European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley has revealed the part played by Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry in seeing next year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open move from its traditional long-time July slot to May.
The 2020 Irish Open will be played from May 28th to 31st at Mount Juliet in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, for a first occasion since 1995. And after recent years being hosted on a links course in mid-summer, it is returning to a parkland style course.
The move to May was essential after Pelley revealed that the PGA Tour would not move the staging of the WGC – FedEx Invitational in Memphis from the July slot, long held by Ireland’s premier event.
Pelley was first asked what influence McIlroy, who confirmed he will tee-up at Mount Juliet for a very first time in his career, played in the date change.
“Yes, Rory was key for the change of the date for the Irish Open but not the location,” said Pelley.
“In terms of the date, Rory and I talked about it at the Scottish Open. It was interesting as we sat down and looked at the schedule for next year and he said to me pointing ‘Well, I am going here. I am going to play here and I’m going to play here’.
“But then I said: ‘Wait, wait. You can’t play here because you are playing here!’
“What it does, in looking at the schedules as I did sitting with Rory and in looking at a global calendar now created with the PGA Tour as such, it is a complex jig-saw puzzle in putting it together and looking for the heat moments is not easy.
“With the way the Tour’s are now so condensed with the Majors, the WGCs and the Players, it’s very, very tricky for US-based players like Rory to come over during that actual May time of the year.
“Then adding the Ryder Cup and the Olympics next year to the schedule makes for a very compact season. It’s why we had worked with the PGA Tour to try and move the WGC event in Memphis from being against the Irish Open but we could not make that happen.
“So, we had the choice to do the best we could and we went to Rory, Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry saying: ‘Guys, these our four options with regards the 2020 Irish Open and you guys arbitrarily look at the four options and come back to us with a one, two, three choice.
“They all came back with the same one and that was probably the smartest way to do it (smiling).
“So, as I said, it’s complex, very complex.”
And Pelley singled-out one of his ‘most memorable moments’ of this past year and that was at the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch.
“You had on the Thursday, Padraig Harrington shooting a round of 63 and the place is sold out, the atmosphere was electrifying but from a pure strength of field perspective, Padraig was ranked 298th in the world which meant theoretically he brought no world ranking points and no value, in how the industry defines a golf tournament,” said Pelley.
“That to me made no logical sense so what else are you going to do as Lahinch is sold out, you’ve got an icon coming-up with magic, so what do you do?
“It comes right back to the fact we don’t put enough value on legends. You only have to look at the Nedbank with Ernie Els teeing-up, and he had a great opening round and while he did not have a great second round he had a fantastic first day.
“So, who would you rather see Ernie Els or ‘x’?
“I often say if Freddie Couples plays in the US as opposed to one of the top players, people will still want to follow Freddie Couples.”