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Rory McIlroy adds Miguel Angel Jimenez to galaxy of stars at Irish Open

By Frank Brownlow

A Spanish Armada will be joining the star-studded line-up at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down.

Miguel Angel Jimenez has just been confirmed as part of a flotilla of Spanish challengers for the title - and €2.5million prize pot - from May 28 to 31.

Others include Ryder Cup heroes Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal along with Alvaro Quiros, Alejandor Canizares, Pablo Larrazabal and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

An exceptional field of 156 players from over 20 countries will play in the event and will include 16 of the world's top 50 players, led by Northern Ireland's world number one and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who is acting as tournament host.

McIlroy will be joined at Royal County Down by Ulster's other Major winners Graeme McDowell and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke.

Among the other big names taking part are American Rickie Fowler, who won the Players Championship at Sawgrass on Sunday in a play-off, Garcia missing out.

Another in-form contender is South African George Coetzee, winner of last weekend's Mauritius Open.

A host of former world number ones will tee off including reigning US Open Champion Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.

Finland's Mikko Ilonen is the defending champion.

Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie are other Major champions on show.

American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed will compete along with Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson, the Welshman who has risen dramatically up the world rankings and become a Ryder Cup star since his maiden victory in the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush.

The success of that tournament has since seen Royal Portrush join the roster for the Open Championship itself.

Rising star Danny Willett, fresh from his superb performance in reaching the semi-final of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Matchplay, and his fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, now also in the world's top 50, will be competing against the likes of Branden Grace (South Africa), Bernd Wiesberger (Austria), Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher.

Italy is well represented in the form of Matteo Manassero and the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo, while Robert Karlsson leads an eight-strong Swedish contingent.

Big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts will also be making an appearance.

Closer to home, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Shane Lowry - who in 2009 at Baltray became the only amateur ever to win the Irish Open - Damian Mooney and Damien McGrane are in the line-up.

Last year's successful Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley will also compete.

Reigning Amateur Champion Bradley Neil from Scotland, will be trying to emulate Lowry who in 2009 at Baltray became the only amateur ever to win the Irish Open.

Other English players to note include Simon Khan, Ross Fisher, David Howell, Simon Dyson, Chris Wood, Richard Finch and Robert Rock, while a strong French line-up also includes Alexander Levy, Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Havret.

Brett Rumford (Australia), Marcel Siem (Germany) and Jeev Milkha Singh (India) are amongst the rest of the high quality field while other countries represented include Argentina, Chile, Korea and Paraguay.

European Tour Irish Open Director Antonia Beggs said: "We are delighted by the strength and depth of this year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open line-up."

Dubai Duty Free's Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin said: "It's been a pleasure to work alongside the European Tour and the Rory Foundation to help make this event as good as it can possibly be, and a great advert all around the world for Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole."

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