Dubai Duty Free chief hails Irish Open sponsorship success

Dubai Duty Free’s Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin hailed the success of the company’s association with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open following a four-year extension of its title sponsorship which will take the partnership through to 2022.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation, which is this year being held at the spectacular Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal from July 5-8, has gone from strength to strength since the world’s largest duty free operator took over its title sponsorship in 2015. From an initial prize fund of €2.5 million, the purse now stands at USD$7,000,000 and last year the event was named as one of the eight prestigious Rolex Series tournaments on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

McLoughlin said:  “We are happy to continue our association with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and are very pleased with how the tournament has grown over the past four years, thanks to the support of tournament host Rory McIlroy and his Foundation. Becoming part of the Rolex Series has been a great boost as well and the media exposure which this event benefits for our brand are excellent.”

A star-studded field is set to descend on Ireland’s northernmost county where Spanish sensation Jon Rahm will set out to defend what was his maiden European Tour title and the victory that set the World Number Five on the path to becoming a global superstar. Rahm went on to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates and has this year added victory on home soil at the Open de España as he looks to solidify a place in Thomas Bjørn’s European Ryder Cup team.

This year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation will carry even more significance with Europe’s best players jostling for a place on Captain Bjørn’s team for the biennial showdown against the USA in Paris this September. Beginning with the first Rolex Series event of the season, last month’s BMW PGA Championship, Ryder Cup qualification points (Race to Dubai points and World Ranking points) have been multiplied by 1.5 rather than 1 and competition is sure to be fierce in County Donegal.

Joining Rahm in the field is 2016 Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello, looking to emulate his fellow countryman’s Irish success before heading to Gullane Golf Club in Scotland for a title defence of his own at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

Also confirmed is Cabrera Bello’s teammate at Hazeltine Matthew Fitzpatrick, winner of four European Tour titles including the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, along with another two members of the last Team Europe, compatriots Danny Willett – winner of the 2016 Masters Tournament – and Chris Wood.

Twenty five year old Paul Dunne is looking to add his name to long list of Irish winners which includes Christy O’Connor Jnr (1975), John O’Leary (1982), Padraig Harrington (2007), Shane Lowry (2009) and Rory McIlroy (2016). Three-time Major champion Harrington has also added his name to the Irish challenge for this year’s event.

McIlroy and his Foundation’s support of the tournament has run concurrently with Dubai Duty Free’s but from next year the event will enter a new era with a rotation of tournament hosts featuring the biggest names in Irish golf.

From 2019, four more of the island of Ireland’s most revered golfers – The 2014 Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley as well as Major winners Darren Clarke, Harrington and Graeme McDowell – will share the hosting duties with McIlroy, beginning with McGinley next year.

Eight-time European Tour winner and two-time Ryder Cup player Des Smyth will also become tournament ambassador for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open until 2022.

McIlory said:  “Ballyliffin is an extraordinary course in the beautiful County of Donegal. It’s a fantastic part of the world where viewers and spectators can expect to see some of the world’s best golfers tested to their creative limits on one of Ireland’s most pure links courses. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open’s $7 million purse is also guaranteed to attract an extremely deep field of golfing talent. It’s really shaping up to be an amazing week in County Donegal.

“Jon Rahm was a popular winner last year in Portstewart and I believe he will put up a very strong defence of his title in Ballyliffin this July – it’s the job of the rest of us golfers to come out fighting against one of golf’s newest superstars. As I hand over the reigns as host to Paul McGinley for next year, I’m just delighted that Ballyliffin is the stepping-stone for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to continue to go from strength to strength.”

Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International Dubai Office added: “We are delighted to be able to announce the Dubai Duty Free title sponsorship renewal for a further four years.  Dubai Duty Free have been supporters of golf in the city of Dubai since 2009 for the DP World Tour Championship and since 1989 for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

“This is a further endorsement of Dubai’s strong partnership with the European Tour that includes support from DP World, Emirates and Jumeirah Golf Estates.”

Fans looking to get in on the action are urged to be quick. Tickets for the 18th grandstand have completely sold out for the final day with a limited number of exclusive front row seats remaining.