The Irish Open will boast three of the four current Major Champions after Keegan Bradley, the reigning US PGA Championship winner and one of a new breed of American stars, confirmed he will be heading for Royal Portrush Golf Club.
The 25 year old has never played a professional tournament in Europe, but has been lured by the magnificent links of Royal Portrush, where he will compete among a stellar field which also includes current US Open Champion Rory McIlroy and reigning Open Champion Darren Clarke.
The strength of the line-up for the €2million event, which is being played in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1953 from June 28 to July 1, is growing week by week, with Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open Champion, and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington also confirmed.
With Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari also playing, it means half of the victorious 2010 European Ryder Cup Team has already confirmed they will be in attendance at the famous County Antrim venue.
Bradley, who has high hopes of facing Europe in September by qualifying for the United States Ryder Cup Team, arrived under the spotlight of global golf in 2011 when he won the US PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in dramatic fashion.
A triple bogey at the 15th left him five shots behind with three holes to play, but birdies at the 16th and 17th gave him a share of the lead after 72 holes, and he went on to defeat his compatriot Jason Dufner in a three-hole play-off.
The former all-state ski racer and 2011 US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year became only the third player to win on his Major Championship debut, after Francis Ouimet in the 1913 US Open and Ben Curtis in The 132nd Open Championship in 2003.
Bradley is following fellow young Americans Dustin Johnson and Masters Champion Bubba Watson, who last summer played in Europe in the build-up to The Open Championship, and he is relishing the experience.
“I’m very proud of my Irish heritage,” said Bradley, whose roots are in County Cork, “and I’ve wanted to represent them in the Irish national championship. Also, Graeme and Darren both have told me what a fabulous layout Portrush is, so I’m doubly excited about the opportunity to compete there.”
Northern Ireland’s Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said the news has only heightened the excitement surrounding the upcoming tournament and increased the appeal to the US audience.
She said: “There’s no doubt our local golf stars have been a huge draw for all of those who will be heading to the Irish Open. To have a reigning US PGA Championship winner, Keegan Bradley, taking part is a major coup and delivers an even greater competitive edge to this tournament which is rapidly becoming an unmissable golfing event.
"It proves that a small place like Northern Ireland can produce top golfers and that we have what it takes to host tournaments which attract some of the best players in the world.”To watch these Major men up close, advance day tickets for the Irish Open are available for £30, a saving of £5 on the gate price, with four day season tickets priced at £70, a saving of £10. Advance concession day and season tickets are priced at £20 and £50 respectively.