Irish Open one of European Tour's 'prime events' - Tournament Director Alliss

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009

The Irish Open's tournament director Simon Alliss says the event is "one of the European Tour's prime events - one of our jewels in the crown".

This year's delayed tournament will tee off on Thursday at Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena, County Antrim, with no spectators in attendance.

"It was critically important to us the Irish Open took place," he said.

"We have created a safe environment with a bubble and a robust set of guidelines, protocols and testing."

The tournament was originally scheduled to take place at the Mount Juliet Estate in County Kilkenny from 28-31 May but was postponed on 30 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Galgorm Castle will make its European Tour debut this week, having been a regular fixture on The Challenge Tour since 2013.

The course played host to The Northern Ireland Open Challenge Tour event at the start of September, the sixth time that tournament has been played at the venue since 2013.

The ISPS Handa Invitational for men and women was staged at the parkland course in 2019.

The Irish Open is being held in Northern Ireland for the fourth time in nine years, with Royal Portrush (2012), Royal County Down (2015) and Portstewart (2017) the other host clubs.

'In constant dialogue'

"We will not be doing anything particularly different to what we have been doing since the Tour's restart in July," explained Alliss.

"We have been in consultation with the Public Health Agency and all the government agencies to make sure all the appropriate processes are in place.

"We are in constant dialogue and have taken on board their guidance and advice and being led by the science and data."

Lowry headlines field

Jon Rahm, winner in two of the last three years, is not part of the field this week, with Northern Ireland's major champions Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke also absent.

Shane Lowry, Open champion at Royal Portrush in 2019, is competing however, along with Europe Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington and in-form South African George Coetzee.

Coetzee followed up back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour's Titleist Championship and European Tour's Portugal Masters with a tied third place at last week's Open de Portugal - his ninth worldwide top 10 of 2020.

Lowry won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and comes to Galgorm on the back of a 43rd place finish at the US Open at Winged Foot.

Three-time major champion Harrington is also a former Irish Open winner and is teeing up for the first time in seven months.

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