Rory McIlroy excited after Irish Open included in new Rolex Series
RORY McIlroy has welcomed the inclusion of the Irish Open in the European Tour's new Rolex Series, a group of seven events with a minimum prize fund of USD seven million (£5.6million).
That represents an increase of more than £2million on this year's event at Portstewart GC, which is hosted by McIlroy's foundation and was won by the four-time major winner himself at The K Club.
The European Tour and Rolex will make up the £10million total shortfall in funding for the BMW PGA Championship, Irish Open and Scottish Open, with the Italian Open, Turkish Airlines Open and Nedbank Golf Challenge already offering the required £5.6million.
The prize fund for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship is £6.4million.
"I'm very grateful for the European Tour and Rolex including the Irish Open in this Rolex Series," McIlroy said. "The Irish Open's been given a great date as well. It's two weeks before the Open on a links golf course (Portstewart). We're really excited about it.
"It doesn't change my schedule that much but it gives guys an incentive to maybe play a little bit more on this side of the pond leading up to the Open Championship and hopefully get some great fields.
"It's getting more and more difficult to play two tours. With the regulations that the PGA Tour are putting upon us and with how great the events are becoming over here, it's hard to jump back and forth and play tournaments.
"So I think you might see more guys spending prolonged periods in either/or, because jumping back and forth, you can do it for so long, but in the long run, it just doesn't work too well."
McIlroy's driver swing in slow motion pic.twitter.com/ZqlCDemUqz— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 15, 2016
As part of the changes, the Final Series - which was only launched in 2013 - will cease to exist, but European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley insisted it had not been a failure.
"I wouldn't say that it didn't work," Pelley said. "We felt that the creation of the Rolex Series combined with The Race to Dubai were the best two brands that we could build and we didn't want to create any confusion in the marketplace.
"We decided we needed to streamline what brands that we were going to build and we were going to promote.
"I think this is the natural next step for us. This is in the infancy stages. This will evolve. This will get larger and larger, but I'm excited that we're launching it in 2017.
"I do believe it's a game-changer for us and we couldn't have a better partner that's supporting us in everything that we do with Rolex.
"We need a product that can grow and grow over time, that provides a strong financial offering for our young players so they don't have to go to the United States."