Saturday 19 August 2017

'It's outdated' - Rory McIlroy insists Irish Open won't go to Portmarnock until men-only policy is removed

Rory McIlroy was troubled by a back issue during The Players Championship. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy was troubled by a back issue during The Players Championship. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy has his "fingers crossed" that his rib injury will have improved enough to allow him to tee it up in the next week's BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth.

Speaking via a conference call at the media day held at Portstewart to mark the 50-day countdown to July's $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, the world No 2 said he hoped to start hitting wedges this weekend.

McIlroy was troubled by a back issue during The Players Championship last week and had an MRI scan on his return to Belfast on Monday to make sure it was not a new injury.

The scan revealed a "low grade response" to his previous rib injury which saw him take six weeks off in the run-up to the Masters.

And while he sounded hopeful about being ready to take on the renovated West Course at Wentworth, he revealed that the final decision on his participation will rest in the hands of his medical advisors.

"It's all about resting and keeping it loose around the area affected," McIlroy said, adding that he wasn't concerned about missing the Memorial Tournament, the US Open or the Travelers Championship in the run-up to the Irish Open, which begins on July 6.

While there was no confirmation of future links venues for the Irish Open, McIlroy reiterated his stance on Portmarnock, stating that consistent with his views on Muirfield, the event cannot go to the north Dublin links until its men-only policy is removed.

“I’ve always felt that Portmarnock is the perfect venue for an Irish Open with its proximity to Dublin and the airport,” said the 28-year-old.

“It's not just the logistical thing, its one of the best courses in the country as well.

“But we have to overcome a couple of issues. There's the gender issue. That's quite difficult to overcome, especially with the issue of public money being taken in for the event here in Ireland.

“It's hard to justify that, not allowing women members. I was very strong in my stance against Muirfield for that reason  and it's the same with Portmarnock. I don't think that is acceptable, it's outdated.

"It would be great to see Portmarnock come back to the Irish Open roster, it's the perfect location and hopefully we can go back there."

The 28-year-old is pleased with the field that's being assembled for what will be his third hosting of the Irish Open, confirming yesterday that Spanish sensation Jon Rahm will be in Portstewart alongside the likes of Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Danny Willett.

World No 12 Rahm (22) has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past 12 months, winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January then finishing tied third on his first start in the WGC-Mexico Championship before reaching the final of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he took World No 1 Dustin Johnson to the last hole.

Hoping to become the fourth Spanish winner of the Irish Open after Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal and Sergio Garcia, Rahm said: "I have some great memories as a kid watching the Spanish players competing in the big European Tour events on TV and it will be special to be able to now play in them myself.

"Obviously Seve, José Maria and Sergio have all won the Irish Open over the years, so it will be great to try and follow in their footsteps at Portstewart.

"Also, I'm really pleased to support Rory and everything he is trying to do for the event through his Foundation."

As McIlroy tries to get himself ready for Wentworth next week, Pádraig Harrington continues his rehab work in preparation for his return in the event following neck surgery while Shane Lowry will be hoping to hit form and end his near year-long slump.

The Offaly man (30) hasn't had a Top-10 finish since he finished second in last year's US Open and has fallen from 35th in the world 12 months ago to 72nd following his missed cut in The Players Championship at Sawgrass last week.

Entrant

Lowry is off this week and missing the AT&T Byron Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons Resort and Club in Dallas, where Seamus Power will be the lone Irish entrant.

Power's fellow West Waterford club man Gary Hurley is in action on the European Tour in the €1 million Rocco Forte Open - Verdura, Sicily where he is joined by Michael Hoey.

On the Challenge Tour, seven Irishmen will tee it up in the innovative Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 at La Cala Resort's Asia Course in Spain.

Dermot McElroy, Ruaidhri McGee, Kevin Phelan, Rory McNamara, Gavin Moynihan, Cormac Sharvin and Chris Selfridge will be hoping to make the top 32 after the two strokeplay rounds who make it through to contest a series of nine-hole matchplay battles at the weekend.

  • AT&T Byron Nelson, Live, Sky Sports 4, 9.0pm
  • The Rocco Forte Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.30am & 2.30

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