Wednesday 21 February 2018

McIlroy may swerve Irish Open if new date gets green light

Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP
Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy could be tempted to skip next year's Irish Open if moves to stage the event at the end of June get the green light.

That was the stark message to the European Tour from agent Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler, who indicated that McIlroy could be forced to choose between his national Open and a clashing PGA Tour event at Congressional Country Club -- the scene of his memorable eight-shot US Open win just three months ago.

Sources have indicated that the European Tour is about to negotiate an Irish Open deal with potential sponsors Zurich that could see the event move from its recent August Bank Holiday weekend slot to the last weekend in June.

But while that comes two weeks after the US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, it also clashes with the PGA Tour's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club, on from June 28 to July 1.

McIlroy is currently working on his 2012 schedule as he plans to rejoin the US circuit next season and play on both sides of the pond.

But the European Tour will have to be careful when deciding on a potential date change if it does not want to run the risk of losing Ireland's top-ranked player.

Stating that McIlroy could be lured to Washington DC during Irish Open week, Chandler said: "Rory is considering his options at the moment. The tournament in the States is at Congressional so it is reasonably attractive too!"

Asked in Holland last week if the Irish Open was on his schedule next year, McIlroy said: "Depends," before hastily adding: "I'm not sure when the date is yet, so that's why."

The current date forces Major winners such as McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke to play three events in a row, as it comes just before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and the US PGA.

But McIlroy has struggled to finish 35th and 34th in the Irish Open for the past two seasons and hinted strongly that it's one of the toughest weeks of the year.

This year, he said: "You're sort of being pulled here and there and everywhere and it is hard to have your focus 100pc on the golf."

During an appearance at the Faldo Series Europe Grand Final at Lough Erne Resort this week, the 22-year-old insisted that his goal for the next 12 months is to chase down Luke Donald at the top of the world rankings.

Nick Faldo himself said yesterday that achieving those goals will mean major scheduling decisions for one of the game's top stars.

"He is changing his schedule next year. He is going to be wanted everywhere and so his priority has got to be golf and all those things have got to be juggled," Faldo said.

"I am sure these last couple of months he is just finding his feet and then, next year, he will step it up."

Irish Independent

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