Irish Open could be hit by Olympics calendar shake-up
Tournament may have to be moved from usual slot to avoid clash with WGC in US
England’s Robert Rock in action during the final round of the Irish Open in Lahinch, Co Clare. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters
A potential complication has arisen for next year’s staging of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in its now established slot in the schedule two weeks ahead of the British Open, as it has emerged that the PGA Tour is considering moving the WGC-FedEx St Jude Classic forward which would make for a clash in dates.
With next season’s tournament calendar further condensed due to the Olympics in Japan, tour officials – on each of the main tours – are attempting to work out a schedule that best suits their players.
It is believed the PGA Tour is looking at moving the WGC in Memphis forward by a month, into the date that the Irish Open occupies on the European Tour. A similar situation arose in 2016 when the PGA Tour moved the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to clash directly with French Open, which at the time occupied the slot.
On that occasion, the European Tour – unimpressed by the move, and in an attempt to strengthen the field for the French Open – deemed that any European Tour members who competed in the Bridgestone would not earn any Ryder Cup points for that week.
It is understood Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour, and Jay Monahan, the chief executive of the PGA Tour, are to raise the matter at a scheduled meeting of the International Golf Federation which will take place during the week of the British Open.
Shane Lowry, who was caught between a rock and a hard place in 2016 when he opted to defend his title in Akron rather than play in France, believes the European Tour should fight hard to avoid any such clash.
“If you look at what Dubai Duty Free has done with the Irish Open over the last few years, I think it would be unfair on them if it was the same date as the WGC. I think, personally, they will have to move the Irish Open if it’s going to be the same week.
“There is a great chance maybe to move it the week before [the BMW PGA at] Wentworth . . . the ideal date is obviously the week before the Open, the week of the Scottish Open, but they’re not going to give that because Aberdeen have been very good sponsors to the Scottish tournament. There’s very few big tournaments on the European Tour and the Irish Open is one of them and I think they should be looked after as well as they can.”
The scheduled meeting between the tour chiefs in Portrush will go a long way towards deciding if the two tournaments – the Irish and the WGC – will clash next year.
However, it remains unclear where next year’s Irish Open will be staged or, indeed, who will assume the role of tournament host to follow Paul McGinley. Nothing has been confirmed as yet on either front.
If the tournament remains on a links sequence heading into the Scottish and British events, a number of fresh possibilities to follow the successful hosting by Lahinch include a move to the Dublin area – with The Island a potential candidate venue – while Co Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point, the traditional home of the West of Ireland amateur championship, is also likely to be a strong contender.
Pádraig Harrington, who is Ryder Cup captain for the match against the US in Whistling Straits next year, has been mooted as a possible tournament host; although the workload of doing both could conceivably be too great a burden, which would require his consideration before committing.
In his view, the current date in the calendar remains the most desirable. “If you’re going to get guys who want to play links golf and who don’t want to play a week before the Open, this is a perfect [date]. Look, it’s tough competing to get players, that’s it . . . this is a great date for the Irish Open. The only way this could be bettered is if this was next week, but that’s not a possibility,” said Harrington.