Plenty of quality on offer at Irish Open, insists Paul McGinley, plus Yorkshire hopefuls fail to qualify for Open Championship

Tournament host Paul McGinley believes the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has recovered well from the “body blow” of Rory McIlroy’s absence.

Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy acted as tournament host from 2015-18 and won the title at the K Club in 2016, but will compete in next week’s Scottish Open rather than at Lahinch.

“Rory (not playing) was a huge body blow, particularly so early after the announcement we were coming here,” said McGinley yesterday.

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“Outside of Tiger Woods he is probably the most charismatic golfer in the world but I think we have recovered from that strongly, as shown by being close to selling out this weekend, and the Irish Open will always be bigger than one player.

“Rory would be the first to agree with that.”

McGinley feels those players who have made the journey to County Clare will enjoy ideal preparation for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in a fortnight’s time.

“We got in touch with the R&A and although we are not copying exactly everything they do, we have info on green speeds, rough height and fairway width and the players will feel really well prepared to win a major,” the former Ryder Cup captain added. “I did it with the Wales Open before the Ryder Cup in 2014 and told the players it would be the perfect set up to prepare for Gleneagles.”

World No 11 and 2017 champion Jon Rahm is top-ranked in a field which contains 12 of the world’s top 50 as well as home favourites Paul Dunne, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.

Russell Knox will defend the title he won at Ballyliffin last year, the Scot holing from 40 feet for birdie on the 72nd hole to join Ryan Fox at the top of the leaderboard before the New Zealander missed from eight feet for a birdie of his own.

There were no Yorkshire players in the 12 who earned the last spots through final qualifying yesterday for the Open Championship.

Alex Fitzpatrick (Hallamshire) – younger brother of Ryder Cup player Matt – and Marcus Armitage (Howley Hall) were three shots off the qualifying pace at St Annes Old Links, while Richard Finch and Nick Marsh (Huddersfield) were one and two shots further back.

Chris Hanson (Woodsome Hall) was four shots adrift at Hollinwell and Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Schmidt (Rotherham) was also four shots back of the 36-hole qualifying place at Fairmont St Andrews.