Irish Open host Rory McIlroy has described Portstewart Golf Club as a “super golf course” with one of the best front nines in world golf.
The 2017 Irish Open, hosted by McIlroy’s Rory Foundation, will be held on the Strand Course at Portstewart, from July 6-9, where the World No.2 will be looking to defend the title he won last year at The K Club.
Speaking by telephone link at a press conference as the 50 day counrdown to the tournament began yesterday, McIlroy (right) described the course as one of the best that Irish golf has to offer, in particular its picturesque opening nine.
“Portstewart as a venue will be fantastic, it’s a super golf course, it’s very strong with a very strong start — everyone says the front nine is one of the best collection of nine holes you’ll play anywhere in the whole world,” said the Holywood man, a four-time Major champion.
“I’m very excited by the venue, there isn’t a course like it, it’s one of the hidden gems in Ireland and I’m really excited for the world’s best golfers to play the course and I’m sure they’ll really enjoy it.”
With the tournament moving from its usual May slot to a more desirable July week, it means club officials are hoping that up to 30,000 patrons will attend each day.
At Royal Portrush in 2012 and Royal County Down in 2015, attendances surpassed 20,000 for all four days in both years, and with this year’s tournament in the middle of the summer holidays, it is hoped that will boost attendances further.
The 28-year-old McIlroy, who recently married fiancée Erica Stoll, also hosted last year’s event and says that he’s excited to do so again this time around and that he is eager to see the Irish fans out in their thousands again.
“I think it’ll be great. Any time that we’ve hosted the Irish Open the crowd has always been fantastic and that’s what we’re really looking forward to,” McIlroy admitted.
“With it being in May the last few years, the weather has been a bit unpredictable — not that the weather in Northern Ireland in July is any more predictable! — but hopefully we’ll get better weather.”
McIlroy also revealed that in-form Spaniard Jon Rahm is the latest star to confirm his place at Portstewart in July.
The World No.12 has had a stellar couple of years, rising rapidly in the world rankings with six top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour last season, and he picked up his first professional win at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
The 22-year-old followed that up with a third place at the WGC-Mexico Championship and then finished second in the WGC-Matchplay Championship to World No.1 Dustin Johnson.
Rahm, who is third in the Race to Dubai, the European Tour’s Order of Merit, said: “I’m really looking forward to playing on the European Tour this summer.
“I’m really looking forward to playing on the European Tour this summer,” he said. “As a European, it has always been an ambition of mine to be part of the European Tour and hopefully one day play in a Ryder Cup, so I can’t wait to get going.
“I have some great memories as a kid watching the Spanish players competing in the big European Tour events on TV and it will be special to be able to now play in them myself. Obviously Seve, José Maria and Sergio have all won the Irish Open over the years, so it will be great to try and follow in their footsteps at Portstewart. Also, I’m really pleased to support Rory and everything he is trying to do for the event through his Foundation.
“The Rolex Series is a fantastic idea on the European Tour and I’m looking forward to being a part of it. I’m also looking forward to playing a different style of golf on the links of Portstewart which will be valuable preparation for The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale as well.”
Rahm joins big names Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Tyrell Hatton on the star-studded bill.