Rory McIlroy swore he wouldn’t beg pals to tee it up for his foundation in this year’s €4m Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and so it’s proved.
Organisers issued an email on Friday with the names of the leading entrants and while there are some great names, including McIlroy, Masters champion Danny Willett and two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, there are likely to be just nine of the world’s top 50 compared to 13 a year ago.
Looking on the bright side, there may still be a tiny hope that Michael Smurfit will somehow persuade Tiger Woods to make the trip part of his anticipated comeback and the event may yet outstrip last year’s damp show at Royal County Down.
Not only that, at least 12 of Europe’s Top 20 world ranked players will be there though the absence of Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler or Ernie Els is a direct result of McIlroy not wishing to ask his friends for more favours that he is obliged to return.
"Really I'm not (asking big names to come)," McIlroy said in Turkey last November. "I think the prize fund, that speaks for itself. I’m not going to do any IOU's this year like I did last year.
"It's a fantastic tournament in its own right. I mean, it’s a bit of an awkward date on the calendar and obviously Royal County Down attracted a lot of guys because of the golf course that is."
Hinting heavily that the venues are the key to the Irish Open in the future, he added: "That’s the sort of thing that I would hope for in the future; that the golf courses and the increased prize fund, obviously attract a few more players."
The leading names expected are:
- 3 Rory McIlroy
- 9 Danny Willett
- 29 Rafa Cabrera Bello
- 32 Andy Sullivan
- 33 Shane Lowry
- 36 Lee Westwood
- 38 Søren Kjeldsen
- 41 Matt Fitzpatrick
- 43 Bernd Wiesberger
- 48 David Lingmerth *
- 51 Chris Wood
- 55 Martin Kaymer
- 72 Graeme McDowell
- 132 Padraig Harrington
- 636 Darren Clarke
- 1534 Paul McGinley
Kaymer is the latest Major champion to add his name to what the European Tour describes as an “all-star cast" at The K Club from May 19-22.
Tickets to see Kaymer, McIlroy and an array of home-grown and international stars in action can be purchased at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com.
The German will be making his fourth appearance in the €4 million tournament, with a tied tenth finish at Adare Manor in 2008 his best performance to date.
He has not won a regular European Tour event for five years – his last victory was the 2014 US Open Championship – but he will have been encouraged by a top six finish on his last outing at Valderrama two weeks ago.
Kaymer said: “It’s going to be a big summer for a lot of players, and I’ll be looking to get off to the perfect start at the Irish Open. I’ve only played The K Club once, in the 2007 European Open, and although it maybe wasn’t my best week on the course, I can remember being really impressed by it.
“The Irish people love their golf and really get behind the players, so it should make for a great atmosphere, especially with such a strong field there. The crowds always turn up and show their support, and that’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy playing in Ireland.”
Much like The K Club, which hosted a memorable Ryder Cup in 2006, Kaymer became synonymous with golf’s greatest team contest after holing the putt which ensured the trophy would remain in European hands at Medinah Country Club in 2012.
A strong showing at The K Club under the watchful eye of Europe’s 2016 Captain, Darren Clarke, would enhance Kaymer’s claims for a fourth straight Ryder Cup appearance.
Similarly, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, the English trio of Matt Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood, defending champion Søren Kjeldsen of Denmark, and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger will also be looking to forward their cases for inclusion in Europe’s line-up.
Cabrera Bello, Kjeldsen, Fitzpatrick and Sullivan all currently occupy automatic qualifying places for The Ryder Cup, while McIlroy and Masters Tournament champion Danny Willett – who will also be teeing up at The K Club – have already confirmed their places at Hazeltine National in September.