Paul McGinley insists this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will lose little gloss and survive despite the absence of Rory McIlroy.
McGinley has found himself dodging questions on McIlroy’s no show ever since the four-time Major winner indicated late last year in Dubai he would not be teeing-up at Lahinch.
News of McIlroy’s absence from the event he hosted for four years from 2015 to 2018, initially sent shockwaves into Irish sporting circles. Irish golf fans, though, are a hearty and patriotic lot and sell-out crowds for a first Irish Open in Co. Clare is testimony to their support of all things Irish golf.
McGinley, having taken over Ireland’s premier golf event, has continued to play a straight bat and it was much the same when the victorious Ryder Cup Captain found himself again having to face a McIlroy absence related question.
“Rory is obviously a huge body blow and of course there’s a challenge, and it’s a huge challenge, particularly after the announcement that we were coming here that he wasn’t going to play,” said McGinley.
“A guy like Rory, I’d probably say he’s the most charismatic golfer in the world and he’s from Ireland and he decides not to play this year, of course it’s a body blow.
“I think we’ve recovered from that strongly. And I think the fact that we have sell-out crowds is a validation of that, that it’s the Irish Open and it will always be bigger than any one player.
“Rory would be the first person to agree with that.
“We’ve had great champions here over the years. Nick Faldo, Seve, Langer, Olazábal, look through all the greats, they’ve all won it. Rory’s won it.
“In 20-years’ time, when Rory’s career is kind of winding down there will be another young Rory McIlroy coming on. And that’s the evolution.
“The game is always bigger than any one player. And I think the validation of sell-out crowds that we’re anticipating, certainly the weekend is an indication that we haven’t been too much affected by Rory not playing.”
This year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is the second of eight Rolex Series events on this year’s Race to Dubai schedule, with this week’s winner set to bank just over a cool €1m.
If anything, the absence of not only McIlroy but one or two of his US-born PGA Tour colleagues has seen a reduction to 42 World Ranking points for the winner.
And in the bigger World Ranking picture, this year’s Irish Open boasts a better ‘across-the-board’ spread of World Ranking points than last year when McIlroy teed-up at Ballyliffin.