This year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, set for the end of May at Mount Juliet, has become the last sporting event to be postponed due to the threat of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The postponement of the €7.87m tournament came via an announcement from the European Tour on Monday afternoon and was met with disappointment but complete understanding by this year’s Irish Open host Graeme McDowell.
“As important as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is to all of us, everyone’s health is our only concern,” the major champion from Portrush said. “My thoughts are with everyone affected by the crisis and I hope everyone keeps safe and well during these difficult times.”
The tournament was set to be the European Tour’s second Rolex Series event of 2020, staged at Mount Juliet near Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, from May 28-31, but the decision to postpone put public health ahead of any sporting priorities, said Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.
“The decision to postpone the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open follows consultation with all stakeholders and was made with public health and well-being as our absolute priority. Our thoughts are with everyone right now and we are all united in trying to fight the spread of the pandemic.
“With this in mind, we will continue to evaluate all aspects of our 2020 European Tour schedule, and discussions on the rescheduling of postponed events will remain ongoing until we have clarity on the global situation.”
Finding a spot in an already crowded fixture list for men’s professional golf will be the next challenge facing Pelley and the European Tour. Both the Masters and PGA Championship, set for April and May respectively, have been postponed with June’s US Open also in doubt given the host course, Winged Foot, is in Westchester, just north of coronavirus hotspot New York City, and was closed down last week.
There have also been suggestions that this July’s 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Kent should also be postponed, adding the fourth and final major championship of the season to the list of tournaments in need of a new date when the pandemic abates.
The Irish Open’s position as one of the top seven tournaments on the European Tour outside of the majors and consistently attracting some of the biggest crowds on the circuit would place it high up on the priority list for rescheduling. Yet with events up to the end of May now postponed, the number of opportunities to do so are diminishing, even with this summer’s Tokyo Olympics being delayed to the summer of 2021 and freeing up three weekends on the 2020 calendar.
The European Tour’s decision to postpone was backed by tournament sponsor Dubai Duty Free, whose executive vice chairman and chief executive Colm McLoughlin said: “We fully support the European Tour in their decision to postpone the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The most important thing right now is the health and safety of all the players, the spectators, the sponsors and organisers, so it’s the right decision.”