Tuesday 17 September 2019

Rory McIlroy is facing dilemma over whether to answer Irish Open call

Rory McIlroy celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at The K Club. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory McIlroy celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at The K Club. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy faces another Dubai Duty Free Irish Open dilemma next year as the Rolex Series event moves from early July to May 28-31 - just three weeks before the US Open.

While the date change has not yet been made public, we understand Europe's marquee players have been made aware of the move, which is designed to avoid forcing them to choose between Ireland and the clashing WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis from July 2-5.

Mount Juliet has expressed interest in hosting the Irish Open for the first time since 1995, but the European Tour has yet to decide on the venue or announce who will be the host.

With the 2020 Olympic Games and the Ryder Cup squeezing the schedule tighter, the date change was forced when the World Golf Championship was moved from the week after The Open to the early July date occupied by the Irish Open for the past three years.

But it remains to be seen if world No 2 McIlroy, who opted to skip this year's Irish Open in Lahinch, will be able to make the trip home next May.

With the Memorial, the Canadian Open, the US Open and the Travelers Championship occupying the next four weeks after the Irish Open date, something will have to give.

Lowry shows off the Claret Jug following his British Open win (Donall Farmer/PA)
He is keen to defend the RBC Canadian Open the week before the US Open at Winged Foot and already committed to playing the Travelers Championship.

"I'll definitely be back," McIlroy said after closing with a 61 to win in Canada this year. "As I said, obviously looking ahead and where the date is in the schedule, I really want to play stretches of golf around the Majors.

"I think I'm already looking forward to coming back and defending the title."

He skipped the Irish Open this year so he could play seven events in eight weeks.

After playing the Scottish Open, The Open and the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, he took a week off and teed it up four weeks in-a-row by playing the three FedEx Cup playoffs and Omega European Masters as part of his contract with the watchmaker.

He didn't play the Travelers Championship this year but last week announced he'd be back next term.

"I really missed playing at TPC River Highlands this year, so I'm looking forward to coming back in 2020," McIlroy said in a statement.

"The Travelers Championship is one of the best events on the PGA TOUR, with a tremendous atmosphere, great fans, an awesome practice facility and now a new clubhouse that I can't wait to see."

The 2019-20 PGA Tour season cranks up this week with Seamus Power back in action for A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, which is the first of 49 FedEx Cup events.

The schedule features a dramatically changed opening segment and several late-season adjustments to accommodate the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo from July 30 to August 2.

After failing to hold on to fully exempt status, Power will be looking for as many early-season starts as he can get with 11 of the 46 regular season events scheduled between now and November 24.

This segment includes two new tournaments in The Zozo Championship in Japan and the Bermuda Championship.

McIlroy and Tiger Woods have already committed to playing in Japan, and Open champion Shane Lowry is also expected to be confirmed shortly as he prepares to return to action in the BMW PGA at Wentworth next week.

The European Tour moves from Hamburg to the Netherlands for the KLM Open where Pádraig Harrington will be looking to build on his encouraging 12th-place finish in the Porsche European Open on Sunday.

Paul Dunne returns to action ranked 104th in the Race to Dubai seeking a confidence boosting result after a run of six missed cuts in seven events.

It's also another chance for 158th-ranked Gavin Moynihan to move into the all-important top 110 who keep their cards.

The Challenge Tour is in Portimao for the 57th Open de Portugal at Morgado where Cormac Sharvin, Robin Dawson, Paul McBride, Gary Hurley, Stuart Grehan fly the flag.

The First Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School continues at Fleesense in Germany without Irish representation.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport