Irish Open aims to join world's elite with $10m fund
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is set to be a $10 million tournament by 2020.
That is the ambition of company CEO Colm McLoughlin and host Rory McIlroy who want to see the event become bigger and better.
Already a major breakthrough has been achieved by the inclusion of the Irish Open on the European Tour's new Rolex Series with $7 million (€6.3 million) on offer at Portstewart this week. The next move is to elevate the national Open to a level which, on current prize funds available, would put it in the top echelon of world golf.
This season, the US Open ($12m), The Players Championship ($10.5m), and The Masters ($10m) are the top three in terms of prize money.
The WGC-HSBC Champions, WGC-Mexico Championship, and the WGC-Bridgestone are all pitched at $9.75 million.
McLoughlin said that his company were very pleased with their involvement in the Irish Open, which began in 2015 when the company partnered with the Rory Foundation to raise the profile of the tournament.
McLoughlin said: "We just want to make it continue to grow. I would hope that in some years to come, that the European Tour call it a minimum prize fund of $7million, and it would be terrific if it was $10million in a couple of years' time.
"When we are looking, after one more year, whether to take up our option to renew or not, that's something we will be talking about."
Rory McIlroy mentioned the $10million ideal earlier in the week, and McLoughlin's comments show they are of one mind. The change of date from May to this week, playing the Irish Open on a links, has been a strategically beneficial move.
"With the change of date, and the policy to go on a links course are very good things," said McLoughlin.
"Dubai Duty Free also sponsor the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, and we are very happy that this is the week following this now, and I would like to see that remain as it is.
"So if I was saying what I would like to see in a few years' time, it would be an attendance of 150,000 people, all the top American players are coaxed to enter, $10m prize money which might help the coaxing, and the title sponsor being recognised as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
"That's my wish list," added McLoughlin.
The title sponsors came on board in 2015 for Royal County Down. Last year the event went to The K Club and it's back North again at Portstewart this week.
Confirmation of Ballyliffin for 2018 is expected this weekend, but McLoughlin would like to see the championship played somewhere "in the middle of the country."
"Whether it is a written policy or not that it is in the North of Ireland one year, and then the Republic the next, it is a long trek for a lot of people who live in Co Kerry or Co Cork, so I would love to see the event somewhere towards the middle of the country.
"I think it would help the attendance very much, but I don't know personally enough about golf courses to say Lahinch or Portmarnock or the European Course (Club) or whatever."