Dubai: The third Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation will be bigger than ever this year at Portstewart Golf Club in Derry, Northern Ireland, from July 6-9.
Prize-money has increased from $1.67 million (Dh6.1 million) to $7 million as part of the event’s inclusion on the European Tour’s new eight-stage tour-within-a-tour Rolex Series.
The time of year (May to July) and style of course (from inland to links) has also changed to make it a warm-up for the Open Championship, July 20-23.
Defending champion and host Rory McIlroy will headline the event along with US Open runner-up Hideki Matsuyama and former Major winners; Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.
“We are very pleased with how this tournament has progressed over the past couple of years,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Dubai Duty Free.
“We are delighted that it is now part of the Rolex Series with a vastly increased prize fund and with a new date on the calendar.
“As part of the Rolex Series and of course the Race to Dubai, the tournament will have extended broadcasting hours this year, which is something important to us as title sponsors in the promotion of our brand.
“The line-up of players is terrific and of course Rory’s continued involvement, both as the defending champion and through the Rory Foundation, has had a hugely positive impact on the growth of this tournament.”
Four-time Major winning McIlroy, who made his first cut and got his first win in Dubai, said: “Since I got involved in hosting the tournament through my Foundation and we created this partnership with Dubai Duty Free and the European Tour, the Irish Open has really grown into one of the best weeks on the European Tour schedule.
“I think everyone in golf knows how special a relationship I have with Dubai, so to have Dubai Duty Free as the title sponsor of the Irish Open is a nice extension of that.
“This year the tournament has gone up another level with a new date, a new strategy to play the tournament on a links course in the build-up to the Open Championship, and an increased prize fund of $7 million. All of those factors have enabled us to attract players like Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm to Portstewart this year and I think we are set for an incredible week.”
The Irish Open boasts former winners like; Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and Bernherd Langer, who all share a record three wins apiece. The event switches from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland every year. Dubai Duty Free initially signed a one-year deal to sponsor the event in 2015 before extending with a three-year agreement, which expires in 2018. There is an option to extend by another two-years after that.