The European Tour is toying with the idea of staging a special qualifier for this year’s Irish Open at Carton House.
There has been no Monday qualifying on the European Tour since it became an “all exempt Tour” in 1984. But given the huge interest in playing in the event since last year’s sell-out success at Royal Portrush, there could be a huge Irish presence at the Montgomerie Course from June 27-30.
According to a European Tour spokesman: “The concept of a qualifier has been mooted, but nothing has been finalised. It is just an idea, which would need further ratification from Tour Executive and perhaps the Tournament Committee.”
Whether the qualifier would be open to all comers or limited to Irish players only remains to be seen though PGA Irish Region secretary Michael McCumiskey said on Monday that he had heard nothing from the PGA or Wentworth on the proposal.
“We had 20 spots in the Irish Open 20 years ago,” McCumiskey said. “Then it was reduced to 10 and for the last five or six years we have had eight places, determined by the previous year’s Order of Merit. I’ve heard nothing about it and it would surprise me given the changes the European Tour is making with its exemption categories.”
It is believed that the qualifier could provide another three or four places in the event which will already feature at least 27 Irishmen with the eight players already exempt through the 2012 PGA Irish Region Order of Merit, headed by David Higgins.
They would be joined by European Tour card holders Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie and David Higgins and up to eight invitations, including four amateurs.
No venue has yet been discussed though the O’Meara Course at Carton House, which now features a new first and 18th hole, will almost certainly be considered if the idea gets off the ground.
Eleven of the 27 Irish players who teed it up at Royal Portrush last year made the halfway cut.