Shane Lowry will be returning to play in his first event in Northern Ireland or Ireland since winning the Claret Jug in 2019 at Royal Portrush.
Dubai - It will obviously have a very different look and feel with no spectators.
Well what a few months it has been with the total implosion of the 2020 global sports calendar and now the careful one step at a time resurrection of the tournaments.
The 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin, USA, this week should have been one of the highlights of world sport! But it will now be held in 2021 in the same parallel week. Qualification, invites and everything is on hold with review but will hopefully come back bigger and better in 2021 when we all appreciate such a spectacle even more.
With all the juggling of tournaments at short notice, it created a calendar window for the rearranged Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to be moved from its original date in May, 2020, to this vacated Ryder Cup week as well as moving it from Ireland at Mount Juliet, to Northern Ireland at Galgorm Castle Golf Club.
It will obviously have a very different look and feel with no spectators, no Pro-Am or Corporate Hospitality and an adjustment of the prizefund from $7 million, a ROLEX Series event, to a Euros 1.25 million event that will once again feature on the season long Race to Dubai.
Nonetheless, the champion can only beat what he is up against and this historic tournament, dating back to 1927, will have a worthy winner on Sunday night to join a champion's list of the legends - Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1985 and 1986), Bernhard Langer (1984, 1987 and 1994), Ian Woosnam (1988 and 1989), Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo (1991, 1992 and 1993), Colin Montgomerie (1996, 1997 and 2001) and in more recent times; Padraig Harrington (2007), Shane Lowry (2009/ Amateur), Rory McIlroy (2016) and Jon Rahm (2017 and 2019).
What a list of champions, the envy of so many golf tournaments around the world. Entries for the tournament see Shane Lowry returning to play in his first event in Northern Ireland or Ireland since winning the Claret Jug in 2019 at Royal Portrush. Others committed to play this week include three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington, the in-form George Coetzee, winner of the 2020 Portugal Masters, Stephen Gallacher and rising star and Dubai resident Adri Arnaus who has won in the UAE as recently as 2018 in the season ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final at Al Hamra Golf Club.
It is not just the European Tour and Ladies European Tour events that are having challenges, but all the golf clubs hosting the leading amateur events in both the UAE and the region, attracting regional and international golfers. With only 42 days until the first round of the OMEGA Dubai Moonlight Classic, 78 days until the DP World Tour Championship, with talk of perhaps another tournament the week before the latter to create at least a two week and perhaps extended mini-UAE swing, as revealed by Kent Gray in the recent Golf Digest Middle East publication, final planning and key decisions are being made.
Let alone the 2021 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in mid-January, the 2021 OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic and the 2021 Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf Club following on in the traditional Desert Swing!
These timelines will always focus the minds for promoters, host golf clubs, sponsors, Sports Councils, Health authorities, Professional sporting and especially golfing bodies, players, caddies, TV broadcasters, media both local and international, friends and family etc and ultimately governments at both a local and federal level, to see in what form, format, controls and restrictions will surround these high profile tournaments.
Good luck to all the golf tournaments in this traditionally busy 2020-2021 season that is nearly upon us!