There was huge news for Irish golf fans on Tuesday with confirmation that Rory McIlroy, officially the world’s best golfer, would return to the Horizon Irish Open in 2023.
Opting out this past year in order to best prepare for his Open Championship bid at St Andrews – which so nearly came to fruition, damn you Cam Smith!- McIlroy will return to a K Club venue that he lit up in 2016 courtesy of the two finest fairway woods struck in the heat of battle that you’re ever likely to see.
This shot into the 16th at the K Club, en route to winning. 😍🤩 A green no player had reached in two all day. pic.twitter.com/KvWKmeSm6C
— RORY FANS (@rory_fans) December 6, 2022
The former champion’s absence was sorely felt by everyone at Mount Juliet last summer, and true to form, McIlroy came in for a boatload of criticism for missing the event. That he propped up the tournament for so long with his foundation, saving it from impending doom before donating the entirety of his winner’s cheque to charity in 2016 is nothing but an inconvenience for the trolls lurking beneath McIlroy articles the internet over; naysayers who scream loudest at any apparent McIlroy wrongdoing, Naysayers noticeable only by their absence when Rory does right.
Surprise, surprise, this latest commitment to Irish golf was met with tumbleweeds in the comment section. And I get that people consider supporting your National Open to be the bare minimum a golfer can do, but should the same people vilifying McIlroy for apparent treason on the rare occasion be skips town not tip their cap to his return to Irish shores?
You can be sure if McIlroy announced on Tuesday that he was skipping the Irish Open, social media would’ve gone into meltdown. Instead, McIlroy, the number one drawcard in golf, instantly elevated the tournament, and what followed showed that there’s little interest among keyboard warriors to contribute to a positive online experience.
Unfortunately for the haters, there was no fear of McIlroy ever missing the K Club this time around. He’s been unequivocal in his stance that a change of date would suit him. And in my opinion, when McIlroy’s commitment hinges on a scheduling shift, you do what you can to accommodate him. The tournament’s move to September has clearly done the trick.
Of course, not everything’s perfect. The fact there’ll be no Ryder Cup permutations on the line in Kildare is disappointing to say the least. And yeah the links dream seems dead, and the Scottish holds the plum date on the calendar, but having the world’s number one player, a homegrown one at that, headline the tournament is something that should have any Irish golf fan worth their salt chomping at the bit.
Add in Shane Lowry, Seamus Power, and the countless others sure to be drawn by McIlroy’s presence alone and the 2023 edition of the Irish Open is guaranteed to make for one of the strongest in recent memory.
For next year at least, maybe that should be enough?