Rory McIlroy can’t guarantee to be an an annual fixture in the Horizon Irish Open but insists this week’s September date leading towards Wentworth suits him better than the previous July date.
The Irish Open date continues to be a topic for debate and McIlroy, who was absent from Mount Juliet last year and the 2019 edition in Lahinch, admits he does feel pressure to tee it up in the Irish Open every year but feels the September slot in the DP World Tour schedule gives him the best chance of tailoring his calendar to play at home every year.
“I’d like to think that I’m going to come back most years to play The Irish Open but I’m not going to guarantee that I’m going to play every single year,” said the 2016 Irish Open champion. “It just has to fit with what I want to do and fit with all the other things that I’ve got going on in my life as well.
“I felt pressure to turn up but at the end of the day I can only do what I think is right for myself. But I certainly think by having the tournament at this time of the year it will be likelier that I will come back to play in September.”
McIlroy hosted the tournament from 2015 to 2018 and brought it from its knees to a respectable DP World Tour event once again but a high-quality field hasn’t always been a guarantee with the Irish Open often losing out in July to the Scottish Open in terms of attracting star names before the Open Championship.
The Holywood man feels the September date leading to Wentworth will help gather a quality field albeit it is missing his Ryder Cup teammates Nicolai Hojgaard and Matthew Fitzpatrick and regular Irish visitors Tommy Fleetwood and Robert MacIntyre this week.
“I think schedule has a big part to do with it. It’s been a hard one because you know, when this tournament was grouped with Wentworth in May, something that I always came back for, and then that July date is probably a decent date in terms of weather and for the tournament,” said McIlroy whose commitment to the Irish Open has often been questioned since relinquishing his hosting duties in 2018.
“But in terms of getting at least a good European field, I always would have loved the Scottish and the Irish to maybe alternate every year. So one year the Scottish would lead into The Open and the other year the Irish would. I think it would give us a better chance of getting a better field but obviously The Scottish Open doesn’t want to give up that date. It’s a great date on the calendar.
“But yeah, that’s really the reason. I think with it being in September, you know, it’s nice to come over here for two weeks and play here and then play Wentworth next week, as well.
“So yeah, as long as it fits what I’m trying to do, as well and I got off to a great start this year in The Race to Dubai, I want to try to win that. So every event I do play in Europe is sort of getting me closer to that goal as well.
“I thought, again, the July date was okay, but I think this date for most Europeans just works, depending what’s happened with the FedExCup schedule and how deep guys go, but certainly, I think it works for Shane and for myself and for Seamus, at least for the top Irish players that the crowd come to watch.
“We’ve got some really good players here, which is good for the tournament.”