Rory McIlroy was not using his tournament hosting duties as an excuse at Ballyliffin this week, but he will certainly head to Lahinch for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open relishing the freedom from the responsibilities he has held these past four years.
McIlroy finished well off the pace at two under par, 12 shots behind the winning score posted by play-off rivals Ryan Fox and Russell Knox. While he was happy with his closing one-under-par 71, McIlroy can be immensely proud of his stint at tournament host on behalf of his charitable Rory Foundation.
“All in all, it’s been a great four years and I’m looking forward to going to Lahinch next year maybe with not quite as much responsibility,” said McIlroy.
“I’m looking forward to getting down there. I haven’t been to Lahinch in a lot of years, so I’m looking forward to that.
“It’s been an eye-opener (hosting) to see how much goes into sort of running a golf tournament and being involved in a golf tournament. It’s been great for me, especially for the future.
“This probably isn’t going to be the last time that I’m involved in a golf tournament, but it’s been a great learning experience, and it’s been great in terms of who we’ve been able to help and what we’ve achieved, you know, from a charitable standpoint.”
McIlroy and The Rory Foundation first got involved at Royal County Down in 2015, coinciding with Dubai Duty Free’s first year as title sponsors, the tournament having gone from a €2m purse at Fota Island in 2014 to the current prize fund of $7m (€6m).
“I’m thrilled. I feel like I get too much credit for what is a huge effort by a lot of people. We’ve been involved a little bit and I’ve been delighted to be involved but the European Tour have been great, Dubai Duty Free coming on board as title sponsor, it’s been fantastic.
McIlroy will hand over the mantle of tournament host to European Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley at Lahinch next July when the Irish Open visits Clare for the first time with his fellow Irish major winners Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, and Graeme McDowell set to rotate the duties in honour of their remarkable career achievements.
It may be a while before 29-year-old McIlroy takes another turn but he did not discount the possibility.
“I think the plan is for it to be a rotation so we’ll see when that time comes around where we might want to throw our hat back into the ring, but I’ll let the other guys enjoy it for a few years.”