Sunday 22 October 2017

Irish fans hoping Garcia will join Augusta rival Rose at Portstewart

Justin Roseis is booked for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart in July. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP
Justin Roseis is booked for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart in July. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Justin Rose is booked for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart in July, and Irish fans hope that Masters champion Sergio Garcia will return to Northern Ireland for his second appearance in two years.

Rose and Garcia captivated the golf world with their duel in the sun before the Spaniard ended his Major title hoodoo at Augusta on Sunday.

Garcia's next two tournaments are the Players Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson, both in May.

As Masters champion, he can expect all sorts of demands on and off the course, but the Irish Open's new date, July 6-9, and its inclusion in the Rolex Series of events, each of which carries a $7m (€6.6m) prize fund, could tempt Garcia to play at Portstewart.

His last Irish Open was at Royal County Down in 2015 ago when Rory McIlroy called in a few favours to attract big names for the tournament which is hosted by his Foundation.

Ernie Els, Garcia and Rickie Fowler answered the call, and in turn, McIlroy agreed to play tournaments for them.

This year, with the Irish Open taking place on a links two weeks before the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Garcia might need little, or no persuading by McIlroy.

The Irish Open holds a special place in Garcia's heart, as he won at Druids Glen in 1999, his rookie year as a pro, at the age of 19.

Justin Rose had already decided Portstewart was on his schedule for the summer, telling the golfbytourmiss website: "I figured in working out my schedule ahead of The Open that I would either play the Irish Open or the Scottish Open, so I've decided to contest the Irish.

Rankings

Rose, who has moved from 14 to eighth place in the World rankings, last played the Irish Open in 2010 at Killarney.

His play-off defeat to Garcia will hurt but he is determined to look forward.

"It's going to sting for sure. But I really feel like this is a tournament that I can still go on to win," he said. "I look forward. For me, golf is about April to September. That's where the tournaments that change your career are. So this is the first one of four.

"I feel motivated for the summer, and I will be moving on and setting goals very quickly."

Irish Independent

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