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'Difficult' to get Irish Open back if it disappears from Euro Tour schedule

The presence of the world number two, Rory McIlroy, and Irish major winners has boosted the tournament’s profile.

Harrington, McDowell and McIlroy celebrate Ryder Cup success in 2010.
Harrington, McDowell and McIlroy celebrate Ryder Cup success in 2010.
Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

THE 2013 IRISH OPEN will tee off in four weeks’ time and tournament organisers are hoping that crowd numbers are close to the record-breaking staging of the event in Portrush last summer.

With no title sponsor of the event since ’3′ stepped back after the 2010 Irish Open, European Tour officials are looking upon Irish fans ‘as our second sponsor’. Last year’s event attracted 130,000 patrons and was the tour’s first-ever tournament sell-out.

James Finnigan of the European Tour paid tribute, on Wednesday, to the vested interest that the Irish Government and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have paid in the event — ensuring it stays on the tour schedule for the forthcoming future.

Finnigan said, “We’ve had a challenge to keep the whole project going and keeping the tournament on the schedule.” There is a danger, he added, that the Irish Open could follow the English and (to a lesser extent) European Open into the mists of time as a tournament fondly remembered but never to be seen again. Finnigan added:

Once they disappear from the schedule, it is difficult to get them back on board.”

The Irish Open, taking place at Carton House from 27-30 June, is guaranteed a large turn-out of golf fans due to the popularity of the sport here, a handy placing in the summer schedule, and the presence of successful Irish golfers. Two of the world’s top 10, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, are confirmed, as is three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington and 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

Ronan O’Gara, Conor Mallagan and Rob Kearney watch Shane Lowry in action at Carton House. (©INPHO/Cathal Noonan)

2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry, the last Irish winner of the event (2009), are also part of the field. However the event will be extremely lucky if it could entice two more players from the world’s top 20 – Lee Westwood or Sergio Garcia being the best hopes.

Finnigan commented, “Players are seduced by the PGA Tour (in America) to take part in $6m and $7m tournaments… the first-place cheque is often bigger than our entire prize funds.”

Tour officials have stated that the Montgomerie Course, which will be used for the Irish Open, will not be as stringently set up as it was in 2006, the last time the event was held at Carton House.

Thomas Bjorn won in 2006 with a four-round total of -5 with Darren Clarke third on -3. Only 10 players of the 154-man field finished under par. Expect this year’s winner to lie on anything from -16 to -20, weather dependant (as it always is in Ireland).

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Patrick McCarry

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