It has been formally confirmed by the European Tour that the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will take place during the final week of May and run from the 28th to the 31st.
It has also been confirmed once more as one of the seven events to be part of the elite Rolex Series, guaranteeing prize money again at a level of €7 million.
The one rather important element that has yet to be finalised is where it will take place. The sense is that Mount Juliet will be the venue, marking a return to a parkland setting which seems a shame after three consecutive years of spectacular and very iconic links golf at Portstewart, Ballyliffin and Lahinch.
Sport for Business has spoken to a number of the sponsors involved and all of them expressed their comfort that a delayed announcement on the venue will not impact at all on their own activation plans which are tried and tested from previous years and other golfing tournaments.
Nevertheless the delay does reverse a recent trend whereby the venue has been announced earlier. Portstewart in 2017 was announced the previous July. Ballyliffin was announced on the final day of the 2017 Open in June while Lahinch this year was confirmed as the venue after a rigorous selection process the previous May.
That gave 14 months to prepare and promote. We are now down to only eight months until the 2020 tournament tees off.
Part of the delay may be down to a decision on which irish professional will be designated as the ‘Host’ of next year’s tournament. Rory McIlroy fulfilled that role successfully from 2015 to 2018 before hanfding the baton to Paul McGinley for last year’s event.
Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell were then slated to take over in each of the next three years but with Harrington involved as Ryder Cup Captain in 2020, and the others perhaps more confortable hosting North of the border, that could present a kink in previous plans.
Is it possible that McGinley could be persuaded to take on the role again having shone as expected in it last year? Or could a new name be added to the mix in the shape of Shane Lowry?
Regardless an announceemnt is expected imminently and the halo effect of last year’s success at lahinch, backed up by the magic of Shane Lowry’s win at the Open Championship in Royal Portrush indicates it will be a big winner once again for players, fans and the European Tour.
The Rolex Series returns for its fourth consecutive year, beginning with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Presented by EGA (January 16-19) followed by the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (May 28-31), and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 9-12), before the BMW PGA Championship (September 10-13) and the Italian Open (October 8-11) take place a fortnight either side of The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
The season then concludes with three consecutive Rolex Series events; the Turkish Airlines Open (November 5-8), the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player (November 12-15) and the season-finale, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai (November 19-22) where the 2020 Race to Dubai champion will be crowned.
Next year’s schedule has had to accommodate not only the Ryder Cup but also the Olympic Games which will take place at the end of July and beginning of August in Tokyo.
It may be that the Irish Open will revert to later in the summer in the future. Next year’s earlier staging will perhaps deliver a secondary benefit in avoiding the Euro 2020 tournament which is likely to dominate the irish sporting landscape with four games down to be played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.