Northern Ireland Open: Challenge Tour event returns to 72-hole format for 2018

Last year's winner Robin Sciot-Siegrist (centre) received the NI Open trophy from Modest Golf directors Niall Horan (right) and Mark McDonnell
Niall Horan's golf management company will again be heavily involved in the NI Open this year

The Northern Ireland Open will revert to 72 holes of strokeplay in 2018 after last year's Shootout Sunday format at Galgorm Castle.

Last year's format saw the top 24 after Saturday's third round going forward to a series of six-hole knockout strokeplay games on the Sunday.

France's Robin Sciot-Siegrist took the title as the event drew a European Challenge Tour record 43,000 fans.

Organisers are confident of even bigger crowds between 16-19 August this year.

Once again, pop star Niall Horan's golf management company will be central to the organisation and promotion of this year's event.

"The event has grown every year and we look forward to linking up with Galgorm Castle and the Challenge Tour once again," said Modest Golf chief Horan.

Shootout devised after Pelley's plea

The One Direction star's colleague Mark McDonnell said that last year's format was devised after European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley challenged golf's stakeholders to come up with ideas to introduce the sport to new audiences.

"We played our part in that by attracting the biggest ever crowd to a Challenge Tour event," added Mr McDonnell.

"Interesting in the NI Open has never been higher and we are excited to return to the traditional four days strokeplay and look forward to welcoming new audiences to experience the best Challenge Tour event in the world."

In recent years, the NI Open field has been laden with European Tour winners including former Ryder Cup players Oliver Wilson and Philip Price plus the likes of Michael Hoey, Nick Dougherty, Philip Price, Johan Edfors and Richard Finch.

The tournament also offers Irish professionals the chance of top-level competition alongside some of Europe's best players.

"Just as important, this event alone opens so many doors to other events across Europe and beyond by way of reciprocal invites, which helps players put together a playing schedule for the season," added Galgorm Castle's managing director Gary Henry.

Horan added:"This Challenge Tour event is so important to us as a business. We have lot of plans with Galgorm Castle to develop this event further over the coming years."