For Dubai Duty Free Irish Open host, Paul McGinley there was going to be no escaping questions on Rory McIlroy’s decision not to play in this year’s event at Lahinch when hosting a media outing at the stunning Co. Clare course.
And no sooner did McGinley sit in front of the visiting media did he face a question on McIlroy’s intentions not to contest the event, a tournament the four-time Major winner had himself played host at for four years.
“It was a disappointment but this is something we’re going to see more of going forward,” said McGinley.
“The challenges the players have on the world schedule are huge. The amount of money they play for around the world is huge and the focus is very much going to be on major championships. I think it’s just a sign of the times.
“He (McIlroy) is not the only one, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka as well as Tiger Woods – look at his schedule right through his career – they don’t play a huge amount and they define everything around the major championships.”
McIlroy, in a decision that has not only disappointed McGinley but also sponsors Dubai Duty Free and Irish golf fans alike, has chosen instead to take the week off and tee-up in the following week’s Scottish Open at Archerfield to the east of Edinburgh.
And in the absence of McIlroy, most attention will now focus on the likes of defending champ Russell Knox, Ryder Cup winning hero, Ian Poulter, 2020 Ryder Cup captain and former Irish Open winner, Padraig Harrington, plus the likes of major winners Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Danny Willett along with a host of home Irish stars including Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan.
Sadly, McGinley believes the tournament and many others in Europe are no longer able to attract all of the big names they so regularly could in the 1980s and 1990s, but with Poulter the latest addition to an already stellar field, McGinley is confident of securing an exciting final line-up for the showpiece in July.
“The days of old when Seve, Faldo, Langer, Woosie and all the top players played in an Irish Open, those days are gone,” he added.
“Any tournament around the world, even on the PGA Tour, outside the majors, the WGC events and the Players Championship, if you have two or three or four of the big names, then you fit the guys who are top-50 in the world around that – it’s a very good field.
“That’s what we’re on course to do and hopefully we’re going to get there, we’re pretty close to it at the moment.”