Irish Open 2019: "We are still very much undecided"
 TEEING OFF:John Farren, General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club, Barry Funston, Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation, Simon Alliss, the European Tour's Championship Director of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dubai Duty Free, Des Smyth, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Tournament Ambassador and Martin Donnelly, Business Development Manager of Failte Ireland.  Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye 

TEEING OFF:John Farren, General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club, Barry Funston, Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation, Simon Alliss, the European Tour's Championship Director of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dubai Duty Free, Des Smyth, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Tournament Ambassador and Martin Donnelly, Business Development Manager of Failte Ireland.  Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye 

The venue for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open could be confirmed at Wentworth in a fortnight but the European Tour admits it's struggling to make a decision.

While there is much speculation over the possible presence of Tiger Woods at Ballyliffin, there's just as much about where the event will be played next year when Paul McGinley plays host.

While the 2019 host Paul McGinley is keen to take the event to Lahinch, the European Tour admits it's struggling to make a final decision with Portmarnock Hotel and Golf emerging as strong alternative to the Co Clare links.

“It's been pretty well documente where we've been and what we've looked at,” Tournament Director Simon Alliss said at Ballyliffin yesterday.

"We've created a pretty complicated and detailed document that outlines all the key things we think are important for staging a golf tourmanent and all the key things that a sponsor wants and all our partners want.

“We have put in a points process and basically evaluated every golf course as well as we can and as objectively as possible. So we have that document finalised and sent out to the board of the European Tour and also to our key sponsors. They are looking over the findings.

 The 13th at Lahinch

The 13th at Lahinch

"It covers a lot of different things. it may be important how long the golf course is, but it might be equally important how many bedrooms there are in the local community or what sort of restaurants are available.

"So there are so many factors that are key to finding the right venue. Every venue has so many positive points to consider, which is probably the reason why we are finding it hard to make a decision.

"We have half a dozen venues on the list and we are considering a few but we are still very much undecided.

"Paul is very keen on Lahinch. He has come on board as a host and his opinion is very valuable but it is a collaborative programme. We are all in it together. The European Tour has a voice, Dubai Duty Free have a voice and the host has a voice. But we will make a decision in as balanced an as fair a way as possible.

 "We are undecided when a decision will be announced. We'd certainly want it as soon as possible but we have to get the right timing and get the right venue."

 ohn Farren, General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club, Barry Funston, Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation, Simon Alliss, the European Tour's Championship Director of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dubai Duty Free, Des Smyth, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Tournament Ambassador and Martin Donnelly, Business Development Manager of Failte Ireland.   Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye 

ohn Farren, General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club, Barry Funston, Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation, Simon Alliss, the European Tour's Championship Director of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dubai Duty Free, Des Smyth, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Tournament Ambassador and Martin Donnelly, Business Development Manager of Failte Ireland. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye 

Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dubai Duty Free, said that while the title sponsor would make its views known, it was up to the European Tour to make the final decision on the venue.

"It's up to the European Tour and they have to do studies," she said. "They will consult us and we will make a comment then, but ultimately it's up to them.

"They want our input but from our point of view, it's the European Tour who are running this tournament. They know how to run a tournament, we don't. We will get involved at some point but we will let them make the decisions."

Apart from Lahinch and Portmarnock Links, the tour has also looked at The European Club and Co Sligo and evaluated previous venues.

But with The Open at Royal Portrush, McGinley has said it's imperative it's played on a links as far south as possible, well clear of the northwest and Dublin.

 Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links

Dublin venues have not drawn huge crowds in recent years and with Co Sligo too close to Portrush, the demands of sponsors and the European Tour's desire to make the event as big a commerical success as possible will be key factors in a final decision.

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links has the advantage in that the players could stay on site with use of the hotel believed to be a key plus in its bid.

The venue is tight and lacks a proper practice ground but while Lahinch has an historic links and plenty of room for staging with its Castle Course nearby, going to another location perceived as remote so soon after Ballyliffin is a factor.

Like all links golf courses, both venues need wind to challenge the best players in the world.

As it happens, Lahinch will receive a visit from architect Dr Martin Hawtree this Saturday with a view to looking at the requirements of the course for the 2020 Palmer Cup when the world's top college players will take on the Old Course.

Dr Hawtree modernised it 1999, rerouting four holes and addin two new par threes, the 166-yard 8th and the 170-yard 11th, both set deep in the impressive sand dunes. 

In all, 16 tees were re-built and 14 greens completely re-shaped, restoring them to their original character conceived by Dr Alister MacKenzie, creator of Augusta National, when he redesigned the course in 1927. 

An Irish Open staging would accelerate any plans to make design tweaks.

 Lahinch scorecard

Lahinch scorecard

 Portmarnock Links scorecard

Portmarnock Links scorecard