Rory McIlroy’s never played the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open host venue but he revealed he has a very special reason to tee-up next May at Mt. Juliet as it is where the then 13-year old first laid eyes on Tiger Woods.
McIlroy confirmed some weeks ago he will return to contest next year’s premier Irish Open after the disappointed for sponsors and fans alike in skipping this year’s event at Lahinch.
The current World No. 2 was just 13-years old when he accompanied his father to the 2002 WGC – American Express Championship when Tiger Woods led from start-to-finish to pocket the then $1m first prize cheque.
Two years later, Ernie Els collected a 15th of his 19 PGA Tour counting victories capturing the 2004 WGC – American Express Championship on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Co. Kilkenny layout.
McIlroy was asked his thoughts on Mt. Juliet hosting the Irish Open where in 1995, Sam Torrance came out the winner. The wily Scot, after first lifting the victory trophy skyward, was handed a pint of Murphys, the new event sponsor, with Torrance downing the pint in one gulp to triple the crowd roar given to him for raising the trophy initially.
“The first time I ever watched Tiger play was at Mount Juliet with my dad and myself going down there on Sunday when Tiger won the American Express in 2002,” said McIlroy.
“I also went back down in 2004 when Ernie won.
“I don’t know the place very well. I’ve never played it. I know that the two tournaments that they played there, the World Golf Championships, anyway, everyone raved about the course. They raved about the greens.
“It’s a good time next year for the event as they couldn’t put it opposite Memphis. We would have had what happened a couple years ago with the French Open going up against Akron and all that sort of stuff.
“So, it’s a better thing for The Irish Open that it’s not going up against a huge event in America. Yeah, I mean, to be honest, it’s hard to fit in there as there’s a golf tournament every week and things have to move and change.
“But yeah, I’m excited to play Mt. Juliet. I guess my ambition for The Irish Open was to sort of try to keep it on links, but that was leading up to The Open Championship.
“Now that it’s nowhere near there, yeah, I don’t see a problem with it going back to a parkland venue like Mt. Juliet and as long as we get a decent spring, it should be good conditions and a good course to play it on.”