Saturday 21 July 2018

Rory McIlroy may have had role in switch of Open venue

Rory McIlroy: tournament host and world number three. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy: tournament host and world number three. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Peter Hutcheon

Rory McIlroy may have played a significant role in the European Tour decision not to take the Irish Open to Lough Erne next summer.

The world number three and tournament host privately indicated to the tour his own preference to keep the event on links courses.

While the Lough Erne course is an impressive 18-hole set-up, there were always problems with the decision to have the 2017 Irish Open played there.

It was announced as the venue two years ago by First Minister Arlene Foster.

But doubts about the likelihood of the tour taking place at Lough Erne began to emerge at the start of this year when the European Tour's Antonia Beggs declined to confirm that the event would be held there in 2017.

Yesterday, the plug was pulled in an unequivocal statement by the Tour.

"While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged at Lough Erne, the European Tour looks forward to working with the new ownership consortium and I am confident that the Lough Erne Resort will host an event with the European Tour in the future," said European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

"Details of the 2017 venue will be announced in due course, but in the meantime we are solely focused on ensuring that the 2016 tournament, which will be staged at the K Club in six weeks' time, is a great success."

With the tour determined to continue to alternate between courses in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, Portstewart has been mentioned as a possible replacement venue.

It would suit McIlroy's desire to have the event played on a links course and, although it does not quite have the reputations of the Royals at Portrush and County Down, it is still a highly regarded course and club. McIlroy was once the touring professional attached to Lough Erne in his early days on tour when it was owned by family friend Jim Treacey.

But the business went into receivership after the financial crash of 2008.

Irish Independent

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