Dubai Duty Free’s Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin hailed the success of the company’s association with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open following a four-year extension of its title sponsorship which will take the partnership through to 2022.
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation, which is this year being held at the spectacular Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal from July 5-8, has gone from strength to strength since the world’s largest duty free operator took over its title sponsorship in 2015.
From an initial prize fund of €2.5 million the purse now stands at USD$7,000,000 and last year the event was named as one of the eight prestigious Rolex Series tournaments on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
McLoughlin said: “We are happy to continue our association with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and are very pleased with how the tournament has grown over the past four years, thanks to the support of tournament host Rory McIlroy and his Foundation.
“Becoming part of the Rolex Series has been a great boost as well and the benefits our brand gains from the event’s media exposure is excellent.”
The countdown is on for this year's #DDFIrishOpen.— DDF Irish Open (@DDFIrishOpen) June 13, 2018
We went behind the scenes for a day in the life of @ballyliffin’s greenkeeper, from dawn to dusk. Make sure you are there to witness history in the making.
Tickets: https://t.co/neyA8afe0i pic.twitter.com/hXTKKKl1dT
A star-studded field is set to descend on Ireland’s northernmost county where Spanish sensation Jon Rahm will set out to defend what was his maiden European Tour title and the victory that set the World Number Six on the path to becoming a global superstar.
Rahm went on to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates and has this year added victory on homesoil at the Open de España as he looks to solidify a place in Thomas Bjørn’s European Ryder Cup team.
This year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation will carry even more significance with Europe’s best players jostling for a place on Captain Bjørn’s team for the biennal showdown against the USA in Paris this September.
Beginning with the first Rolex Series event of the season, last month’s BMW PGA Championship, Ryder Cup qualification points (Race to Dubai points and World Ranking points) have been multiplied by 1.5 rather than 1 and competition is sure to be fierce in County Donegal.
Joining Rahm in the field is 2016 Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello, looking to emulate his fellow countryman’s Irish success before heading to Gullane Golf Club in Scotland for a title defence of his own at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
Also confirmed is Cabrera Bello’s teammate at Hazeltine Matthew Fitzpatrick, winner of four European Tour titles including the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, along with another two members of the last Team Europe, compatriots Danny Willett – winner of the 2016 Masters Tournament – and Chris Wood.
Twenty five year old Paul Dunne is looking to add his name to long list of Irish winners which includes Christy O’Connor Jnr (1975), John O’Leary (1982), Padraig Harrington (2007), Shane Lowry (2009) and Rory McIlroy (2016). Three-time Major champion Harrington has also added his name to the Irish challenge for this year’s event.
McIlroy and his Foundation’s support of the tournament has run concurrently with Dubai Duty Free’s but from next year the event will enter a new era next year with a rotation of tournament hosts featuring the biggest names in Irish golf.
From 2019, four more of the island of Ireland’s most revered golfers – The 2014 Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley as well as Major winners Darren Clarke, Harrington and Graeme McDowell – will share the hosting duties with McIlroy, beginning with McGinley next year.
Eight-time European Tour winner and two-time Ryder Cup player Des Smyth will also become tournament ambassador for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open until 2022.
McIlory said: “Ballyliffin is an extraordinary course in the beautiful County of Donegal. It’s a fantastic part of the world where viewers and spectators can expect to see some of the world’s best golfers tested to their creative limits on one of Ireland’s most pure links courses.
“The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open’s $7 million purse is also guaranteed to attract an extremely deep field of golfing talent. It’s really shaping up to be an amazing week in County Donegal.
“Jon Rahm was a popular winner last year in Portstewart and I believe he will put up a very strong defence of his title in Ballyliffin this July – it’s the job of the rest of us golfers to come out fighting against one of golf’s newest superstars.
“As I hand over the reigns as host to Paul McGinley for next year, I’m just delighted that Ballyliffin is the stepping-stone for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to continue to go from strength to strength.”
Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International Dubai Office added: “We are delighted to be able to announce the Dubai Duty Free title sponsorship renewal for a further four years. Dubai Duty Free have been supporters of golf in the city of Dubai since 2009 for the DP World Tour Championship and since 1989 for the OmegaDubai Desert Classic.
“This is a further endorsement of Dubai’s strong partnership with the European Tour that includes support from DP World, Emirates and Jumeirah Golf Estates.”
Fans looking to get in on the action are urged to be quick. Tickets for the 18th grandstand have completely sold out for the final day with a limited number of exclusive front row seats remaining.
Tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation are on sale at www.europeantour.com/tickets
Fans can also follow the latest tournament updates via the associated Twitter accounts:
@EuropeanTour @DDFIrishOpen @RoryFoundation @DubaiDutyFree
Entries for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation closed on Thursday June 14th.
The pair join World No.15 Paul Casey and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn for the inaugural edition that will take place between January 31 to February 3.
Both players are looking forward to playing in the Kingdom. “I am excited to make my first trip to Saudi Arabia and support this historic new event. It sounds like some amazing things are happening there, including big plans for junior and family golf development,” said Johnson. “It’s an honour to be part of Saudi Arabia’s golf journey from the onset.”
Reed added: “It’s been a crazy few weeks since I won at Augusta and so much fun. “I had not, at this stage, finalised anything in my schedule for next year but when I heard about the ambitious plans for golf in Saudi Arabia, I committed straight away.”
Although the event name will be revealed in the coming weeks, the competition will be held at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “We are delighted to have Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Thomas Bjørn in the field for our first professional golf tournament in Saudi Arabia.
“Royal Greens Golf and Country Club is a spectacular venue, with world class facilities, and our players are going to absolutely love playing there.
“We are a global Tour and this is an exciting opportunity for us to play in a new country which has a strong focus on golf as part of its vision for the future. Our thanks go to His Royal Majesty, Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for this vision, and to the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, the Saudi Arabian Golf Federation and everyone at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club and the King Abdullah Economic City for their commitment to this inaugural tournament.”
Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn will be among the stars in action when the NBO Oman Open gets underway in Muscat next month.
The 46-year-old Dane will join former Open champions Paul Lawrie and Darren Clarke in the Feburary 15-18 event at Al Mouj Golf Club.
For Lawrie, winner of the 1999 Open Championship, he is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’ll be one of the first few of 2018 for me personally and I’ve heard some good things about the golf course at Al Mouj already,” he said. “It’ll be nice to get out to Muscat to see it for myself.”
European Tour stalwarts Robert Karlsson, Thongchai Jaidee, David Howell and Peter Hanson, who between them have 30 wins on Tour, will be going toe-to-toe with the next generation of Tour stars. That includes Korean starlets Jeunghun Wang and Soomin Lee, French duo Alexander Levy and Roman Wattel, Italy’s Renato Paratore, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard and 2016 Road to Oman graduate Jordan Smith.
Former BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero will bring some firepower to Al Mouj Golf while this year’s BMW SA Open winner Chris Paisley tees it up hoping to build on his impressive season so far, which has also included top five finishes at both the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
France’s Victor Dubuisson and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, two of the heroes of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, will get their first taste of competitive golf in Oman.
Among the elite field will be Nasser Yacoob of Bahrain who earned his place in the field after winning this year’s OHI Oman Amateur Open in a play-off.
“It felt so great to get the win at the Amateur Open against a strong field and now I have the opportunity to tee off with some of the best players in the world at the NBO Oman Open,” he said.
“I’m very happy the European Tour is coming to Oman as it’s such a beautiful country. I can’t wait to play at Al Mouj Golf. I think it’s one of the most beautiful courses in the world. I have played there before but never with the European Tour players so that’s going to be really special. I’ve played the Dubai Desert Classic in the past but I think this one will be more special as I really love the course.”