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Irish Open set for rescheduled date as European Tour chief hails 'absolutely critical' tournament

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An October date for the Irish Open could potentially suit Rory McIlroy's calendar.

An October date for the Irish Open could potentially suit Rory McIlroy's calendar.

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An October date for the Irish Open could potentially suit Rory McIlroy's calendar.

The European Tour have unveiled plans to return to action this summer and, while there is no date as yet announced, the Irish Open is set to be rescheduled for later in the year.

The tour has ground to a halt since the beginning of March due to the coronavirus pandemic but will swing back into action on July 22, teeing off a run of six consecutive UK-based events.

Those will run up to the end of August and, with the September schedule already occupied by the US Open and the Ryder Cup, the Rolex Series is not due to return until October.

Currently, it will begin with the Scottish Open at the Renaissance club on October 8 and the BMW PGA Championship a week later at Wentworth.

As European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley stressed the need to 'minimise travel' between events, it seems to make most sense to visit Mount Juliet in Kilkenny the week before, beginning October 1.

Should that be the case, it may tempt world number one Rory McIlroy to return to the event he missed in 2019.

He said earlier this week that he was undecided on whether or not a revised Irish Open would fit into his schedule, although also indicated that October could provide his best opportunity to return to Europe.

Whenever it happens, Tour CEO Pelley stressed his desire to ensure the 2020 tournament takes place.

"The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is still absolutely critical and is very much part of our plans," he said. "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 give you the wrong message.

"It is hugely important to us. So much so that we have three or four date options for it. 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 opinions and comments.

"It's very, very tricky to move events, but rest easy. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is critical for us."

Graeme McDowell is due to host this year's event, as well as next year's Irish Open at Portstewart GC.

The six UK-based tournaments that will restart the European Tour calendar are the British Masters at Close House near Newcastle, a revived English Open at Forest of Arden, the English Championship at Hanbury Manor, back-to-back tournaments at Celtic Manor – the Celtic Classic and the Wales Open – and the UK Championship at the Belfry.

The final two European Tour of 2020 will be played when the Nedbank Golf Challenge, starting on December 3, is followed a week later by the World Tour Championship.

The Race To Dubai will still see a champion named in December, the European Tour’s committee has decided that no player will lose his card this year, nor will there be any formal graduations from the Challenge Tour.

The Tour's plans, however, are all subject to the lifting of the two-week quarantine by the Government.

Belfast Telegraph