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Rory McIlroy fired up for Irish Open title defence in Portstewart

By Paul Kelly

Published 27/07/2016

Scenic test: Portstewart will host next year's Irish Open
Scenic test: Portstewart will host next year's Irish Open

Portstewart Golf Club will host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open next year, setting up a three-week spell of links golf culminating in the Open Championship.

The Irish Open was held at the K Club in May this year and won by tournament host Rory McIlroy, but in 2017 it will move to July 6-9, immediately preceding the Scottish Open at Dundonald and the Open at Royal Birkdale.

The move to Portstewart, revealed in the Belfast Telegraph on April 11, followed the European Tour's decision to take the event away from the Lough Erne Resort, but the change of date is a significant boost for the tournament which will be supported once again by the Rory Foundation.

"The date is huge. You have seen with the Scottish Open that guys will come over and get some links preparation so I feel like the date of the Irish Open is great for that. Hopefully we get some marquee names playing," said McIlroy.

It is the third time the tournament will be played in Northern Ireland after previous outings at Royal County Down in 2014 and Royal Portrush in 2012.

More: Rory McIlroy hoping to cheer on Carl Frampton to glory

McIlroy added: "Portstewart is an excellent links course and one of Northern Ireland's hidden gems, so it's great news that we are taking the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open there next year.

"Winning at the K Club earlier this year was without doubt one of the highlights of my career, and I'm already looking forward to defending my title at Portstewart next July. The crowds at Portrush and Royal County Down were unbelievable and I'm sure the people of Northern Ireland will come out to support the tournament again next year."

The Scottish Open is guaranteed its coveted place in the calendar up to and including 2020, although the Irish Open is keen for that to change.

Speaking earlier this month, Martin Gilbert - chief executive of Scottish Open sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management - said: "I keep telling them they should switch the Irish and the French Open, and then you have the Irish, Scottish then the British. That would be the much more logical arrangement."

Founded in 1894 and long considered one of the country's finest links courses, Portstewart will be staging a European Tour event for the first time when tournament host McIlroy defends his title there next summer.

Portstewart features three 18-hole layouts, with the Des Giffin-designed Strand Course - which will host the Irish Open - considered the jewel in the crown.

The Strand Course has hosted numerous amateur tournaments including the 2014 Amateur Championship, which was won by Bradley Neil, and just this month staged two rounds of qualifying for the North of Ireland Amateur Championship.

Michael Moss, General Manager of Portstewart Golf Club, said: "We are delighted to team up with the European Tour to host the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

"The Club will embrace the challenge, and we have no doubt that the Strand Course will provide nothing less than a worthy test of golf."

Belfast Telegraph

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