Alex Noren moves up to second in European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings after HNA Open de France win

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Sweden’s Alex Noren moved up to second in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings after sealing his second Rolex Series title by one stroke in a dramatic final afternoon at the HNA Open de France.

The 35-year-old started the final day seven shots adrift of compatriot Marcus Kinhult and was still off the pace as he made the turn in 35 with the groups behind him jostling over top spot.

But after making birdies at the 12th, 16th and 17th, Noren entered the clubhouse with the lead at seven-under-par after signing for four-under-par 67.

American Julian Suri held a one shot lead standing on the 18th tee box but made a disastrous double-bogey at the last to hand Noren his first European Tour win of the season at Le Golf National – the home of the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Noren picks up 1,166,660 Race to Dubai points with his triumph and climbs up to second from eighth place in the Race to Dubai rankings.

Remarkably, Noren’s last victory also came from seven strokes back at the 2017 BMW PGA Championship – the inaugural Rolex Series event – where he carded a magical 62 on the final day to seal victory at Wentworth Club.

With another comeback win under his belt, he now has his sights firmly set on making Thomas Bjorn’s Ryder Cup squad.

“If I were to be a part of Ryder Cup Team Europe it would mean a lot,” said the ten-time European Tour winner.

“I have good memories from this course. The first two years I came here I never thought I would be able to win but the last three years I’ve had good results. This will definitely boost my chances for making the squad.”

“It’s fantastic to see Alex back in the European Tour winners’ circle at such a prestigious event,” said Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International, Dubai.

“Having graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2007, Alex has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the leading European players in world golf.

“He is a great role model for players in golf’s lower ranks and we look forward to welcoming him back to Jumeirah Golf Estates for the European Tour finale in November.”

Alex Noren is hoping to be part of the European Ryder Cup team in September.

Alex Noren is hoping to be part of the European Ryder Cup team in September.

Meanwhile, Suri, England’s Chris Wood and Scotsman Russell Knox finish tied for second to collect 521,990 Race to Dubai points and secure their places in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

Suri jumps from 68th to 22nd while Wood moves up to 21st from 53rd. Knox makes significant strides from 84th to 25th.

Kinhult, who had been leading after the second and third round, shot five-over-par 76 in the final day to finish in a tie for fifth to pick up 250,600 points which moves him up to 39th from 62nd.

England’s Matthew Southgate was also a big mover in the rankings as he surged from 122nd to 50th on 397,454 points after a spectacular final round of five-under-par saw him join Kinhult in a tie for fifth.

American Patrick Reed leads the Race to Dubai rankings with 2,785,884 points while England’s reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood drops down to third following Noren’s victory.

The DP World Tour Championship takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 15-18.

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Dubai Duty Free chief Colm McLoughlin hails Irish Open sponsorship success

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Rory McIlroy tees off at last year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

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.”

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.

Last year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open winner Jon Rahm

Last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open winner Jon Rahm

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.”

Rory McIlroy is excited about this year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Rory McIlroy is excited about this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

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.

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Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed to play in new European Tour event in Saudi Arabia

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Heading to Saudi: Dustin Johnson

World No.1 Dustin Johnson and reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed have been confirmed as the latest stars to compete in the new European event in Saudi Arabia.

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.”

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