Sponsors’ invites still up for grabs at Irish Open

Star names confirmed for Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation

Star names confirmed for Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation

Behind the headlines created by Patrick Reed, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald committing to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open there was some welcome news for home grown talent hoping to bag a place at the event hosted by the Rory Foundation.
Star names like Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood are all eligible to play in the tournament via their world rankings which means that much sought after sponsor’s invites have not been used to fill spots in the field at Royal County Down.
That’s a big boost for the likes of Gareth Maybin and Simon Thornton, who both lost their tour cards last season and will likely need a helping hand to get in this time around.
There could be as many as eight sponsor’s invites available at Royal County Down with James Finnigan, Commercial Director of the Irish Open explaining that all the ‘stakeholders’ involved in the event, including Rory McIlroy, would be involved in discussions about how to make best use of those places.
“Rory will have influence, he is hosting the tournament and he is our partner but we will not do anything unilaterally,” said Finnegan.
“Likewise we will be speaking with our partners in Dubai Duty Free and Tourism NI. Inevitably there will be many requests for two or three places and unfortunately, someone will be on the wrong side of that line.”
One man who definitely won’t need to avail of an invite is Darren Clarke who will be playing in his 24th Irish Open. The winner of an Open Championship and two WGC events has yet to taste success at his ‘home’ championship but he’s not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
“I have always wanted to win the Irish Open,” said the 2016 Ryder Cup captain.
“I have won at home, the European Open at the K Club but never the Irish Open.

“Some of my earliest memories were playing in the Irish Open in Portmarnock as an amateur so it is a very special tournament for me. It is one that I have come close to winning a few times [he has finished second and third] but never quite managed to get over that final hurdle.

“I think if you ask any professional they will always say that they want to win their home open and hopefully, with it being back on links course, I can have a good week.”
Clarke can’t remember the last time he actually played a competitive round of golf at Royal County Down but he’s expecting a tough challenge.
“It’s a sensational golf course and it is demanding. Ireland has some of the best links in the world and Royal County Down is right at the top of that list,” added Darren who finished tied for 52nd at The Masters.
“It’s a fantastic test and you have to get the ball up in the air off the tee. That’s different from a lot of links courses which give you the option of hitting the ball very low.
“If the conditions are tough and it is windy it will mean a little bit of local knowledge could be very important particularly when it comes to getting your lines off the tees.”


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