No Irish Open date announced as European Tour to resume with six UK-based tournaments

By Simon Lewis

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley insisted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will have a place on a revamped 2020 schedule and remained a critical component of the season, despite not featuring in an initial wave of rescheduled tournaments unveiled on Thursday.

Pelley was speaking to the media via teleconference for the first time since the Tour was forced to postpone or cancel 19 events in early March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and on the day Europe’s best golfers had been due to tee off in the first round of the Irish Open at Mount Juliet in Co. Kilkenny.

Yet while the European Tour announced a return to competition, initially behind closed doors, on July 22 at the Betfred British Masters near Newcastle, the first of six events in a new “UK Swing” which will run until the end of August and take in Ryder Cup venues Celtic Manor in south Wales and The Belfry, near Birmingham.

  • July 22-25 (Wednesday-Saturday): Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood, Close House Golf Club
  • July 30- August 2: English Open, Marriott Forest of Arden
  • August 6-9: English Championship, Marriott Hanbury Manor
  • August 13-16: Celtic Classic, The Celtic Manor Resort
  • August 20-23: Wales Open, The Celtic Manor Resort
  • August 27-30: UK Championship, The Belfry

As one of seven blue-chip Rolex Series events on the Tour with a prize fund of $7 million (€6.35m), the Irish Open is one of the best-regarded tournaments on the schedule but it was not part of a four-tournament run-in to the Race To Dubai between October 8 and December when the Race To Dubai will the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai from December 10-13.

That leaves September still free to reschedule more events, though the US Open has been moved from June to September 17-20 and the Ryder Cup remains slated for the following week despite calls from many players including Rory McIlroy to postpone the Europe v USA matches for a year.

Pelley, though, had words of comfort for nervous Irish golf supporters who may have feared the worst for their national open.

“We have not released our entire 2020 schedule at this point, with a number of familiar and iconic events not part of this announcement,” Pelley said. “Rest assured they are still part of our plans and we have a variety of options open to us right now and we will announce them shortly.

“Indeed, our schedule from July to December tentatively has 24 events on it and we will make those announcements in due course including Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. I wish we were announcing them all today but truly the complexity of the discussions, the health guidelines in different countries and negotiations with many different partners who are going through many different things made it not feasible at this time.”

Of the Irish Open specifically, the Tour’s chief executive said conversations were ongoing with the title sponsors, venue hosts Mount Juliet, and the Irish Government.

“The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is still absolutely critical and is very much part of our plans. I don’t want you to think that the Irish Open, because it is not part of this announcement, is less important because that would be the wrong message.

“It remains hugely important to us, so much that we currently have three or four options for it. Now we could have announced it today but it wouldn’t have been 100 per cent and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.

“Like all of the events, there are so many variables that come into moving an event from one date to the other: title-partner support, venue support, government support, the best possible date for that particular tournament. In the case of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Rolex’s opinion would come in.

“So there are so many different variables that come into it and now the next one that comes into it is travel and how we can ease the travel and what date can be decided both before and after in order to minimise the travel.

“I think what was really fascinating aspects when I was privileged to be on the committee with Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour and the four majors was, I think, the four majors found it very difficult to move one event. But to move 30 events, the only event on our schedule that hasn’t moved at this particular time is the Alfred Dunhill, so they’ve all moved and it’s very very tricky to move events but rest easy, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is critical for us and we’re having all those conversations right now.”

Pelley later added that he expected an announcement “within the next month” on the remaining tournaments.

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