The continuing development of the Irish Open has been given a huge boost by Dubai Duty Free’s agreement with the European Tour to extend its title sponsorship of the tournament.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, hosted by the Rory Foundation, has seen a commitment from its title sponsor since 2015 to continue its backing for two years from 2019, with an option to extend it for two more years to 2022. Dubai Duty Free marketing director Sinead El Sibai made the announcement yesterday at Ballyliffin Golf Club, which will host the event on July 5-8, the first time the event has been staged in Donegal.

The airport retailer’s partnership with the tournament and the Rory Foundation has seen the Irish Open go from strength-to-strength, with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy as its host, the prize fund rising from €2m at Royal County Down in 2015 to US$7m (€5.9m) following its inauguration for last season as one of the European Tour’s eight Rolex Series events.

One of the reasons why we became involved was Rory McIlroy’s intention to be the host and he’s done a fantastic job since 2015,” said El Sibai.

“The reason behind our decision to go ahead with this [extension of our sponsorship] is that this tournament is very important to us in terms of media value that Dubai and the Dubai Duty Free brand receive — over 3,000 TV hours during the 2017 tournament — and we believe that’s going forward to creating even more TV exposure for the brand.

“It’s a great tournament, we’re really happy to be a part of it and we thank the European Tour for being behind this and bringing in the Rolex Series.”

Though McIlroy and defending champion Jon Rahm, the world number three, are the only big names confirmed for this July’s event, in addition to Ireland’s other major champions Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington, and Graeme McDowell and 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, tournament director Simon Alliss promised a series of announcements to augment the field, as would befit its position in the calendar, offering links golf a fortnight out from The Open Championship at Carnoustie.

“At the moment, there’s nothing really to add on the player front,” said Alliss.

We know we’ll have a strong field, the Rolex Series has already proved that. There’s $7m on offer. We now live in a global, golden world, where schedules change dramatically. The US Open is coming up, so we’ll have some announcements coming over the next few weeks.

Tiger Woods’s confirmation yesterday that he will play The Open this summer has invited speculation the 14-time major winner will add Ballyliffin to his schedule, but Alliss could not confirm the former world number one’s presence on the Inishowen Peninsula in eight weeks.

“I think it’s always a positive, Tiger playing anywhere in the world. It’s great news for The Open Championship and I’m sure if he wants to come and play here, he’d be very welcome,” Alliss added.

It was also announced yesterday that Des Smyth is from next year to become tournament ambassador for four years, providing a link between the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the sharing of hosting duties with McIlroy and the aforementioned Irish quartet of Harrington, McDowell, Clarke and 2019 host McGinley.

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