Reigning Open champion Shane Lowry remains hopeful that some supporters will be permitted to attend this summer’s Irish Open at Mount Juliet, though he admits limited numbers will provide him an almighty headache ahead of July’s tournament.
An unforgettable winner of his national open as an amateur at Baltray in 2009, Lowry has launched himself up the popularity charts on the Emerald Isle and beyond and will be a Major draw when play gets underway in Kilkenny on July 1. Whether or not crowds will be there to watch him go in search of a second Irish Open title remains to be seen but Lowry is convinced the presence of fans won’t be a factor in determining the strength of the field, though the more the merrier in the Clara man’s case.
“I don’t think it will make a player’s mind up as to whether they play in the tournament or not to be honest,” Lowry said. “Who knows what will happen but I did see recently that they were planning on letting people into outdoor events from the 5th of July and I thought that was a bit weird as the Irish Open finishes on the 4th.
“Obviously I would like to see crowds at the Irish Open and I’m hoping there is going to be even a couple of thousand people a day, that would be nice, although that would probably give me a big headache as I would probably need 1999 of those tickets,” he laughed.
Lowry was understandably unsure – as we all are – as to how Ireland will look come July with regards to the pandemic but having played in what for all the world looked like a Covid-free Kiawah Island given the scenes on 18 last Sunday, the 34-year old also knows all too well the difference a crowd can make when it comes to injecting a golf tournament with the energy it so badly needs.
“Look, it is what it is back home. The R&A have announced that they are going to have crowds at The Open but the situation in the UK is a lot different than it is in Ireland,” he said.
“I would love to see crowds in Mount Juliet, I believe there is a chance, I have heard there is a chance, I hope there is a chance. Even if it’s only – I played in Houston last year with two thousand people a day and it felt like ten thousand, at least it was something like, better than nothing.
“I’m sure the people in Mount Juliet and the people involved in the Irish Open and sponsors and the European Tour will want to get crowds back but in saying that, it’s the Government’s decision and we will just have to wait and see. We have about six or seven weeks still so hopefully things change between now and then.”
It has been suggested that crowds could return as part of a Government pilot scheme as early as June to stadia around the country where up to 4,000 would be permitted. Given golf is played in a wide open field and out in the open air, it would make sense that Mount Juliet would be granted a certain freedom to permit a sizeable number of spectators each day. Then again, we’ve been here before with golf and Government decisions. When it comes to the attendance at the Irish Open, we won’t hold our breath… unless by doing so, they’ll let us in to watch some quality golf!