Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rahm set to follow Rose on Irish invite


Justin Rose will be in Portstewart but Sergio Garcia has yet to confirm. Photo: Getty Images
Justin Rose will be in Portstewart but Sergio Garcia has yet to confirm. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy did not need to turn on the charm to get Olympic champion Justin Rose to commit to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart from July 6-9.

The world number eight is as interested in the links golf preparation he will get a fortnight before The Open as he is in the whopping €7m prize fund.

And that's a formula that appears likely to attract rising Spanish star Jon Rahm as well as a handful of US Ryder Cup players.

"I haven't played the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for a while so I'm excited about going back," said Rose, who was denied his second Major title earlier this month when Sergio Garcia beat him in a sudden-death play-off at the Masters.


Set for his first Irish Open appearance since he finished 44th behind Ross Fisher in Killarney in 2010, Rose added: "With Rory's involvement the last couple of years the event has gone from strength to strength and being part of the Rolex Series will give it an even bigger boost.

"Irish fans are always a lot of fun to play in front of, it's always good 'craic' out there! We'll all enjoy the tournament, and it's obviously great preparation for The Open Championship too.

"I think it's very good to get some links golf under your belt before The Open."

While McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and the rest of Ireland's tour elite are guaranteed starters, Rose is the first big international name to commit.

However, we understand that while Masters champion Garcia is considered a possible rather than a probable, 22-year-old Spanish superstar Rahm will shortly be announced as one of the event's big attractions.

The big-hitting Basque - now the world number 13 - knows Portstewart well, although he'll be hoping for an improvement on the four-over 75 he shot in a qualifying round there for the 2014 British Amateur Championship

With many top players traditionally touching down on Irish links as part of their build-up for The Open, McIlroy has made no secret of the fact that he's hoping several PGA Tour stars will make the trip to prepare for Royal Birkdale.

"I think the date two weeks before The Open entices guys to come over early and acclimatise to the conditions and get to play links golf if it is on a links golf course," McIlroy said.

"So I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of the Americans we saw at the Ryder Cup come over and play this year."

A spokesman for McIlroy's management company confirmed just after Christmas that the Rory Foundation planned to approach US Ryder Cup players Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson as well as former world No 1 Jason Day.

Tiger Woods appears to be out for the rest of the season following recent back surgery, but McIlroy's close friend Rickie Fowler was at Royal County Down two years ago while current world No 1 Johnson has played practice rounds at Portmarnock and Royal Dublin in the days before The Open for the last two years.

In 2015 McIlory got Garcia and Ernie Els to tee it up at Royal County Down and repaid those favours by playing in Garcia's charity day in Switzerland last year, and the Els Foundation run SA Open in January this year, where he injured his ribs.

Given the prime date, the generous prize money and the links venue, McIlroy has not had to write any IOU's this year.

Irish Independent

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