Portrush golfer Graeme McDowell.
PORTRUSH golfer Graeme McDowell will not return to compete in this month's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The Rathmore clubman announced his decision on Thursday night.
In a statement, the 2010 US Open champion claimed it had been a 'very difficult decision' to not travel and compete at Galgorm Castle in Ballymena.
"I have never failed to attend this great event in 18 previous years and regret that due to the necessary changes made to the event, travel and scheduling issues, I am choosing to not play this year," he said.
"I will be competing that same week at the Corales Punta Cana Resort and Club Championship, defending the title I won in 2019.
"Defending a title is something special and an honour I have tried to take seriously all my career.
"Under normal circumstances, defending this event would not take priority over playing my home Open, but the unprecedented circumstances make this a better option for me at this time.
"I want to apologise to Dubai Duty Free and take an opportunity to again thank them for the wonderful commitment thay have made to putting the Irish Open back on the map.
"We will hopefully be back in 2021, with the event at full strength, surrounded by the great Irish fans, assuming we can put the issues caused by Covid behind us," he added.
McDowell's withdrawal will come as a blow to the European Tour and Irish Open sponsors Dubai Duty Free.
However, they were given a boost earlier in the week when current Open champion, Shane Lowry, confirmed his participation in the event.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back home to play the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open," said the Offaly man.
"As a proud Irishman, this event means a lot to me and is always one of the most important tournaments on my schedule each year.
"While it’s been extremely challenging for all players to plan their global tournament schedules this season, I wanted to do everything possible to get home to play the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and I’m delighted that I’ve been able to commit to this year’s tournament given the circumstances," he added.