Sport Tee to Green

Friday 15 November 2019

Parkland is the sensible choice for the Irish Open, insists Michael

Mount Juliet
Mount Juliet

The venue for the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open may not be announced until next month's DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

That's when marquee players like defending champion Jon Rahm and major winners Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry will be reunited.

It's also the home of the tournament sponsors.

But while Mount Juliet remains one of the leading candidates to host the $7 million Rolex Series event from May 28-31, don't be surprised to see more parkland venues in years to come now that the mid July date has been lost.

That's the view of Michael Hoey, who is a member of the European Tour Players Committee, who is fully aware of the difficulty of competing with the PGA Tour and its $700 million TV budget with a TV fund of just $20 million.

He has no say in what venues are eventually chosen, but he's aware just how difficult it is for the tour to piece together a schedule in a landscape where there are 42 events worldwide with a minimum prize fund of $7 million.

"In an ideal world you will have a great links course every year and change it up every season for the Irish Open," Hoey said, aware that players are now spoiled for choice with two $9.7 million events on the PGA Tour over the next two weeks compared to the €1.7m Open de France and €1.6m Portugal Masters.

"But we had the Irish Open at Royal County Down, and the logistics are so difficult, getting TV towers in behind small, postage stamp par threes.

"Yes, you get phenomenal golf courses, but you get a lot of broken legs on sand dunes and logistically it is very difficult for the tour.

"So while you'd take it to Portstewart, Royal County Down, Lahinch or Ballyliffin in an ideal world, accessibility is hugely important and being near Dublin airport is important.

"Centralising the Irish Open somewhere like The K Club, or potentially Mount Juliet, makes it easier to get sponsors behind it. That's just my view."

Keeping the sponsors happy is the No 1 priority for the European Tour and while Dubai Duty Free signed a contract extension last year that could see them back the Irish Open until 2022, they are also a global partner for the European Tour with a finger in many other pies.

"Just because it is on a parkland course doesn't mean people don't love Irish parkland courses," Hoey said. "We need to sell our parkland courses in Ireland because people already want to play the famous links."

Indo Sport

The Left Wing: Champions Cup preview, the World Cup hangover and Joe Schmidt's next team

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport