge dilemma for Lowry in particular.
As defending champion in 2016, he would be expected to return to Firestone in normal circumstances, but one of Lowry's key goals is to play on the Ryder Cup team.
The message is clear: Europeans who want to gain Ryder Cup points at a crucial period of the season need to be in Paris instead of Akron, Ohio, in the first week of July next year.
Lowry, who last played in the French Open three years ago, is focused purely on the US PGA Championship and looking to bring his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational form to Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.
"Obviously, it's a year away and the same week as the French Open, so I will have to make a decision nearer the time, or at the start of next year when I set out my schedule.
"It is a bit disappointing that it clashes with the French Open, though I haven't played it (Paris) for three years.
"I have no idea what I am going to do. It will be hard not to go back and defend the title, but it's a Ryder Cup year and it's going to be a difficult decision to make for everyone. We will see nearer the date," he added.
Graeme McDowell, winner of the Alstom Open de France, to give it its full title, in 2013 and 2014, has already said he will play in Paris ahead of the US event.
"It's a tournament which I want to be loyal to because of the success I have had there."
McDowell admitted there was a "little bit of surprise" among the players at the clash of dates, adding: "I don't see myself as necessarily a European Tour player. I'm a PGA Tour player also, but Europe is where I learned this great game.
"The schedule is a mess next summer, let's be honest. The Ryder Cup race is going to be heating up.
"There's going to be a lot of things going on this time next year," added McDowell.
Darren Clarke, captain of Europe for the Ryder Cup match at Hazeltine next year, said he was proud of the European Tour's decision.
"With the Olympics coming into the schedule for next year, it' was always going to be difficult to please everybody.
"Difficult decisions have to be made, and I'm proud of the decision the European Tour has made," he said.
The Olympic golf tournament will be played from August 11-14 next year in Rio Di Janeiro.
Golf's return to the Games' roster for the first time since St Louis staged the Olympics in 1904 has caused schedule changes to a number of tournaments on both sides of the Atlantic.