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Irish Open fears ‘Rory McIlroy won’t make his decision until the Irish Government make theirs' - Paul McGinley

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Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Paul McGinley fears for this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as uncertainty over travel restrictions threatens to scupper efforts to attract Rory McIlroy and a bumper field to Mount Juliet from July 1-4.

As a member of the European Tour Board and the Ryder Cup Committee, the Dubliner knows quarantine restrictions could be devastating, even if the Government awards tour golfers elite status.

“I am worried about the Irish Open unless Government brings in elite status,” McGinley said in an interview to promote his hosting of LeadersLoungeLive.com on April 22, when he chats with South African rugby union head coach Rassie Erasmus.

“The thing about elite status though is that it’s great if you’re Munster or Leinster rugby or a soccer team because, it’s a small number of people and you’re in and out.

“But the European Tour is not just 156 players, it’s also 156 caddies and also the physios, the support staff, the coaches, and the TV crews.

“They’re all international so you quickly get up to 500-600 people and that’s obviously a challenge for the government much more so than rugby or soccer who are just in for a day or two and not for a week, as we are.”

While European Tour CEO Keith Pelley meets daily with the Tour’s dedicated Covid Contingency Team, which is in constant contact with governments around Europe, uncertainty over travel is a problem as the Tour looks to either increase the €3m prize fund or offer extra Ryder Cup points to make the Irish Open more attractive before The Open.

“Players don’t want to commit with the travel restrictions being so stringent,” McGinley said. “So until they get 100 percent confirmation from government, they won’t commit.”

Those players include four-time Major winner McIlroy, who hasn’t played the Irish Open since 2018.

“Rory won’t make his decision until the Irish Government make theirs but he hasn’t dismissed it,” McGinley said. “The problem is the sands are constantly shifting.

“If Rory wanted to come back and play The Open next week for example, he couldn’t because he’s got to do his 10 days in quarantine in the UK. But listen, it’s constantly evolving.”

While Ryder Cup qualifying points double from next month, McGinley revealed the Tour was looking to make the Irish Open even more attractive.

“We are looking at all kinds of ways to incentivise the Irish Open,” he said. “We do feel we are going to get a good field and we are looking at all different ways that we can do it without any confirmation how we can do it yet.

“Whether it is increasing the money or increasing the points or putting some kind of incentives in there, we’re trying to work around Covid and make it as easy as possible for the players to come over and play a tranche of tournaments rather than having just one or two.

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“At the moment it’s looking like we’re going to have a very strong field because it’s very clear we’re going to have an Open Championship this year and the players are taking the broader view that if the do have to quarantine for The Open, the might as well come over and spend a good bit of time in Europe

“Players will say, well, there are huge Ryder Cup points available, certainly in Scotland the week before so I might as well do Ireland while I’m there.”

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