Golden boy McIlroy to host and sprinkle The Irish Open with stardust

His mere presence is a gilt-edged guarantee but the news that the Rory McIlroy Foundation is to host the Irish Open at Royal County Down next May coverts the golden boy into the King Midas of Irish golf.

He might not be putting his own millions into the prize fund but by committing to recruit his fellow players from both the European and US PGA Tours and work closely alongside the Tour in developing the event’s commercial and sponsorship activities, the move by the four-time major winner is  a massive boost to an event that's schedule for the Newcastle venue from May 28-31.

It takes place just a week after the flagship BMW PGA at Wentworth which will give McIlroy a chance to persuade some of his European Ryder Cup team mates to take part. But as it's also happening at the course where he did battle with the likes of Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk and Webb Simpson in the 2007 Walker Cup, there will be high hopes that he can sprinkle the event with some mich needed stardust.

Who knows, perhaps he can even persuade Tiger Woods to return to a course he's played several times in preparation for the Open Championship.

McIlroy's charitable foundation, The Rory Foundation, will become the official charity of what will be called "The 2015 Irish Open Hosted by The Rory Foundation" with the beneficiaries to be chosen by the Foundation in conjunction with the European Tour.

At the announcement, which was made on Sky Sports on Sunday evening, McIlroy said: “Since making my debut in 2005, the Irish Open has always been a special tournament to me. 

"I am excited to be partnering with George O’Grady and the European Tour, especially for next year’s tournament at Royal County Down.”

One of the major beneficiaries of The Rory Foundation, the Cancer Fund for Children, is located just a few miles from Royal County Down, in Newcastle.

McIlroy added: “It’s a coincidence, but a nice one, allowing the Cancer Fund for Children to be introduced to other golfers who would be moved and engaged by what it does.”

Welcoming the announcement, O’Grady said: “Since I first met Rory when he was playing for Europe in the 2004 Junior Ryder Cup team in Detroit, I could sense he was not just a remarkably talented golfer, but also a remarkable young man.

“As the Chief Executive of The European Tour, it has been a true pleasure watching Rory’s transition from one of the world’s leading amateur golfers in 2007 to the Number One golfer in the world and a four-time Major Champion.

“The European Tour is thrilled that Rory and his Foundation would wish to partner with the Tour and become more closely involved in the development of the Irish Open. Today’s announcement further demonstrates Rory’s uniquely special qualities and his commitment not simply to his national Open, but also to The European Tour.”

The Irish Open has endured some torrid financial times since it lost its most recent title sponsor in 2010.

Gallery (below) Rory McIlroy practicing with the GB&I Walker Cup squad at Royal County Down in 2007

Ireland's raft of major winners - Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and McIlroy — have kept the tournament's flame alight with their star power while the European Tour has dipped into its coffers to bolster the prize fund and make up the rest with the help of a bevvy of official sponsors and government backing.

As a four-time major winner and world No 1, it's conceivable that McIlroy will arrive at Royal County Down for the first European to complete the career Grand Slam should he win the Masters in April.

The 2015 Irish Open will be the first held at Royal County Down for 75 years and given Sunday evening's announcement, there is sure to be interest from US television.

It's a win-win situation for McIlroy, his Foundation and for Irish golf. 

With the Open Championship going back to Royal Portrush (almost certainly in 2019) and the Irish Open confirmed for Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh in 2017, there appears to be no end to the good times .

What will happen in 2016, when the event is scheduled to return to the Republic of Ireland, remains to be seen but if McIlroy remains on board as host, there will be no shortage of venues queuing up to welcome him.