Tournament host Rory McIlroy will be among nine Major Champions, 26 Ryder Cup stars, 12 former winners and 16 Irish teeing up in next week richest-ever Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Joining McIlroy at Portstewart as winners at the game’s highest level will be fellow Irish Open winners, Padraig Harrington and Jose Maria Olazabal along with Justin Rose, Darren Clarke, Trevor Immelman, Paul Lawrie, Danny Willett and nearby Portrush native Graeme McDowell.
Clarke and Olazabal are among four Ryder Cup Captains in the field which also includes Gleneagles winning Captain Paul McGinley and current Captain, Thomas Bjorn.
Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, who was recently named as one of Bjorn’s vice-captains, will also tee up.
Former winners include not only McIlroy, Harrington, Bjorn and Olazabal but Dane Soren Kjeldsen who won three years ago at Royal County Down when McIlroy first hosted the event who incidentally will have an Irish Golfer Magazine competition winner on the bag for the Pro-Am.
And while McIlroy heads a strong home nation challenge, invitations have been extended to Belfast’s Michael Hoey, in contention at the Challenge Tour event in the Scottish Highlands, along with Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy and the Mount Wolseley attached Gavin Moynihan.
Also in the field is former long-time Irish European Tour campaigners Damien McGrane, Simon Thornton, David Higgins and Birr’s Colm Moriarty who captured the recent 36-hole Slieve Russell Masters Pro-Am.