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Tiger Woods heading for this year's Irish Open: rumours

Tiger Woods confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that he will play this summer's Open Championship and that has sparked a flurry of rumours that he could use the Irish Open as a warm-up tournament.

The former world number one's appearance at Ballyliffin GC would give the local tournament's profile a monumental rise.

It's reported by respected Irish golf journalist Brian Keogh in today's Irish Independent that the 14-time major winner could touch down in Donegal to tee it up just two weeks before the Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Woods has previously jetted to Ireland to play the island's world-famous links courses in the build-up to the only major to be played outside America but has never before teed it up at the Irish Open.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, won in 2017 by Spaniard Jon Rahm, takes place from July 5-8. Part of the lucratice Rolex Series, which boasts a $7m purse, the tournament has been on the rise over recent seasons and, with player announcements expected over the coming weeks, championship director Simon Alliss has admitted Woods' attendance would be another major boost.

"Any event that attracts someone like Tiger Woods is catapulted to another level," said told Brian Keogh. "I'd love it to happen.

"Rory (McIlroy) is committed to helping build the strongest field we can get and I am sure he has taken the time to chat with the guys on the PGA Tour informally.

"But we have put no responsibility on him to do it. We have a very committed Player Relations department out in America and that's their job.

"The US Open is coming up next so players' schedules are not yet decided. It would be amazing if Tiger did commit. There are a lot of rumours and there is a lot of speculation and if news comes our way, trust me, we will be shouting about it.

"Either way, there is enormous expectation about the event and we expect healthy numbers - many thousands of fans - to come to Ballyliffin in July. I think it is going to be an incredible event and it will surprise everybody."

Woods made his long-awaited comeback from back surgey earlier this year and finished in a tie for second at both the Honda Classic and the Valspar Championship.

Earlier this week, Padraig Harrington backed Woods to return to the winners' circle and said that he reckoned it would most likely happen at one of golf's four majors.

“I actually think his chances of winning are good," said Harrington. “His chances of winning a Major are maybe better than winning a regular event. Two months of playing and two-and-a-half months before he gets to The Open, he could be right on form and ready to go in that.

“He is going to win tournaments, 100 per cent yes. And I think Majors would be easier for him to win because they are harder for others to win.”

Harrington also said he thought Woods would be "right on form and ready to go" in the Open Championship at Carnoustie this summer.

The Irish Open received another boost this week as Dubai Duty Free extended its title sponsorship of the tournament taking the partnership through to 2022.

It is seen by many as something of a risk for the European Tour to take this year's event to the north west of Ireland but Ballyliffin general manager John Farren is convinced the tournament will be a roaring success.

"It is a big big deal for this part of the world," said John. "We are very grateful that the Tour had the confidence to bring this event to the region They are breaking new ground but we will seize this opportunity and we will be ready."

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