| 7.1°C Belfast

Graeme McDowell explains 'very difficult' decision to miss Irish Open at Galgorm



Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Getty Images

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell has made "the very difficult decision" not to travel home for the Dubai Duty Fee Irish Open and defend his Corales Punta Cana Resort and Club Championship title in the Dominican Republic instead.

The Portrush ace (41) was due to host the Irish Open at Mount Juliet in May but following its postponement due to COVID-19 and the European Tour’s decision to stage it behind closed doors at Galgorm Castle in two weeks’, he has decided not to compete this year.

"I have never failed to attend this great event in 18 previous years and regret that due to the necessary changes made to the event, travel and scheduling issues, I am choosing to not play this year," McDowell said in a statement.

"I will be competing that same week at the Corales Punta Cana Resort and Club Championship, defending the title I won in 2019.

"Defending a title is something special and on honour I have tried to take seriously all my career. Under normal circumstances defending this event would not take priority over playing my home Open, but the unprecedented circumstances make this a better option for me at this time.

"I want to apologise to Dubai Duty Free and take an opportunity to again thank them for the wonderful commitment they have made to putting the Irish Open back on the map.

"We will hopefully be back in 2021, with the event at full strength, surrounded by the great Irish fans, assuming we can put the issues caused by COVID behind us."

McDowell will compete in next week’s US Open at Winged Foot with Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, amateur James Sugrue and reigning Irish Open champion Jon Rahm.

However, it appears that only Lowry will make the trip to Galgorm Castle for the Irish Open.

Ryder Cup skipper Pádraig Harrington, who has not played since March, has yet to confirm he will be teeing it up in Ballymena from September 24-27.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell started strongly at the Portugal Masters, sitting in fourth place after the opening round after a fine six-under-par 65 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Club.

Caldwell's superb round was still only good enough to leave him four shots off leader Liam Johnston (Scotland), who was bogey-free in a sensational 10-under 61 in his opening round.

Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) is also well-placed to make the cut and potentially push up the leaderboard today after he shot a one-under-par 70.

At the ANA Inspiration, the second Major of the year on the women's calendar, Cavan's Leona Maguire opened with a two-over-par 74 at Mission Hills County Club in Rancho Mirage, California, while Olivia Mehaffey fired a five-over 77, with the early lead shared by four players at four-under-par.

Belfast Telegraph