Strong home contingent adds to Irish Open’s draw
Dawson benefits from Moynihan’s fortune with possible sellout in store at Lahinch
French golfer Alexander Levy on the fourth hole in practice at Lahinch Golf Club. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Gavin Moynihan didn’t need his sponsor’s invitation after all for this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Which, for him, is a good thing – as well as for Robin Dawson, who got it instead.
In Moynihan’s case, the relevance is significant. Although he was given that sponsor’s exemption some weeks ago, getting into the tournament through his European Tour membership category means that any prize money that the Dubliner wins in this €6.2 million megabucks Rolex Series event will count on the Race to Dubai order of merit. As an invitee to a Rolex event, it wouldn’t count.
Links specialist Moynihan had been keeping a keen eye on the ins-and-outs of those players who had committed. And when Kiradech Aphibarnrat changed his mind, deciding in the end not to include the Lahinch tour stop on his schedule, Moynihan – currently 141st in the Race to Dubai standings – edged into the last automatic place. His sponsor’s invitation was instead passed over to Challenge Tour player Dawson.
Dawson is one of four players to benefit from a sponsor’s invitation, along with Cormac Sharvin – who is enjoying a fine season on the Challenge Tour and is well on his way to earning full tour status for next season – and PGA Tour players, Waterford’s Séamus Power and Mexican Abraham Ancer.
Power has chosen to take up the invitation to play at Lahinch, despite the fact he is on the bubble in terms of retaining his PGA Tour card and also advancing to the FedEx Cup playoffs. Power, who missed the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, has slipped to 124th in the updated FedEx Cup standings (the top 125 retain their cards) and opted for Co Clare over the 3M Open in Minneapolis.
There is of course also the carrot of a place in the field for the British Open at Royal Portrush. The Irish Open is one of those global tournaments selected by the R&A as offering exemptions to the Major, with three places to the leading three players not otherwise exempt who finish in the top-10 and ties in Lahinch.
As of now, the Irish players exempt for Royal Portrush are former Claret Jug winners Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, along with Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and British amateur champion James Sugrue.
Like Power, Paul Dunne – who opted not to attend final qualifying scheduled for four venues in Scotland and Wales today – will have to earn that ticket to Portrush as a byproduct of a good week on the links. Dunne will have his swing coach Karl Holmes on his bag this week, while Lowry – with regular caddie Brian Martin’s wife expecting a baby – will have Dara Lernihan on his bag.
With Matt Wallace, the current leader of the European Tour order of merit, heading a field that features four players ranked inside the world’s top 25 and 12 from inside the top 50, tournament director Simon Alliss has highlighted the potential for the sold-out signs to be put up for the weekend.
“Ticket sales have been through the roof and we are now strongly advising fans to ensure they purchase their tickets in advance,” said Alliss, with both Saturday and Sunday nearing capacity sales.
The European Tour has warned supporters only to access sales through the official online ticket outlet, accessed through www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com, with the prospect of replicating the attendance at Royal Portrush in 2012 which provided the catalyst for the Dunluce links regaining a place on the Open rota. “We had two sold-out days at Royal Portrush in 2012 and, while that has not happened yet, there is a strong possibility we will reach full capacity,” said Alliss.
Of course, as we’ve seen through the tournament’s rich history, the presence of at least one Irish player at the business end of the leaderboard always helps.