Sport Golf

Thursday 14 December 2017

Rory McIlroy: I won't beg stars to play Irish Open

Rory McIlroy hits a shot during the opening round of the Turkish Open
Rory McIlroy hits a shot during the opening round of the Turkish Open

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy insists he will not be begging big-name American stars to tee it up in the Irish Open at The K Club next May.

The Holywood ace promised to return the favour for the likes of Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia after they turned up at Royal County Down in May to help the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, hosted by the Rory Foundation.

The Ulsterman has committed to doing things for Fowler, Els and Garcia's charitable events in return but it appears that he is not prepared to continue doing favours.

While there were high hopes that the likes of Tiger Woods or Dustin Johnson would be persuaded by McIlroy to turn up in Kildare from May 19-22 next year, Woods is already out of the equation having undergone back surgery last month.

Instead, four-time Major winner McIlroy hopes the massive prize fund - up from €2.5m to €4million next year - will be enough to attract a stellar field.

Asked which American stars he was targeting, McIlroy said: "Really I'm not. I think the prize fund, that speaks for itself. I'm not going to do any IOUs 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 it is.

"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."

McIlroy's dream is to host the Irish Open in a links every year as part of a three-week links swing before the Scottish Open and The Open Championship. But he admits that the lack of links courses - Portmarnock and Royal Dublin are currently no-go venues for the government backers or the tour's sponsors because they are men-only clubs - makes that dream a challenge.

"I would love to always see it on a links course," McIlroy said. "We're working on it. I'd love to see The Irish Open change date to closer to the Open to have a little bit more of a links swing going into the Open, where maybe it would be the Irish Open, Scottish Open, and The Open, or something like that. That's a long way down the road but I'd like to see it go to that.

"But the European Tour have been fantastic. They, along with myself, have made a huge commitment to the Irish Open for the next three years and hopefully they go well and we can go on from there."

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