Dubai Duty Free have extended their sponsorship of golf’s Irish Open for another three years, following the hugely successful partnership at the event in May.
This year’s tournament, which took place at Royal County Down Golf Club, Northern Ireland, was hosted for the first time by Rory McIlroy, current world No 3 and four-time major champion, and had Dubai Duty Free as its title sponsors.
The Dubai-based company’s involvement ensured the prize fund for the event was increased by 25 per cent to €2.5 million (Dh10.4m). They initially signed a one-year deal, with an option of an additional two years.
However, such was the success of the tournament — almost 107,000 spectators attended throughout the week — that Dubai Duty Free have now committed until 2018.
McIlroy will continue as tournament host for the next three years, too, beginning with next year’s event at The K Club, County Kildare, from May 19-22. The European Tour also announced an increase in prize fund by 60 per cent, taking next May’s purse to €4m. It makes the Irish Open one of the most lucrative tournaments on the 2016 Race to Dubai outside of the majors and World Golf Championship events.
“The Irish Open has always meant so much to me, so I am really excited to announce my commitment to host the tournament, on behalf of the Rory Foundation, for the next three years,” McIlroy said.
“I would like to thank Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free and Keith Pelley of the European Tour for supporting my vision to develop the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation into one of the leading events on the European Tour’s schedule over the next three years.
“I was delighted with the support I received, not only from the players who competed this year, but also from the fans who came along to the Irish Open at Royal County Down in May — they made it another sell-out tournament. I am sure The K Club — on the 10th anniversary as host of the 2006 Ryder Cup — will be an excellent venue for the 2016 Irish Open.”
McIlroy’s hosting of the event this year precipitated a significant revamp for the Irish Open, which carries the name of the Rory Foundation, the Northern Irishman’s own organisation designed to provide support for a number of children’s charities.
Subsequently, the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open had more world ranking points on offer than at any other time since its inception in 1975. Alongside McIlroy, the field included the likes of Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, with eight of the victorious 2014 European Ryder Cup team taking part.
Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen clinched the title and a winner’s cheque for €416,660 after he triumphed in a three-way play-off against Bernd Wiesberger and Eddie Pepperell. McIlroy had earlier missed the cut.
Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free, said: “We are delighted to announce our title sponsorship of the Irish Open after a terrific inaugural sponsorship year in Northern Ireland earlier this year. The fact that the Rory Foundation will continue to host the event was central to our decision moving forward.
“We are also pleased that as a result of our sponsorship commitment, the European Tour has announced an increase in prize money to €4m making it very appealing for international players to participate. The staging of the 2016 tournament at The K Club, which has recently undergone a major expansion, is another positive. With all these things combined, we are looking forward to a great event next May.”