Despite some of the big names who will tee off in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch tomorrow, one of the biggest stories is still the absence of Ireland’s top golfer, Rory McIlroy.
When the Co. Down native announced early on that he would not compete here, there was much criticism of him for not supporting the Irish Open. In fairness to this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open tournament host, Paul McGinley, he immediately said he respected McIlroy’s decision, and also emphasised that the tournament is bigger than any one player, even if that player is McIlroy.
Since McGinley arrived at the Co. Clare links course this week, he has again been asked about McIlroy’s absence, with the Dubliner admitting:
“Rory is obviously a huge body blow. And the question, the challenge is, of course there’s a challenge. That was a huge challenge, particularly after the announcement that we were coming here that he wasn’t going to play. Of course it is.”
The former Ryder Cup captain went on to say that it may not be as big a blow to the tournament as some might have initially suggested:
“I’d probably say he’s the most charismatic golfer in the world and he’s from Ireland and he decides not to play this year, of course it’s a body blow. But I think we’ve recovered from that strongly. And I think the fact that we have sellout crowds is a validation of that, that it’s the Irish Open and it will always be bigger than any one player. Rory would be the first person to agree with that.”
McGinley then stressed that game of golf is always greater than the players themselves:
“The game is always bigger than any one player. And I think the validation of sell-out crowds that we’re anticipating, certainly the weekend is an indication that we haven’t been too much affected by Rory not playing.”
When Shane Lowry faced the media at Lahinch, it was pointed out to him that with McIlroy elsewhere, the Offaly golfer is now essentially the number one Irish golfer competing this week:
“I suppose (the mantle of Irish No. 1 at Lahinch has passed to me). I don’t feel it as a responsibility. There’s plenty of us here. Paddy (Pádraig Harrington), obviously the career Paddy has had, I’m sure he’s — you can pass it on to him if you want to. And G-Mac (Graeme McDowell) … he’ll have his following down here.”
Irrespective of who is, or isn’t competing this week, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will, as usual, attract huge crowds. Saturday and Sunday have only limited tickets available, a sign again of the huge appetite for world-class golf in Ireland.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.co.uk.