Having spent the week of July 4-7 this summer schmoozing and swooning the world over with alluring images of Lahinch broadcast around the globe, I knew it was too good to be true.
For a second I let myself believe that the fantastical imagining of what an Irish Open could be had entered reality; pedestrianised streets filled with rogue golf supporters toasting ‘craic agus ceol’ in Titleist visors they’d half trampled in a drunken stumble across an unusually well-manicured field. The aristocratic notions of golf’s ancient elitists were tumbling between the dunes in County Clare and suddenly even Jon Rahm with his outrageously defined beard was somehow, cool. But then ‘The Yank’ came along.
Jay Monahan touched down in Ireland with his dapper hair and fitted clothes acting like he owned the place. It wasn’t long before he did. The PGA Tour Commissioner arrived with no attachment to our beloved field in Clare, or any pasture for that matter. Blinkers on, he was here to negotiate the date of our Irish Open, no courting necessary. And he only had to convince the formidable force that is not, European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley to get it.
Sure enough, Pelley’s dazzling pocket handkerchief simply served as a flag to wave in flamboyant surrender as Monahan toasted to another win for the all-conquering American Dream. Gossoons draped in their county colours had swapped sliotars for Srixons, and for what? Their innocent 2020 vision of an Irish Open eye-gouged beyond repair as the powerhouses of the PGA Tour remorselessly nailed the colours of St Jude to our week on the calendar. The Bull McCabe would’ve put up a much sterner fight.
So, what went wrong? For starters, we lacked the financial clout of the cigar-sucking blazers of PGA Tour fame. This was never a negotiation; it was more like when the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham offered Andrew Mornay of Scotland the King’s terms in return for his army to leave the Sterling battlefield in 1297. Unfortunately for the red coats, they hadn’t bargained on William Wallace turning up. Fortunately for Monahan, Pelley’s not one for face paint… unless we’re talking fancy dress.
Don’t be fooled by his colourful persona, Pelley’s not innocent in all this. The proposed formation of a ‘Links Swing’ in July comprising the Irish Open, Scottish Open and The Open was never taken seriously and with the Scottish Open unwilling to budge on its prime real estate pre-Open date, and the Tour unwilling to make them, what chance did little old Ireland have of attracting a world class field to our shamrock filled shebeens?
It’s a credit to the efforts of previous hosts, McIlroy and McGinley that we managed to get anyone around for tea at all, but with a WGC date to contend with now, on top of the excruciating labour of three weeks playing golf in the lead up to the Open that players refuse to entertain, all roads point to the Irish Open upping sticks in search of pastures new.
In all likelihood, that date will be September.
“I seen her. A bit red in the legs but a good wedge of a woman. Can she milk?”
Ignore ‘The Bull’. September’s not as bad as you think. The Open Champion likes it for a start.
“There is a great chance to move it to the week before Wentworth, two great tournaments, two weeks in a row,” Lowry said.
“There are very few really big tournaments on the European Tour, and this is one of them, and I think they should be looked after as well as they can.”
After all that’s gone before, Lowry’s right; it’s high time the Irish Open was wined and dined like ‘yer wan’ St Jude across the water. There should be a permanence to our date on the calendar, an opportunity to build on the traditions of this once great tournament that attracted the likes of Seve and Watson in full flight to woo our golfing faithful. And there is hope here.
September could prove a bright new future if the European Tour backs it. Sponsors like Dubai Duty Free and Rolex aren’t exactly small players in this game of golfing chess and they won’t hang around if they get a hint of Pelley puckering up, rather than sticking up, for one of a diminishing few proper European Tour events up for discussion at the negotiating table.
A September date with two Rolex Series events back–to–back is an attractive proposition for any European player harbouring Ryder Cup ambitions and that in itself should prove enough to guarantee a stellar field. Whatever happens though, let’s hope the Irish Open – an event that had to be resurrected to reach competitive status again on Tour having laid dormant for so long, and that presented itself in arguably its best ever light this year – won’t be abandoned at the altar for the sake of corporate greed.