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Graeme McDowell fears Irish Open disappointment amid coronavirus pandemic



Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell knows that the Majors, Ryder Cup and Irish Open fade into insignificance compared to the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But as he tries to keep his extended family safe, his spirits up and his game ticking over in Orlando, the Portrush native admitted that golf's burning questions must remain unanswered for a little while longer.

Thanks to his early-season win in Saudi Arabia and his return to the world's top 50, the Rathmore man (40) was set to forgo his defence of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship this week to tee it up in the WGC Dell Match Play.

With no return date in sight, he's struggling to find his laser-like focus during golf's global shutdown.

But when asked if the Ryder Cup should go ahead as a post-virus boost for golf or be postponed for a year due to the compromised qualification process, he was sharp.

"I think it comes down to prioritising the schedule," he said. "I can't imagine the jigsaw puzzle that the European Tour, the PGA Tour and the four Majors have on their hands before we even start talking about Ryder Cups. It's a crazy puzzle.

"If we could be back to playing golf around June, perhaps you could argue that in June, July, August, September we have four solid months. With an adjustment to the qualification processes and maybe of weighting those four months a little higher than we would have, you could you pick two teams of 12 that could play at Whistling Straits.

"If that re-injects some adrenaline back into the game, if that is what it is going to need after this off time, then I would be fully supportive of it.

"But there are so many things that can change and so many things that have to happen that for me, the Major championships take priority over the Ryder Cup.

"It's really only going to be a viable opportunity if the qualification process properly reflects the 12 best players from each team, and we are going to feel good about it. We are going to feel like the two teams are legitimate, and the tournament can stand."

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, still scheduled for Mount Juliet from May 28-31, is the next possible event on the European Tour calendar but McDowell, who is set to host the event for the next two years, admits plans for a scaled-down tournament were already on the cards.

"We are already talking about a reduced-type staging if the Irish Open goes ahead at all," McDowell confessed.

"We just have to prepare the best we can, have a contingency plan if it looks like we can execute the tournament.

"If not, I will be extremely disappointed not to be able to host an Irish Open with the Open champion Shane Lowry, the number one player in the world in Rory McIlroy and the Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington, Jon Rahm and others.

"It's a phenomenal opportunity, and I will be really disappointed if I don't get that opportunity, but there are so many more important things right now than that, and we have to hope for the best and get the world back on its feet again, keep people safe and worry about the Irish Open in due course."

Belfast Telegraph