Monday 14 October 2019

Lowry backs McIlroy over Irish Open decision

Shane Lowry. Photo: AP
Shane Lowry. Photo: AP

Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry has backed Rory McIlroy's decision to skip the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this year.

Speaking on RTE's 'Game On' last night, Lowry said: "There wouldn't be an Irish Open if it wasn't for Rory McIlroy. I had dinner with him last week and I totally understand and respect his decision not to play this year."

The Clara man added: "The Irish Open is not an ideal date for me either. I personally would like to see the date changed, possibly before Wentworth in September."

McIlroy, meanwhile, will have a familiar face guiding the way if he decides to play for Ireland in the Olympics Games in Tokyo next year.

GUI national coach Neil Manchip is expected to be named as Paul McGinley's successor as men's Team Leader with the ILGU's high performance director, David Kearney, set to lead the women's team the following week.

McIlroy is familiar with Manchip, who was national coach when the future Major winner helped Ireland win the European Amateur Team Championships at Western Gailes in 2007 with Lowry also a member of that team.

He remains friendly with the Scot, who still coaches Lowry, but whether that will be enough to persuade him to go for gold in Japan remains unknown.

While he is ranked sixth in the Olympic Golf Rankings and would be certain to qualify, his management company did not respond to a request seeking confirmation that he will be available to play in Tokyo from July 31 to August 2 next year.

McIlroy intended to play for Ireland when golf returned to the Olympic arena in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But, like Lowry, he withdrew citing fears over the Zika virus and Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power joined Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire in Rio.

The R&A, which yesterday confirmed that Royal Liverpool will host the Open in 2022 (eight years after McIlroy's triumph there), admits that post-Brexit uncertainty over the Irish border is a major worry for them this year.

"The lack of certainty about the laws under which we will be operating under post-March 29 has caused us significant concern," the R&A's chief executive Martin Slumbers said. "In hindsight would I be wanting to do Portrush in the year that we would be potentially leaving the EU without a deal? No. We as a management team have spent a lot of time looking at contingencies."

Meanwhile, Pádraig Harrington's injured wrist is not ready for action and he withdrew yesterday from this week's Honda Classic, where Seamus Power and Graeme McDowell will fly the flag.

"I'm told it's actually ahead of schedule even though it's behind my own expectations," Harrington said.

Irish Independent

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