Monday 23 July 2018

Paul McGinley: 'Stepping back from Irish Open hosting duties will help Rory McIlroy'

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

Brian Keogh

Paul McGinley believes that Rory McIlroy's decision to step back and share the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosting duties from 2019 could be massive for his career.

Europe's winning 2014 Ryder Cup skipper will take over as host next year with Major winners Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell also agreeing to join the Dubliner and McIlroy as part of a new panel of hosts over the next five years, mimicking the rotating host format currently used by the British Masters.

The 2014 Ryder Cup skipper sees big things on the horizon for the Co Down man, whose Rory Foundation will host this year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin in Donegal from July 5-8.

Believing McIlroy is now fully focussed on adding to his four Major victories after going winless in the game's biggest events since he first hosted the Irish Open in 2015, McGinley reckons it was time for the senior players to shoulder some of the burden.

"There's no doubt," McGinley said when asked if McIlroy's focus on the Majors was a big part of his decision to take a back seat.

"He has certainly helped regain the momentum of the Irish Open and he has done his bit. He wants to remain involved going forward but the Irish Open was a weight of responsibility.

"Even though he has won it, he has missed the cut for four of the last five years. So while his commitment to playing will remain, it is a question of handing over responsibility and we are happy to take on the mantle.

"We owe Rory a lot for where the Irish Open has come from and where it is going. So it is only right that we take responsibility off Rory's shoulders and let him do what he does best.

"The fewer duties he has to perform around the Irish Open, the more he will be focused. And the more he is focused, the better he will play.

"It is only right that we share that responsibility with Rory now and with him in the prime of his career, let him focus on what he does best."

McIlroy has been stuck on four Major wins since he decided to host the DDF Irish Open at Royal County Down in 2015, growing it from a middle-tier, €2 million event into the $7m Rolex Series event it is today.

The Holywood native (28) is keen to make the make the second decade of his career as successful as the first and that means focusing more on his golf.

"I'm not getting any younger," McIlroy said before his recent three-month break.

"These three months off could give me the foundation to have the next 10 years be even better than the 10 years I've just had. Hopefully, that turns a great career into one of the greatest careers."

McGinley revolutionised Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy in 2014 and he has plans to put a new spin on the Irish Open before Clarke, Harrington and McDowell add their touches.

"I have some ideas to mix it up a little bit - change the narrative around the Irish Open in how it's presented and how we can help it evolve, as I did with the Ryder Cup captaincy," McGinley said.

"I am not just going to be a figurehead and I've spoken to Colm McLoughlin from Dubai Duty Free and he is 100 per cent behind me and my ideas.

Ideas

"I want to make sure 2019 is going to be a huge year for Ireland with the Open and the Irish Open in July.

"Ireland will be at the forefront of the world golf schedule so it's a great opportunity to showcase Ireland and showcase our golf courses."

McGinley then hopes that the stakeholders will be able to turn to the likes of Shane Lowry or Paul Dunne after the first five-year rotation with McIlroy stating yesterday that "now feels like the right time to rotate the tournament hosting process."

But while McGinley says it's "imperative" the event is held on a links in the Republic of Ireland in 2019 with The Open scheduled for Royal Portrush two weeks later, a return to parkland venues cannot be ruled out after that with the likes of Mount Juliet and 2026 Ryder Cup hopeful Adare Manor two obvious candidates.

"There won't be as much pressure in 2020 to host on a links as next year," McGinley said. "So it may well go inland. Or the European Tour might prefer to stick with the links swing.

"What we can't do is set things in stone forever. Mount Juliet is a great course and we had it in The K Club just two years ago, and Adare Manor is now very much on the scene.

"But from the discussions I have had with some of the players and the European Tour, it's imperative it's on a links in 2019."

Irish Independent

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