McIlroy counting down to Ballyliffin
 Rory McIlroy during the recent  JP McManus Pro-Am  launch at Adare Manor

Rory McIlroy during the recent JP McManus Pro-Am launch at Adare Manor

Rory McIlroy is relishing the opportunity to bring the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation to a spectacular new venue when the four-time Major winner heads a world-class field at Ballyliffin Golf Club, from July 5-8.

The fourth Rolex Series event of the 2018 season will visit Ballyliffin’s Glashedy Links for the first time in its long history this summer and the County Donegal crowds are expected to turn out in force as Spain’s Jon Rahm defends his title.

McIlroy is sure to be the big draw once again though, as the Northern Irishman hosts the event for the fourth time before the hosting of the tournament changes to a rotation of the island’s greatest modern golfing heroes – with Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell joining McIlroy on the rota.

“I obviously love the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open,” said the 28-year-old. “One of my career highlights is winning at the K Club in 2016 and I’d love to go back to Ballyliffin this year and lift that trophy again.

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“I’ve enjoyed my time up in Ballyliffin, I’ve played quite a lot there as an amateur and I think it’s a great venue for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. It’s pure links, and I think people will really enjoy it.

“It’s one of the toughest links courses in the world. It’s really well designed, it’s a beautiful course and Donegal is just a beautiful area.”

One for the proudest achievements of McIlroy’s career has been his role in the revival of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.

By changing the date on the European Tour’s International Schedule, securing the national open’s place in the Rolex Series—significantly increasing the prize fund—and, most importantly, introducing a charitable component to the week, McIlroy has helped elevate the tournament to historical new heights.

Along with the Rory Foundation, who support children’s charities, big and small, around the world, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has made a positive impact in many lives, including McIlroy’s.

“It’s been fantastic, and we’ve been able to raise a lot of money for charity with our involvement,” he said. “That was one of the biggest keys for me, and why I wanted to get involved - because I wanted it to be bigger than myself.

"I wanted it to impact more people. For it to help so many other people with my involvement, that’s what has meant a lot.”

While McIlroy will aim to win his second Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title, he knows that the fans who attend the event will make it a special week regardless of how he plays.

“It’s great to be able to play in front of people that maybe watched you play as an amateur and watched you grow up,” he said.

“It’s very nice to come back and play in front of those people. They appreciate not just what you’ve done as a player but hopefully they appreciate what we’ve tried to do for the tournament as well.  It’s always nice to go back and hopefully I can give them something to cheer about.”

Last year, world No 4 Rahm—who has already confirmed he will defend his title this year—dominated the field, finishing on 24 under par and winning by six shots at Portstewart.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open continues to shine as one of the eight tournaments which form the prestigious Rolex Series— the premium category of tournaments on the European Tour’s International Schedule, all with a minimum prize fund of US$7 million. Tickets are available now at et.golf/DDFIO18Tickets