Dubai: Dubai Duty Free (DDF) have extended their sponsorship of golf’s Irish Open for a further two years until 2020 with the option to extend by another two years, it was announced on Monday.
The DDF, who have supported the tournament since 2015, also announced that the Rory McIlroy Foundation would stop hosting the event from next year, but for next month’s edition, from July 5-8 at Ballyliffin in Donegal, McIlroy would still be involved, after which hosting would be shared among other Irish star players on rotation.
“Rory was a huge help for the tournament,” said DDF executive vice-chairman and chief executive officer, Colm McLoughlin. “But he was doing swaps with a lot of big players to come and participate and he in turn went and played in their tournaments and it was an enormous strain on him.
“He wanted to concentrate on his real work which is playing golf and he couldn’t be expected to continue doing that. He himself decided to concentrate more on his golfing career and in discussion with the European Tour an alternative was found.”
McLoughlin, whose company have also supported June 29 to July 1’s Irish Derby horse racing festival since 2008, said their backing of both events continued to make sense.
“Whether we continue with these events or not depends on the media value to Dubai and in the case of racing it brings US$40 million in value, while the golf brings US$160 million.
“When we started with the golf it had a prize fund of US$2.5 million and today it is US$7 million. One of our conditions was that it became one of the premier events on the European Tour and we are sure that involvement was the reason it was selected to become part of the Rolex Series.
“It’s been good for golf in Ireland but one of our responsibilities was to promote Dubai and the media coverage attached to it has grown considerably from US$50 million to US$160 million.
“Of that US$160 million, US$40 million is geared at DDF but the remainder is for Dubai, and this has coincided with the introduction of direct flights to Dublin and the dramatic growth of visitors to Dubai of 15 million last year.”
Nick Tarratt, director of the European Tour’s Dubai Office, said: “Especially important at this year’s Irish Open is the fact it’s a Ryder Cup qualifying event, which means the prize money of US$7 million will make a significant difference for the winner and those doing well.
“Money equates to points and points are enhanced by 50 per cent after the BMW Championship, so if the winner gets US1.16 million at the Irish Open, they can earn 1.7 million in Ryder Cup points with the enhancement.”
The cut off for Ryder Cup qualification is September 2 with the historic duel between the US and Europe taking place in France from September 28-30.