Paul McGinley: Irish Open bigger than Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy's absence is "a blow", but Paul McGinley believes the sell-out crowds expected in Lahinch this weekend vindicate his belief that the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is bigger than any one player.
The decision of the world No 3 to sit out the Irish Open, and play next week's Scottish Open instead as he prepares for The Open at Royal Portrush, was an early reverse for the tournament host.
But with 12 of the world's top 50 in action at Lahinch and huge crowds expected, McGinley is not worried about this week or the event's future.
"Well, yes. Rory's obviously a huge body blow," McGinley said. "Of course there are challenges, and that was a huge challenge, particularly so early after the announcement that we were coming here, that he wasn't playing.
"A guy like that who, outside of Tiger, is probably the most charismatic in the world, he's from Ireland, and he decides not to play this year, of course it's a body blow.
"But I think we've recovered from that strongly and the fact we've sell-out crowds is a validation of that, that the Irish Open will always be bigger than any one player. Rory will be the first person to agree with that. We've had great champions here in this Open over the years - Nick Faldo, Seve, Langer, Olazabal, all the greats, they've all won it. Rory's won it.
"And I think in 20 years' time, when Rory's kind of winding down a little bit, there will be another young Rory McIlroy coming along, and that's just the evolution.
"The game is always bigger than any one player, and I think we've the validation of the sell-out crowds that we're anticipating is an indication that we haven't been too much affected by Rory not playing."