Paul McGinley on Rory McIlroy absence: 'Irish Open will always be bigger than any one player'

Tournament host Paul McGinley has insisted this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open can flourish in spite of the absence of leading Irishman Rory McIlroy.

Paul McGinley on Rory McIlroy absence: 'Irish Open will always be bigger than any one player'

Tournament host Paul McGinley has insisted this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open can flourish in spite of the absence of leading Irishman Rory McIlroy.

Speaking today at Lahinch in advance of Thursday’s opening round, the former Ryder Cup-winning captain pointed to near sell-out crowds at the famous Co. Clare links and said no player was bigger than the Irish Open.

World number three McIlroy announced in February that he would be skipping his national open, a tournament he had hosted in the previous years, preferring to commit to next week’s Scottish Open in his preparation for The Open Championship at Royal Portrush, starting July 18 in his native Northern Ireland.

Host McGinley, who has succeeded McIlroy, a player he captained on his victorious European side at the 2014 Ryder Cup against the United States at Gleneagles, admitted the absence had presented a challenge but the Irish Open had rebounded strongly with a class field.

“Rory’s obviously a huge body blow,” McGinley said. “Of course there are challenges and that was a huge challenge, particularly so early after the announcement that we were coming here, that he wasn’t going to play.

“Of course it is. A guy like that who, outside of Tiger is probably the most charismatic in the world, he’s from Ireland and he decides not to play this year, of course it’s a body blow.

"I think we’ve recovered from that strongly and the fact we’ve sell-out crowds is validation of that, that the Irish Open will always be bigger than any one player."

“Rory will be the first person to agree with that. We’ve had great champions here in this Open over the years, Nick Faldo, Seve, Langer, Olazabal, all the greats, they’ve all won it - Rory’s won it. And I think in 20 years time when Rory’s kind of winding down a little bit there will be another young Rory McIlroy coming along and that’s just the evolution.

“The game is always bigger than any one player and I think we’ve the validation of sell-out crowds this week that we’re anticipating, certainly this weekend, is an indication that we haven’t been too much affected by Rory not playing.”

McGinley has still managed to assemble a classy field for the European Tour’s $7m (€6.2m) Rolex Series event at Lahinch, led by tournament favourite Jon Rahm of Spain and also featuring fellow Ryder Cup winners Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrell Hatton, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ian Poulter, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and major champions Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen as well as home favourites Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne.

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