Rory McIlroy’s association with the Irish Open – his charitable arm, the Rory Foundation is hosting this year’s tournament at Royal County Down on May 28th-31st – has reinvigorated one of the oldest national championships on the PGA European Tour.
In providing a massive shot in the arm to sport here, and unquestionably influenced by McIlroy's involvement, Dubai Duty Free – who also sponsor the Irish Derby at the Curragh – has come in as title sponsor for the Irish Open, which has already attracted a stellar line-up of international players including Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood with the prospect of further big names yet to come.
McIlroy, of course, is the headline act, with Ireland's three other recent Major champions Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke also playing.
World number one McIlroy, who has spent the past few days getting reacquainted with Augusta National ahead of his quest for a career Grand Slam at next month’s US Masters, announced the new title sponsors in a video link stating the company’s commitment “will bring a lot to the event and add to its already great prestige”. The move by McIlroy to get personally involved in promoting the Irish Open, a tournament he is yet to win, has reaped instant dividends.
The quiet and persuasive words he has managed with his friends on tour has significantly improved the quality of the field, and now the acquisition of a title sponsor – for an initial one year period – has filled that particular void.
Describing it as “great news”, McIlroy recognised the new title sponsors as “a strong global brand with great experience in sports sponsorship through golf, tennis and horse racing”.
Without a title sponsor since telecommunications giant 3 finished its sponsorship in 2010, the Irish Open, which has started a rota that involves moving North and South in alternate years, has finally landed an international partner.
Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free said: “We are delighted to become the title sponsor of the Irish Open hosted by The Rory Foundation.”