3, Ireland’s largest high speed network, and The European Tour have today announced that 2009 European Tour Number One, Lee Westwood, will play at this year’s 3 Irish Open when the tournament returns to Killarney Golf and Fishing Club from 29th July to 1st August.
Current World Number Four Westwood is targeting more success on Irish soil after winning back-to-back European Open titles on the Emerald Isle at The K Club in 1999 and 2000 and was undefeated as part of Ian Woosnam’s victorious European Ryder Cup Team at the same venue in 2006, contributing four points.
Westwood, who was runner up to Phil Mickelson at the Masters Tournament earlier this month, will attempt to follow in the footsteps of fellow Englishman Sir Nick Faldo, who won the Irish Open on both of the previous occasions it was held at Killarney, in 1991 and 1992.
Like Faldo did, he will head to the County Kerry venue as one of the world’s leading players after winning the inaugural Race to Dubai last year, pushing Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy into second place.
Westwood, who turns 37 on April 24, produced one of the best performances of his career to win the Dubai World Championship last November and seal his place as Europe’s Number One for the second time.
He has carried that form into the 2010 season, finishing runner up in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic before a superb display at Augusta National to finish second in the Masters Tournament having led going into the final round.
Westwood’s appearance in the 3 Irish Open – which has a prize fund of €3million – could play an important role in his defence of his Race to Dubai crown.
He said: “I’ve always enjoyed playing in Ireland and have done well there over the years so I’m optimistic about my chances of more success in the 3 Irish Open.
“I’m in great form at the moment and playing some of the best golf of my career so hopefully that will continue throughout the remainder of the season.
“I’ve won The European Open and obviously The Ryder Cup in Ireland so it would be fantastic to add Ireland’s national Open to that list. Hopefully with the Bank Holiday slot we will attract a large crowd at Killarney.”
Westwood was in contention in the 3 Irish Open last year after opening with a 68 and then a 66 but had to eventually settle for a share of 30th place following weekend rounds of 77 and 74 as Irishman Shane Lowry – an amateur at the time – took the title in spectacular fashion.
Robert Finnegan, CEO of 3 said: “We are delighted to be able to announce Lee Westwood’s participation in this year’s 3 Irish Open. Lee is one of the top golfers in the world and to have him playing in Killarney shows the calibre of tournament professional the 3 Irish Open is now attracting. We look forward to a great 3 Irish Open in Killarney over the August Bank Holiday weekend.”
Mary Hanafin, T.D. Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport said: “I’m delighted to welcome the announcement that Lee Westwood will play in the 3 Irish Open in Killarney later this summer. The Irish Open has always had a unique appeal in the world of golf, bringing together outstanding players with a wealth of talent and experience and this year is no different, with Lee Westwood being among the gallery of stars.
“The Irish Open gives players from around the world an opportunity of playing the challenging Killarney course in the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club in Co. Kerry. Golf tourism is very important for Ireland and we welcome almost 141,000 visitors annually, as well as revenue amounting to in excess of €105m. The growth of golf in Ireland over the past twenty years has been a unique partnership between Government and public and private enterprise. Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, recognises the importance of golf to our tourism industry and its significance in promoting Ireland as both a natural sports arena and as a leading destination for the golfing tourism market in the current economic climate.”
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Lee Westwood’s performance at The Masters Tournament further underlined his status among the elite players in world golf. Only an inspired and, at times, mesmerising Phil Mickelson stopped Lee winning his first Major at Augusta, and, with two more Majors to be contested before the 3 Irish Open, it would surprise no-one if he arrives at the 3 Irish Open as a Major Champion.
“To have attracted one of the game’s superstars to the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club is a huge coup for the 3 Irish Open, and we look forward to seeing him in action at the end of July.”
This is 3’s second year as title sponsors of the 3 Irish Open following the huge success of last year’s event in Baltray Golf Club in County Louth.
The tournament has a new slot on The European Tour International Schedule, over the August Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland.