Irish Open future uncertain as PGA Tour reshuffle deals potential blow to tournament
The Irish Open has been dealt a potential blow as the PGA Tour announces a shifted schedule for the 2019/20 season.
Ireland's premier tournament has become one of the best-supported on the European Tour and, since 2017, has taken place on the first week of July.
Added to the following week's Scottish Open and, of course, The Open Championship, the schedule has formed a popular three-week links swing.
That set-up has proved so fruitful as it has attracted some of the world's biggest stars, such as Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose, to the Irish Open as they look to play competitive links golf in the build-up to The Open.
However, that could all be set to change next year as the PGA Tour's schedule reveals a potentially key clash with the Irish Open's spot on the calendar.
Next year, the World Golf Championships-Fedex St Jude Invitational, which is run as part of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, will shift from the week after The Open to the first week in July.
Attracting the world's biggest talents, including the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings and the Ryder Cup teams, the WGC could mean a decimated field at the corresponding event on the European Tour.
On the other hand, if the Irish Open's date is changed, it could mean a breaking up of the European Tour's links swing.
Should the Tour look to protect the Irish Open's date, it could refuse to sanction the WGC event, as it did in 2016 when the WGC Bridgestone Invitational ran against the French Open on the same date.
In fact, that was caused by the same as the 2020 issue - the Olympic Games.
The golfing calendar is complicated by the Olympics, with some of the world's biggest names due to play in Tokyo next year. The men's event is scheduled to take place from July 30 to August 2, two weeks after The Open.
That's what has prompted the change with the WGC St Jude Invitational swapped with the PGA Tour's 3M Open to avoid squeezing the bigger event between the year's final major and the Olympics.
Keith Pelley, the European Tour's CEO, 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.”
While its current place in the calendar has proved popular, the Irish Open has previously been played over a range of dates, from May through to the final week in July, after The Open Championship.
Belfast Telegraph Digital