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Irish Open set for September switch as Mount Juliet in the mix

 

Open champion Shane Lowry
Open champion Shane Lowry
23/7/2019, Shane Lowry, Open champion smiles as he holds the Claret jug at a press event in House on Leeson street in Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

By Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry may yet get his wish to see the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open switched to September after the PGA Tour yesterday moved the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational to July 2-5 next season.

Lowry skipped last weekend's WGC event in Memphis to celebrate his Open Championship victory, and with the calendar even more compressed next year due to the Olympic Games (July 27-August 2) and the Ryder Cup (September 25-27), the $10.25m event at TPC Southwind will now take place two weeks before The Open.

That puts it on a collision course with the $7m Irish Open, which has been played on that date for the last three years.

The European Tour could move the Irish Open or refuse to sanction the WGC, just as they did when the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational clashed with the Open de France in 2016.

However, in a statement, chief executive of the European Tour Keith Pelley merely said: "We have had discussions with the PGA Tour in recent months about the challenges presented by the global golfing calendar in 2020. We are currently finalising our full European Tour schedule for 2020 which we will announce in due course."

Lowry believes it would be unfair to sponsors Dubai Duty Free for the European Tour to stick with the July date in the event of a clash.

"There is a great chance to move it the week before Wentworth, two great tournaments two weeks in a row," Lowry said at Lahinch earlier this month.

"September in Ireland tends to be okay as well, so I think Dubai Duty Free should put pressure on the Tour to give them the date they want.

"There are very few really big tournaments on the European Tour, and this is one of them, and I think they should be looked after as well as they can."

No venue or host player has been chosen for 2020 but Mount Juliet, which staged the WGC-American Express Championship in 2002 and 2004 and the Irish Open from 1993-95, has received a visit from the Tour and the sponsor.

Championship director for the Irish Open Simon Alliss and senior vice-president of marketing for Dubai Duty Free Sinead el Sibai toured Mount Juliet the Monday after Jon Rahm's win at Lahinch.

"The links have been there for the last few years, but it could just as easily be parkland," Dubai Duty Free's executive vice-chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin said in Co Clare, adding that a links venue was not "cast in stone".

Rory McIlroy missed Lahinch to play in Scotland before The Open - where he agonisingly missed the cut by a single shot at Royal Portrush - and then play in Memphis. But he left the home of Elvis Presley singing the blues on Sunday after a disappointing final round.

Leading by a shot overnight from Brooks Koepka thanks to a stunning third-round 62, he made just one putt outside five feet in a one-over 71 to finish tied fourth, five shots behind the World No.1.

McIlroy, who is second to Koepka in the race for the FedEx Cup, will reappear alongside Lowry for the first play-off event next week, the Northern Trust at Liberty National.

Meanwhile, Seamus Power and Padraig Harrington are in action in the final counting Wyndham Championship in Greensboro this week.

West Waterford man Power is currently ranked 143rd in the FedEx Cup standings and likely needs a top-10 finish to make the top 125 who keep full playing privileges and qualify for the play-offs.

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