RORY McIlroy’s powers of persuasion have resulted in US Open champion Martin Kaymer, former world number one Luke Donald and American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed in confirming their participation in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
McIlroy’s foundation is hosting the event at Royal County Down from 28-31 May and the world number one has been a major influence in attracting a top-class field, who will compete for a prize fund of €2.5 million (£1.8 million), an increase of 25 per cent from last year.
Reed let the cat out of the bag on the final day of the Masters at Augusta National, also revealing he would compete in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth the week before.
But the addition of Kaymer and Donald means the tournament will feature five players who have been world number one – McIlroy, Donald, Kaymer, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood – and eight major champions in McIlroy, Els, Kaymer, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Paul Lawrie and Jose Maria Olazabal.
Ryder Cup captain Clarke said: “Rory has pulled in a lot of favours and it’s a testament to the high esteem Rory is held that it’s going to be the strongest field for a long time.
“It’s a huge positive for the European Tour to have such a tournament on one of the best golf courses in the world.
“I have always wanted to win the Irish Open but have not managed to play well in it that often. Hopefully being back at Royal County Down I will have a decent week this year.”
Donald, who last played in the Irish Open in 2004, said: “My performances and results have been getting better and better recently and I am feeling very positive about a huge summer of golf ahead.
“The Irish Open will be a big part of that and I am looking forward to playing Royal County Down and some really ‘old school’ links golf – I think the links golf factor will add a lot to the event and it’s looking like it’s going to be a great week.”
Kaymer added: “There is definitely a good feeling about this year’s Irish Open and I think Rory has done a great job to get such a great field for the event and to create a really nice atmosphere about the tournament.”
The nature of the course means that spectator numbers will be limited to 20,000 a day, although 5,000 grandstand seats will be erected.