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Questions still hang over Irish Open at Mount Juliet

 

Mount Juliet was confirmed yesterday as the host venue for the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open but many questions remain unanswered as the event moves from July to May. (stock photo)
Mount Juliet was confirmed yesterday as the host venue for the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open but many questions remain unanswered as the event moves from July to May. (stock photo)

By Brian Keogh

Mount Juliet was confirmed yesterday as the host venue for the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open but many questions remain unanswered as the event moves from July to May.

While the popular Jack Nicklaus-designed course will be staging the championship for the fourth time after a 25-year gap, there was no mention of a host star or an increase in the prize fund beyond the $7 million minimum guaranteed for a Rolex Series event.

The European Tour announced in February 2018 that with Rory McIlroy stepping away after his fourth stint as the face of the Irish Open at Ballyliffin last year, the event would be "hosted annually by some of the greats of the Irish game from 2019".

Paul McGinley was first to pick up the gauntlet at Lahinch, a sell-out success this summer as Spain's Jon Rahm won for the second time in three years.

But while major winners Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell were also named last year as part of the hosting 'pool', the European Tour had "nothing to confirm" yesterday on a host for 2020.

Getting the right man in Kilkenny from May 28 to 31 next year will be key when it comes to marketing and attracting top players, especially now the event no longer forms part of a July links swing into The Open.

But it will be just as important to impress Dubai Duty Free and Rolex, who pump millions into the European Tour every year.

Getting big names to Kilkenny in late May is another challenge and while McIlroy had 13 of the top 50 in Royal County Down in 2015 and McGinley persuaded 12 to play at Lahinch in July, the 2020 Irish Open falls two weeks after the PGA Championship in San Francisco and less than three weeks before the US Open.

With Rahm promising to defend his title and McIlroy and reigning Open champion Shane Lowry also certain starters, Mount Juliet will mark the start of the countdown to the 2026 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor and Lowry's first appearance in Ireland since his Open win.

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