Rory McIlroy to host Irish Open for the next three years
Rory McIlroy will host the Irish Open for the next three years, which includes the competition's return to Northern Ireland.
On Monday it was confirmed the current world number three will host the Open on behalf of his charitable organisation, The Rory Foundation, following the tournament's visit to Royal County Down in Newcastle in May.
Dubai Duty Free has also been confirmed as the title sponsor and the prize fund has been increased by 60% to 4million euro, making it one of the biggest prize events outside the Major championship and World Golf Championship events.
Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen will defend his Irish Open title next year at the K Club in County Kildare, 10 years on from when the club hosted Europe's victorious Ryder Cup win in 2006.
The competition will return to Northern Ireland in 2017 at Lough Erne.
McIlroy welcomed today’s announcement: “The Irish Open has always meant so much to me, so I am really excited to announce my commitment to host the tournament, on behalf of the Rory Foundation, for the next three years.
“I would like to thank Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free and Keith Pelley of The European Tour for supporting my vision to develop the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation into one of the leading events on The European Tour’s schedule over the next three years.
“I was delighted with the support I received, not only from the players who competed this year, but also from the fans who came along to the Irish Open at Royal County Down in May – they made it another sell-out tournament. I am sure The K Club – on the 10th anniversary as host of the 2006 Ryder Cup – will be an excellent venue for the 2016 Irish Open.”
Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free added: “We are delighted to announce our title sponsorship of the Irish Open after a terrific inaugural sponsorship year in Northern Ireland earlier this year.
"The fact that the Rory Foundation will continue to host the event was central to our decision moving forward.
"We are also pleased that as a result of our sponsorship commitment, The European Tour has announced an increase in prize money to €4million making it very appealing for international players to participate.
"The staging of the 2016 tournament at The K Club, which has recently undergone a major expansion, is another positive. With all these things combined, we are looking forward to a great event next May.”
The Open presence at the K Club will be the first time the championship has been held at the venue. Tickets for the event are on sale now.
Sir Michael Smurfit, owner of The K Club, said: “I am delighted that in conjunction with The European Tour, the Rory Foundation and Dubai Duty Free have chosen The K Club as the venue and home for the 2016 Irish Open.
“We look forward to the year ahead greatly as along with celebrating the 25 year anniversary of The K Club and the 10 year anniversary of the staging of The Ryder Cup, it will also be the year that I celebrate my 80th birthday.
“I am confident that the team at The K Club will extend their warmest hospitality to Rory and the players, his guests and the sponsors Dubai Duty Free and make all concerned proud as we showcase the best in golf, luxury, Irish warmth and hospitality. I am sure I am joined by all at The K Club and associated, including our members, in looking forward to what promises to be a momentous occasion.”
Keith Pelley, chief executive officer of The European Tour, said: “The Irish Open is one of the most prestigious and most eagerly anticipated tournaments on The Race to Dubai, and having two powerful global brands in Dubai Duty Free and Rory McIlroy supporting the event as well as a record prize fund, will ensure that continues.
“We are delighted that Dubai Duty Free have pledged themselves to the tournament through until 2018 and we thank them for their continued commitment and vision, not just to the Irish Open but to The European Tour as a whole.
“Rory is a loyal supporter of The European Tour and the Irish Open, and he is one of the game’s most recognisable superstars who helped attract a world-class field to this year’s tournament. Naturally we are thrilled he will continue as host of the Irish Open for another three years.
“We are also very happy to be taking the tournament to The K Club. I vividly remember watching The 2006 Ryder Cup and thinking what a stunning venue it was and I know all our Members will look forward to testing their games against this world-class layout.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital