By Kent Gray
Title sponsor Dubai Duty Free has hailed a move that will see the Irish Open hosted by the proud golfing nation’s biggest names on an annual rotation from 2019.
Rory McIlroy’s ‘Rory Foundation’ has hosted the European Tour stop since 2015 and will do so again when the $7 million Rolex Series event is decided at famed Ballyliffin G.C. in Co. Donegal from July 5-8. But from 2019, the DDF Irish Open will follow the model that has seen the British Masters revived as former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and major champions Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and McIlroy serve as hosts on a rotation.
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, has welcomed the move after confirming DDF had extended its sponsorship until 2020 with a further two year option. Jon Rahm will be back to defend his title at Ballyliffin with McIlroy, fellow 2016 Ryder Cuppers Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett and Chris Wood also confirmed for the Rolex Series event.
“We have enjoyed working with the European Tour and seeing the tournament grow dramatically in such a short space of time, with it now part of the Rolex Series. We are happy with the plans to rotate the hosting of the tournament from 2019 onwards and delighted that Paul McGinley will be the first to take on that role,” said McLoughlin.
“I would like to thank Rory and his Foundation for hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open since 2015. Rory’s involvement in the tournament was a key factor in our decision to become the title sponsor at that time.”
The precise future rotation is still to be finalised beyond 2019 when McGinley will do the honours at Lahinch Golf Club (pictured above) in County Clare. Des Smyth, one of McGinley’s vice-captains during the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, has been unveiled as tournament ambassador, a role which will see him help in the marketing and promotion of the event for the next four years as well as aid a successful transition between each of the hosts.
“Today’s announcement is yet another exciting development in the history of one of our great tournaments,” said European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley.
“Ireland has been blessed with many legendary golfers over the years and to have five of them agree to host the country’s national Open over the next five years shows a terrific commitment both to their homeland and to the European Tour.”