Sport Golf

Wednesday 23 October 2019

'I'll play the Irish Open if it's in May,' says McIlroy

United great Paul Scholes with Reds fan Rory McIlroy at yesterday’s pro-am ahead of the BMW PGA Championship. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
United great Paul Scholes with Reds fan Rory McIlroy at yesterday’s pro-am ahead of the BMW PGA Championship. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy reiterated his desire to tee it up in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open next year and insisted he'll definitely play if the date is changed from July to late May.

The world No 2 said last week that he couldn't see himself skipping the event "two years running" especially in May. And he doubled down on that promise ahead of the BMW PGA at Wentworth yesterday, leading to speculation that the May 28-31 date is a done deal.

"There are a lot of things going on," he said of the difficulty of the July 4 weekend date occupied by the Irish Open since 2017. "It's two weeks before The Open and I like to play the week before a Major.

"The fourth of July weekend in the States is a big deal for my now extended family - my wife, my mother- and father-in-law being over in the States and celebrating that with them. So there is a lot that goes into it more than just playing golf.

"I don't want them to change the date just for me, but if it's that May date that they're contemplating, I'll definitely be back for it. I don't think I'd miss the Irish Open two years in a row. So I'd say people will expect to see me there."

Having promised minutes after his Lahinch victory to defend his title, Spain's Jon Rahm is not put off by a late May date, telling reporters, "I'll be there, don't worry."

McIlroy's lone Irish Open win came at The K Club on May 22, 2016, but this week he's seeking more parkland success at Wentworth where he kick-started his sensational 2014 season by capturing his first BMW PGA. He's won three times this year and now wants to match or even beat his five-win 2012 campaign and close the gap on world No 1 Brooks Koepka and challenge Shane Lowry for the Race to Dubai.

No-brainer

McIlroy is a certainty to make his sixth Ryder Cup appearance next year and European captain Pádraig Harrington yesterday described Swede Robert Karlsson a "no-brainer pick" as the first of his vice-captains.

The Dubliner (48) has a list of 20 young guns he wants to get to know personally and will tick the sensational Norwegian rookie Viktor Hovland off the list when they roam the Burma Road track for the first two rounds.

He already knows all about Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry and hinted that the new Open champion would be a serious consideration for a wild card, even as a rookie.

"Whistling Straits would be right up his alley," Harrington said. "It's a big, windy golf course. Ideal for Shane. "I hope he doesn't give me any stress over the next 12 months and continues playing in the current form. Clearly if it was picked at the moment, he'd be the leading the points race.

"But it is hard from Shane's perspective, having such a big year and living up top those expectations is never easy. This game moves on very quickly. If Shane is there or thereabouts, he is going to be very strong in my mind just because the golf course suits him so much. He has shown that he can play on the big stage.

"And you also want a little bit of intimidation factor with your players and guys would know they would be up against it if they meet Shane."

Meanwhile, Seamus Power returns to action in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi today while in amateur golf England require only victory over Scotland to win the Senior Home Internationals at Alnmouth.

BMW PGA Championship,

Live, Sky Sports, 10am

Sanderson Farms,

Live, Sky Sports, 7pm

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