Rory agrees to play in Irish Open

IRISH OPEN organisers last night breathed a sigh of relief with confirmation that US Open champion Rory McIlroy will compete in the 2012 event.

Though McIlroy’s participation is assured, the host venue remains unknown, with European Tour chiefs still to make a formal announcement on whether or not they will return to the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club which has hosted the event for the past two years.

But McIlroy’s announcement will be a major boost to the European Tour in their search for a sponsor to replace telecommunications company 3, who ended their agreement in November 2010.

The world number two had been undecided last week when quizzed would he play in his home event on June 28-July 1 or contest the AT&T Championship at Congressional in Maryland on the same weekend, where he captured this year’s US Open title.

However, yesterday he confirmed he would not miss his home event.

“There has been a lot of speculation on whether or not I will play the Irish Open next year, so I am happy to announce that I will definitely play the tournament next season,” he said.

“For me, the Irish Open has always been, and will continue to be, one of the most important events on the global golf calendar. It’s our national open and it’s obviously a title that I would love to win at some stage in my career.

“With Irish golf on such a high in recent years, it is important that we put on a good show not only for the home fans, but also for the global golf audience, who will be watching the event on TV next summer.

“A lot has been made of me joining the PGA Tour again next year, but in reality, it’s not a drastic change to the schedule I have played in recent seasons. It just means that I will be adding a few more events to my schedule in America in 2012.

“Taking my PGA Tour card again does not mean that I’m going to neglect my European Tour status.

“I’ll continue to play a similar schedule of events in Europe and will obviously fulfil my commitment to the European Tour.”

The news will come as a major boost to the organisers given the obvious commercial attractions a big name like that attracts.

Last year, a record crowd of 85,179 attended the event in Killarney as both US Open champion McIlroy and British Open champion Darren Clarke took part.

While the event has been hotly tipped to be held in Killarney once again in 2012, McIlroy has predicted it will return North to Royal Portrush in two years’ time.

“To learn the Irish Open could be going to Royal Portrush is great news, and it would be absolutely fantastic if it happened,” said McIlroy.

“It’s a positive move to take it back to Northern Ireland because it has been a very long time since an Irish Open was played up there, and really the Irish Open, because it is a national open, should be played all over Ireland.

“I know too that Royal Portrush and the Northern Ireland government have bigger ambitions than getting the Irish Open back to Portrush — as it would be great to see the [British] Open return there one day.”

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