Three tours come together for inaugural Jordan Mixed Masters

David Cooper 11/07/2018
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Male, female and senior players will go head-to-head in a new tournament to be held in Jordan from April 4-6 next year.

The Jordan Mixed Masters at Ayla Golf Club, will be co-sanctioned by the European Challenge Tour, Ladies European Tour and Staysure Tour.

The field will consist of 123 players – 40 from each Tour and one leading from the men’s, ladies’ and over-50’s games – who will compete against each other in a single, mixed field.

Members from the three Tours will tee off from different yardages but will compete in the same competition.

The three-day event will see the field cut to 60 for the final day’s play, competing for the grand prize of $395,000 (Dh1.4 million), while leading players from the remaining two Tours will also receive an accolade.

Nick Tarratt, Director of the European Tour’s Dubai Office, said: “This event is fantastic news for golf in the region and the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The Middle East has become a hugely important territory to the European Tour and the Jordan Mixed Masters is further strengthens those ties.”

The concept, which recognises the importance of equality and equal opportunity, was the vision of Ayla’s ownership, who have created a premier golf and leisure development close to the Red Sea City of Aqaba and on Jordan’s southern shores.

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “The Jordan Mixed Masters, presented by Ayla is a fantastic development for the Staysure Tour, the Challenge Tour and the Ladies European Tour.

“This unique event goes a step further, bringing together the stars of three Tours for a truly innovative tournament. There seems to be an appetite in golf for mixed events right now, and this is another opportunity to deliver another entertaining yet credible format.”

The announcement of the event builds on the success of the European Tour’s innovative GolfSixes tournament in May, a 16-team, six-hole event, which included some of Europe’s top female stars and a mixed pairing of Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn and his Solheim Cup counterpart Catriona Matthew.

“The popularity of recent collaborative events such as the GolfSixes have demonstrated that there is a huge public appetite to see men and women playing alongside each other,” said Mark Lichtenhein, chairman of the Ladies European Tour.

“This unique tournament will be the first of its kind, where men and women will compete individually, for the same trophy. The event will give our players a tremendous opportunity to showcase their talents in a level playing field for both genders.”

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Rory McIlroy happy to be 'trending in the right direction' ahead of the Open Championship

Phil Casey 8/07/2018
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In positive mood: Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will head into the Open Championship in a positive frame of mind after completing his competitive preparations – and duties as tournament host – in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

McIlroy carded a final round of 71 at Ballyliffin to finish two under par, but saw signs of progress with his problematic putting with four birdies in six holes around the turn.

“There were improvements over the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it on Thursday and I felt like I sort of kept it up. It maybe wasn’t quite as good the last three days, but I putted a lot better today. I felt a lot better about it so that was great.

“Sometimes when I get too square with my feet, my upper body can get a little bit left and every putt I was missing was to the left. The more I can be just a little bit open with my lower body, I can see it a little bit better. I’m right-eye dominant, as well. It’s easier to see it down the line if I’m a little more open.

“I feel like I’ve made some improvements over the last couple of days on that and at least I know I’m trending in the right direction heading into the Open Championship.”

McIlroy has spent the last four years as tournament host of the Irish Open, during which time it has become part of the lucrative Rolex Series and seen its prize fund rise to USD7million (£5.3million).

From next year that role will be rotated among the top Irish players, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley taking over in 2019 at Lahinch.

“It’s been an eye-opener to see how much goes into running a golf tournament and it’s been great for me, especially for the future,” McIlroy added.

“This probably isn’t going to be the last time that I’m involved in a golf tournament and it’s been great in terms of who we’ve been able to help and what we’ve achieved from a charitable standpoint.

“It’s been a great four years and I’m looking forward to going to Lahinch next year, maybe with not quite as much responsibility.”

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Erik van Rooyen takes commanding lead into final day of Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Phil Casey 7/07/2018
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Erik van Rooyen of South Africa has a four-shot lead at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will take a commanding lead into the final day of the £5.3million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open after a brilliant third round at Ballyliffin.

Van Rooyen began the day in a three-way tie for the lead, but stormed to the turn in just 29 shots on his way to a superb 66 to finish 14 under par, four shots ahead of New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett is five shots off the pace after recovering from a poor start with the aid of four birdies in a row on the back nine, with Scotland’s Russell Knox a shot further back on eight under.

Van Rooyen, who is seeking a first European Tour title, made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before picking up further shots on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth.

“The mindset was just keep going, I guess,” said the 28-year-old, who would be just the second South African winner of the Irish Open after Bobby Locke in 1938 if he can win on Sunday.

“I wasn’t very much aware of my score or the situation. You sometimes get in a groove as a Golfer where things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts and that’s what happened.

“It wasn’t different on the back nine. I still played great. I wish I could have birdied the two par fives but looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day. There’s 18 holes left to navigate and that’s going to be my job tomorrow. Obviously I would love to get a win.”

Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but has slumped to 442nd in the rankings after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.

A missed cut in last week’s French Open was his ninth in 12 events this season, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield bounced back from a front nine of 37 with four birdies in a row from the 11th and another on the 17th.

“There were a couple of poor swings early on but we dug in nicely,” Willett said. “We had a nice little run on the back nine where we holed a few good ones and turned it round pretty quickly.

“A couple of the long-range putts were obviously bonuses but it was nice to see them go in and keep the momentum going because when you saw the leaderboard after a few holes we were a helluva long way back.

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