The 3 Irish Open could have a jet-set field with high flyers Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy and Sergio Garcia on a hit-list of superstar attractions.
The European Tour is planning to ask mega-rich supporters like JP McManus and Dermot Desmond for help so they can fly the stars from The Players in Sawgrass to Ireland for the €3m event at Baltray from May 14-17.
European Tour boss George O’Grady confirmed “We are considering it. We are talking to some of our pals who come to Sawgrass and it isn’t the easiest of journeys.
“Jacksonville isn’t a gateway city so you have to get from Sawgrass to a hub by private plane and we have some friends that might help us on that one.”
Major man Padraig Harrington and Holywood sensation Rory McIlroy will headline the chase for the €500,000 top prize as 3 signed a three-year deal to back the event.
But with US-based stars like Ogilvy, Garcia, Singh, Camilo Villegas, Boo Weekley and Anthony Kim all obliged to play 12 European Tour events to be eligible for the €10m Race to Dubai jackpot, The 3 Irish Open could reap the benefits.
O’Grady confirmed: “Yes, we are pushing. Yes, we will persuade, but we aren’t coercing anybody. It isn’t about forcing people.
“We will certainly market this and push it as hard as we can. Richard Hills and I we were in America last week at the Accenture Match Play.
“They had the 64 top ranked players in the world and they all wanted to know about the Irish Open.
“They all know it is back on a links course and they are all talking about it. All the Irish professionals talk it up like mad - that’s Padraig Harrington and your rising young superstar Rory McIlroy.
“All the American events want to have Harrington and McIlroy so I think you should be pretty grateful in what you have actually got here.”
Carrying an increased prize fund of €3 million - €500,000 more than the 2008 tournament– The 3 Irish Open helps to secure the long-term future of one of the most revered national Opens, which was first played at Portmarnock in 1927.
Robert Finnegan, Chief Executive of the new title sponsors 3, said: “3 is delighted to be supporting such a prestigious event - the Irish open is a real sleeping giant and we’re looking forward to bringing it back to its rightful place as one of the strongest tournaments in Europe.”
Failte Ireland will pump €1m into the prize fund with Martin Cullen TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, hoping that worldwide coverage on The Golf Channel will boost tourism numbers.
Cullen said: “3 is showing strong commitment to Ireland and to Irish sport through this sponsorship. The Irish Open, restored to its former glory, will act to promote Ireland internationally as a leading destination for the golfing tourism market."
Minister Cullen added “The Government, through Failte Ireland recognises the importance of golfing visitors to our tourism industry and its significant investment in this year’s Irish Open will also be crucial to its success.”
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, commented: “We are delighted to enter into this three year agreement with 3, which will see a championship with such a distinguished heritage as The Irish Open join forces with an innovative brand as title sponsor. We are grateful to the Irish Government, and in particular Minister Cullen, for their continued commitment to The Irish Open, which this year incorporates The Race to Dubai. Everyone on the Tour is excited at the prospect of returning to a classic links in County Louth, where I am sure we will receive a typically hospitable Irish welcome.”
Inaugurated in 1927, the Irish Open has consistently produced world class champions on the calibre of Fred Daly, Harry Bradshaw, Christy O’Connor Jnr, Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green, Sam Torrance, John O’Leary, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, José Maria Olazábal, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia, Michael Campbell and Padraig Harrington.