There will be no PR disaster after all. Rory McIlroy has confirmed that he will tee it up in the 2012 Irish Open from June 28 – July 1.
The US Open champion revealed his intention to play in his national open instead of the clashing AT&T National at Congressional, site of his epic eight-shot US Open win last June.
“There has been a lot of speculation on whether or not I will play the Irish Open next year, so I am happy to announce that I will definitely play the tournament next season,” McIlroy said in Hong Kong today.
“For me, the Irish Open has always been, and will continue to be, one of the most important events on the global golf calendar. It’s our national open and it’s obviously a title that I would love to win at some stage in my career.
“With Irish golf on such a high in recent years, it is important that we put on a good show not only for the home fans, but also for the global golf audience who will be watching the event on TV next summer.
“A lot has been made of me joining the PGA Tour again next year, but in reality, it’s not a drastic change to the schedule I have played in recent seasons. It just means that I will be adding a few more events to my schedule in America in 2012.
“Taking my PGA Tour card again does not mean that I’m going to neglect my European Tour status. I’ll continue to play a similar schedule of events in Europe and will obviously fulfil my commitment to the European Tour.”
Today’s announcement, which was tweeted by his management firm Horizon Sports and then released by the European Tour, is the first official acknowledgement from Wentworth that the Irish Open will move from his recent end of July date to the end of June.
And McIlroy’s decision is a huge boost to an event which is still seeking a title sponsor following the departure of “3” at the end of 2010.
A venue has yet to be annouced and while Killarney is favourite to host for the third year in a row, the European Tour is believed to be talking at several other venues, including some in the Dubin area.
McIlroy hopes to tee it up at the Irish Open as the reigining European No 1 and, potentially, world No 1 following his rise to No 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking this year.
Catching Luke Donald in both categories will not be easy but the 22-year old from Holywood hopes to head to next week’s Dubai World Championship with a mathematical chance of overtaking the Englishman in European money list.
Having finished second twice at the Hong Kong Golf Club in the past three years, he knows that victory, or possibly a second place finish, at Fanling will mean he has an outside chance of winning Race to Dubai by also lifting the season-ending title next week.
“Of course winning the next two events is achievable,” said McIlroy, “but I probably need to win here in Hong Kong first to even think about it. So all I can concentrate on is trying to play the best I can here, and if I get myself into a position to win and end up winning, it gives me the chance of going to Dubai next week and trying to win The Race to Dubai.
“But even still, I’ll have to win there and Luke will have to finish quite a way below me. It doesn’t look like he’s done that at all this year, so I don’t expect him to do it to be honest, but you never know in this game. All I can do is try and win this week and see what happens after that.”