Rory McIlroy unsure over participation in 2022 Irish Open

Two-time winner Dubai Desert Classic back in the field for the first time since 2018

Rory McIlroy is in the field for this week’s Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: Luke Walker/Getty

Rory McIlroy is in the field for this week’s Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: Luke Walker/Getty

 

Rory McIlroy’s summertime schedule is a busy one, so busy in fact that the Northern Irishman is unsure whether or not he will play in the Irish Open at Mount Juliet on June 30th to July 3rd.

“I haven’t made my decision yet. I know I’m playing a lot of golf in the States (on the PGA Tour) around that time of the year, Memorial, Canada, US Open, Travelers . . . we’ll see. I honestly haven’t made that decision yet,” responded McIlroy.

McIlroy was responsible for revitalising the Irish Open when he took on the role of tournament host, which he fulfilled from 2015 to 2018, when it was part of the Rolex Series, but it is no longer part of that blue-chip series and it has moved away from the so-called “Links Swing” of host venues with the Co Kilkenny resort staging it for a second straight year.

There has been some speculation that the tournament could be elevated to a co-sanctioned event - a la the Scottish Open - featuring on the PGA Tour as well as the DP World Tour. “I’d love to see it co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour in the future, I think that would be obviously a wonderful thing for the event,” said McIlroy, who is set to play at the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am at Adare Manor the week after the Irish Open and two weeks ahead of the 150th Open at St Andrews.

As for his friend Tiger Woods being able to play at Adare Manor, McIlroy said: “I’d say if he was planning to play The Open Championship, then I would expect to see him at Adare. But if he’s not planning on playing at St Andrews, then I don’t think he could go. But again, I think for him that’s a long way away, and that’s a decision he’ll need to make in the future as well.”

McIlroy is competing in this week’s Dubai Desert Classic for the first time since 2018, his return to a tournament he has won twice - in 2009 and 2015 - providing an opportunity to improve on his tied-12th finish in the Abu Dhabi HSBC where he made the cut on the mark before making a move over the weekend that only stalled over the closing stretch of holes.

Rory McIlroy is a two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: Luke Walker/Getty
Rory McIlroy is a two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: Luke Walker/Getty

“This was one of the first events I played on the European Tour back in 2006, I think as a 16-year-old. The course hasn’t changed that much over the years. They put a couple of new tee boxes here and there; the greens seemed to get progressively smaller as we kept coming back, so to see the new green complexes is nice to get them back to their original shapes.

“It’s a great golf course, a fun golf course to play. It gives you plenty of opportunities to make birdies. You know the scoring is always going to be pretty good. You have the three par 5s on the back nine. You have a couple of reachable (par) fours, and it’s just a fun golf course to play.

“The course, as the trees grow up, everything got claustrophobic over the years and they have sort of tried to clear that out again. It definitely doesn’t feel as constricting as it used to and it certainly doesn’t feel as constricting as even like last week where you had a lot of trouble on either side of fairways and water. There’s some opportunities where you can just step up and give it a rip which is nice,” said McIlroy.

McIlroy is one of four Irish players in the field, along with Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington and Jonathan Caldwell, who is aiming to bounce back from a missed cut in Abu Dhabi.

A freshly-shaven Harrington, for his part, has reacted to eight three-putts in Abu Dhabi - where he double-bogeyed the last hole to drop out of a top-10 finish to tied-20th - by putting a new putter in his bag. “Putting is something I need to improve on this week,” he admitted.

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