The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open might be a $7 million dollar extravaganza featuring Rory McIlroy and a host of world stars but Shane Lowry fears there could be “carnage” at Portstewart and he’s not talking about the links challenge.
With the European Tour encouraging fans to take pictures during play, Lowry fears that with up to 25,000 fans swarming over the Strand Links, the distraction from snap happy spectators could become a massive probelm.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” Lowry said at the announcement of new sponsors Immedis in Dublin yesterday.
"There’s going to be carnage this week for myself and the other Irish guys. What a week to trial something like that! There’s going to be 25,000 people there.
"Trying to get 25,000 people to put their phone on silent... statistically, a certain percentage of people won’t. They’re going to use it anyway. There’s going to be carnage."
New European Tour chief Keith Pelley has brought in a raft of innovations to spice up the Tour including “live” in-play interviews, music on the range and shorts on practice days.
Lowry is no fan of the music but he’s alarmed that the Tour will allow up to 25,000 fans to use their phones to take pictures during play.
The Tour will allow mobile phone photography in all areas of the course every day from Tuesday to Sunday through “video capture” is restricted to non-competition areas due to TV rights.
Lowry is certain it will be a nightmare for the players, especially the Irish contingent.
But while the Masters has a total ban on mobile phones, even for the players and their agents, he can’t see that policy ever being brought in on the European Tour.
"You can’t, because it’s too hard to do,” Lowry said of a possible ban. “I don’t know. I just think it’s a bit ridiculous this week.
"The Tour are all into this new stuff. I like some of it. But music on the range, I’m not a fan of much of it.
“Trying to warm-up at half six in the morning on the range and One Direction comes on, you’re thinking, ‘Ah come on, I’m only barely out of bed.’
"You’re trying to get your head right, you know what I mean?"
The field is the best in the history of the event with world No 2 Hideki Matsuyama joined by No 11 Jon Rahm, Olympic champion Justin Rose, rising star Tommy Fleetwood, former Masters champion Danny Willett, Ryder Cup stars Thomas Pieters and Matt Fitzpatrick and Ireland’s major winners in Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and McIlroy.
Lowry doesn’t mind the live, on-course interviews with Sky Sports but believes most fans come for the golf, not marketing gimmicks.
He said: "Do they need to have music on the range at Wentworth? This week at the Irish Open, does anyone care they have music on the range?
"No one is going to go for the music on the range; they’ll still go for the golf.”
As for the green light to fans for photography this week, Championship Director Simon Alliss believes they had no option but to allow phones.
He said: “To be honest, it’s always been extremely difficult to police so we’re delighted to be the first European Tour event to pilot this change in respect of taking photos on your mobile phone.
“Now we really want people to take advantage of this change in policy to get their phones out and capture all of the fun and sporting action that this year’s event is set to deliver.
“We know that almost everyone now uses their mobile phone to take pictures so we’re embracing that and encouraging spectators to share their experiences on social media and show the world what a wonderful event the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Portstewart really is.
“And to top it all off, we’re giving £500 worth of merchandise to the best mobile phone photo taken between Tuesday and Saturday as part of our competition.”
Lowry is not convinced.
"France has always been pretty bad,” he said. “But Ireland has been pretty bad too."