McGinley hoping stand-off is avoided over Irish Open clash

Paul McGinley does not believe the European Tour will engage in a dangerous stand-off with the PGA Tour over a potential clash of dates with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open next season.

Still basking in the glow of Jon Rahm’s two-shot win at a packed Lahinch, the 2019 host reiterated his belief that the success of the Irish Open depends more on the weather, its history and “the craic” than the strength of the field, even if it is opposite a World Golf Championship.

Thirteen of the world’s top 50 played in west Clare, but with the 2020 Olympic Games squeezed into the schedule, the PGA Tour is looking to move the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis to the same July 2-5 date as the Irish Open and Ireland may just have to take it on the chin.

Convinced

McGinley is convinced the clash will be amicably, if imperfectly, resolved by European Tour CEO Keith Pelley and PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, at Royal Portrush next week.

“We are getting on really strong with them, and we want to continue that, and we don’t want to go into a brinkmanship situation,” he said, ruling out a heavyweight political showdown.

“We may have to go into two opposing tournaments, but what can we do? We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.”

The uncertainty is a challenge for Pelley when it comes to choosing a venue and host for the 2020 Irish Open, which are elements McGinley feels are secondary to the true strength of the championship.

“He has no idea where we’re going, and we don’t know the host yet,” McGinley said.

“It might be Pádraig (Harrington), but we haven’t confirmed that and we haven’t confirmed the venue and the date. But like all things, it will be resolved. It mightn’t be resolved in a perfect way because I don’t think there is a perfect way. But we will resolve it.”

Given the great festival atmosphere in Lahinch, even without Rory McIlroy, he does not believe field strength is the key to the success of the Irish Open.

“I think it’s important we recognise the history of the Irish Open and not revolve it around any one player and not revolve it about the quality of field; that it is a festival and that we create the craic,” he said.

“The golf will take care of itself. The players are great. The golf courses chosen will always be very strong. It’s putting the ancillary stuff around it to make sure it’s a success, and there’s something for everybody in the family.”

Pelley may be reluctant to move the Irish Open out of its current date, two weeks before The Open, with the JP McManus Pro-Am scheduled for the following Monday and Tuesday at Adare Manor adding to the complexity of the equation.

“We’re working very closely with the PGA Tour, a lot closer than we ever have done,” he said.

“Relations between the PGA and European Tours are really strong. Harmonious. I don’t think there is a perfect resolution. We’re going to have to concede on something. It’s their decision.”

As for Rahm’s victory, which catapulted him from 11th to eighth in the world on a day when 20-year-old Matthew Wolff spectacularly eagled the last to win the 3M Open in Minnesota in just his fourth PGA Tour start, McGinley saw something special from a player he considers a serious contender for The Open.

“To be honest, outside of one of the Irish lads winning, our first choice would have been Jon Rahm,” he said.

“Of all the young guys coming through in the world, Jon Rahm is the one for me who I don’t see having a weakness, just more experience.

“I think the guy has got it to be something special . . . He’s perfectly prepared to have a good go at winning at Portrush.”

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