The European Tour event, hosted by the Rory Foundation as it returns to the north for the first time since Donaldson triumphed at Royal Portrush in 2012, had already been set to boast a superb line-up with world number one Rory McIlroy leading a cast including seven fellow major champions Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Paul Lawrie, José Maria Olazábal and current Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke as well as newly-minted Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler and his American compatriot Patrick Reed.
Yet the finalised field now comprises 16 of the world’s top 50 players for the €2.5 million tournament featuring some of the game’s most in-form stars with Players runner-up Sergio Garcia, who lost a play-off with Fowler, joined by last week’s Mauritius Open winner George Coetzee and play-off protagonist Thorbjorn Olesen as well as Cadillac Match Play semi-finalist Danny Willett.
Willett’s entry, confirmed yesterday along with Jimenez, Dubuisson and Donaldson, gives the Irish Open the Race To Dubai’s current number two as well as its leader, McIlroy.
There are also former world number ones Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in addition to Kaymer and Els, while other top 50-ranked players include Anirban Lahiri (India), Branden Grace (South Africa), Bernd Wiesberger (Austria), Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher.
In addition to Ireland’s major champions McIroy, Harrington, McDowell and Clarke, the home contingent will incliude former champion Shane Lowry, 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, Michael Hoey, Damien McGrane and PGA professionals Michael McDermott (Leopardstown), Brendan McGovern (Headfort), Damian Mooney (Ballyliffin), Neil O’Briain (Old Conna), John Kelly (St Margaret’s), Cian McNamara (Monkstown).
Irish Amateur Open champion Gavin Moynihan leads the unpaid invitees who also number fellow Irish Walker Cup hopefuls Jack Hume and Gary Hurley and reigning Amateur Champion Bradley Neil from Scotland.
European Tour Irish Open Championship director Antonia Beggs paid tribute to McIlroy’s efforts in persuading a number of his fellow stars to play this year’s tournament.
“We are delighted by the strength and depth of this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open line-up and applaud our world number one Rory McIlroy who has genuinely embraced his position as tournament host,” Beggs said.
“We are thrilled that the European Tour can deliver this to our spectator audience, who will be treated to an outstanding championship. It was great to see Rickie and George win at the weekend and have so many other Irish Open competitors also in contention on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour.”