Irish Open set to be part of 'super series' as Willett draws first blood
The Irish Open is set to become part of a 'super series' of lucrative tournaments on the European Tour - and the sooner the better according to Colm McLoughlin, chief executive of event sponsors Dubai Duty Free.
Speaking on day one at The K Club, McLoughlin said his company has an option to remain as title sponsors for two further years after their present deal ends in 2018.
"We know the Tour have an ambition that it would be one of four or five tournaments in Europe with a prize fund of €7 million," he said.
"I'm not sure what their date for that is, but I do see it growing over the next couple of years. We would be encouraging to see prize money going higher and higher. I know the Tour is saying €7 million. The quicker they do that the better."
Prize money for this year's tournament is €4m - a 60 per cent increase on 2015. The venue for next year remains to be confirmed. Ideally, the sponsors would like it to move from May to a date either the week before, or the week after, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, which takes place on June 25 this year.
On the course, Masters champion Danny Willett shot 65 for seven-under par and a two-shot lead over Rory McIlroy who was satisfied with his opening 67.