The Irish trio of Gavin Moynihan, Niall Kearney and Robin Dawson will help herald the return to competition of the European Tour at this week’s Austrian Open.
First it was F1 returning to racing last week in Austria and now the European Tour will get back to competition starting Thursday at the Diamond Resort course located around 35-kilometres from Vienna.
It will mark four long months since Spain’s Jorge Campillo defeated Scotland’s David Drysdale on March 8th to capture the Qatar Masters.
The Qatar Masters was the 10th event of the 2019/20 Race to Dubai schedule ahead of a lockdown to competition with close to a dozen events cancelled including the Kenya Open, Hero Indian Open, WGC – Dell Match-Play, Maybank Championship, Volvo China Open, Andalucia Masters, Made in Denmark, Trophee Hassan II, Scandinavian Invitation and BMW International Open.
Another event affected has been the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the staging of Ireland’s premier event could all hinge on an expected announcement this week on the future of the 2020 Ryder Cup. If the Ryder Cup is postponed, as highly expected, they expect the Irish Open to slot in that last week of September.
It was all of five months ago in mid-February when Moynihan last teed-up in a European Tour event in contesting the secondary Challenge Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am, his fourth Tour event of the year.
Royal Dublin attached Kearney had joined Moynihan in last competing on Tour at the Dimension Data in what was just his third European Tour event of the New Year.
Kearney, who turned 32 two days after the Tour’s last event in Qatar, was looking forward to the new season having secured his Challenge Tour card at last year’s Q-School.
Dawson was also out in South Africa in February so the Portmarnock Hotel and Links attached Irishman has been without Tour competition also for five months.
The Austrian Open is carrying a prize purse of just Euro 500,000 but then very popular Dutchman Joost Luiten no doubt mirrors the comments of most in insisting it is just good to get back to competition.
Luiten had form in March with T10 and T21 finishes at the Oman Open and in Qatar before the global coronavirus pandemic meant no competition.
“I started to play well at the last two events before the break,” said Luiten.
“I was up the leaderboard two weeks in a row but couldn’t finish the job, but at least I was giving myself chances. It wasn’t great timing but, at the end of the day there’s nothing we could do, we had to accept it.
“It’ll be great to have these tournaments on again. We’ve been practicing without having any events on the schedule – it’s been a bit weird and you find it difficult to find the motivation. Now we’ve been able to get ready for tournaments, there’s some adrenaline and excitement going.
“I’ve been trying to get my game back up to tournament level, so it’ll be good to see where it is. Practising is always different, but I feel as though I’m hitting the ball well, so I need to see how I do under pressure.”
A return to competition doesn’t mean a return to normality as the event will mark the first week of a new comprehensive Health Strategy on the European Tour that will see health care specialists Cignpost deliver rapid on-site COVID-19 screening.
All tournaments played for the remainder of the 2020 season will be governed by the Health Strategy, developed by European Tour Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Murray in consultation with Cignpost and advisers across the countries in which the Tour plays.
In order to help mitigate risk, all players, caddies and other personnel on-site will be tested using Cignpost’s rapid COVID-19 screening products and services.
The rapid COVID-19 testing consists of a dry swab to collect oral and nasopharyngeal samples using mobile PCR diagnostic equipment, with results available within two hours. Participants will operate within national public health guidelines, including social distancing, and following enhanced hygiene directives.
And the Austrian Open has an extensive history on both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour and returns to both schedules after a break in 2019.
The first edition of the tournament was held in 1990, with Germany’s Bernhard Langer claiming the inaugural title. In 1997 the event joined the European Challenge Tour schedule, before Austrian-native Markus Brier marked its return to the European Tour in style in 2006, with his third win at the event. From 2012 the tournament was known as the Lyoness Open, with another home hero, Bernd Wiesberger, claiming the title that year.
The last time the event was held it was under the guise of the innovative Shot Clock Masters in 2018, which was won by Mikko Korhonen.