Rory McIlroy welcomed a July date for next year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as “huge”, after the European Tour confirmed the links at Portstewart Golf Club as host venue for 2017.
After years of timing difficulties which have seen Ireland’s national open shifted from pillar to post around weeks in May and June, the tournament, supported by McIlroy’s charitable Rory Foundation has finally been placed front and centre in the summer schedule, with the European Tour creating a links series of tournaments which will take its members, and hopefully some American star power, to the Derry coast to play Portstewart’s Strand Course on July 6 to July 9, before moving on to the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in the build-up to the following week’s Open Championship at Birkdale.
The news was greeted enthusiastically at Baltusrol Golf Club, where both McIlroy, the Irish Open’s host and defending champion, and three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington were yesterday preparing for this week’s PGA Championship.
“I’m really excited about it,” said McIlroy. “We’ve been working hard with the European Tour over the last couple of years to try and find suitable venues and a suitable date for the Irish Open.
“We sort of knew a long time ago that Portstewart was going to be probably where we were going to go play it in 2017. To get that date right before the Scottish is huge. To play a round of links golf leading into the Open, hopefully we can attract some marquee names to come over and play. With it being at the start of July, hopefully, fingers crossed, we can get some decent weather.
“I think it can only be good for the event. I’m really excited for it. I’m excited that the European Tour have worked with us and helped us getting that date and getting suitable venues going forward. I’m excited for Portstewart next year.”
Harrington, who won the Irish Open at Adare Manor in 2007 ahead of the first of his two Open Championship victories at Carnoustie, welcomed the announcement that will give him two weeks of links preparation ahead of his return to Birkdale, where he retained the Claret Jug in 2008.
“I saw the statistical report by the European Tour that the last five winners of The Open played the Scottish Open the week before. When I won two Opens, I played links the week before [practising at the European Club in Wicklow’s Brittas Bay], so maybe the cat’s out of the bag.
“Castle Stuart is as different a links course as you could get from [this year’s Open venue] Troon and yet it’s still good preparation for Troon.
“Portstewart is a more traditional links, would be more like the links we’re going to play The Open on, but again, you just want to be playing links golf in links conditions, weather, wind, all the turf and different things.
“So, it’s great for the Irish Open, no doubt about it. It’s a great date and great to be on a links course.”
Harrington said he had not played Portstewart, but “I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I’ve heard there’s nine really, really good holes, but look, it’s a links golf course, that’s what we enjoy. The players will enjoy it, which is always a good thing. They’ll enjoy Portrush and the surrounding areas.”
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