Lee Westwood and Danny Willett have confirmed their participation in the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, meaning that the last three Rolex Series winners will arrive at the spectacular Lahinch Golf Club for the July showpiece, which is hosted by Paul McGinley.
The English duo will join Shane Lowry – the most recent Rolex Series Champion after his win in Abu Dhabi in January – in a world-class field when the historic event takes place on the famous County Clare links for the first time from July 4-7.
Former World Number One Westwood and the 2016 Masters Champion Willett both enjoyed hugely successful finishes to their 2018 campaigns.
Westwood claimed his maiden Rolex Series title, and his 24th European Tour title overall, at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player with an emotional victory which proved the 45-year- old still has the game to compete with the world’s best after four years out of the winner’s circle.
Willett, meanwhile, completed a remarkable comeback from injury and lack of form at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai last November as he sealed his first win since famously earning the Green Jacket in 2016.
The 30-year-old has pedigree in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open – having finished inside the top ten four times in his last six appearances – and his confidence is sure to be boosted by the fact that Lahinch’s 1927 redesign was led by Alistair Mackenzie, who co-designed Augusta National.
Both players, alongside the recently-confirmed Tommy Fleetwood, will be hoping to become the first English winners of the event since Paul Casey emerged victorious at Carton House Golf Club in 2013.
“I’m really looking forward to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this year,” said Westwood. “Lahinch is somewhere I’ve never played, although I’ve heard a lot about it – how good it is. It’s obviously a good links course and with The Open coming up a couple of weeks after it, it will be good preparation.
“I’ve won a couple of times in Ireland but I’ve never won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open so it would be nice to put that tournament on my list of achievements. It’s nice when you go back to these Rolex Series events too and your caddie has a gold bib for winning one.
“It’s nice for the players to support Paul. He’s well-respected and is obviously a former Ryder Cup Captain – I played under him at Gleneagles – so hopefully he’ll get a strong field and the people will support him.”
Willett said: “From what I’ve heard, they’ve chosen a beautiful golf course down there in Lahinch and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open kick-started my year last year a little bit. There was loads of support and it’s a fantastic place to be.
“To be down in Lahinch and then a couple of weeks later up at Portrush, we’re going to have a few fantastic weeks there with crowds that know golf, know the game and I know they’ll come out in force.
“It’s worked in the past for me to play links courses before The Open and you often get a lot of Americans coming over to acclimatise. We’re travelling around trying to chase the sun and it’s nice to go a play a true links golf course.
“You can imagine Paul will have dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts, and it will be well-organised. Rory has hosted for a number of years now and he’s done an amazing job but I think it’s difficult to play while hosting. It was a nice time for someone to take over and it’s great for Paul to take the reigns now, and then switch it with different people in different years.”
The 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open provided one of the most dramatic finales in the tournament’s 91-year history, as Russell Knox holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to clinch a place in a play-off alongside New Zealander Ryan Fox.
The Scot then sank an almost identical putt on the first play-off hole to seal his maiden Rolex Series title and send the huge Irish crowds into raptures.
With blazing sunshine and a star-studded field including the 2017 champion Jon Rahm, a total of 94,239 people attended the event at Ballyliffin Golf Club.