McIlroy, who was involved in one of the great Ryder Cup clashes in the history of that match - against Patrick Reed - has set South African fans’ tongues wagging with his announcement that he will be in the field for the second-oldest national open championship in the world.
It was immediately apparent on social media what a drawcard the 27-year-old from Northern Ireland is, as golf fans discussed making arrangements to get to Glendower, even though the first tee-off is more than three months away.
Tickets are available from www.ticketpros.co.za, and they range in price from R40 to R150. There is also the opportunity to enter a lucky draw for the chance to be one of four guests allowed to walk inside the ropes for an entire round with a group which will include either McIlroy, Els, Retief Goosen or defending champion Brandon Stone. The winners will be selected in a random draw which will take place on Wednesday, January 11.
McIlroy last played in South Africa in the 2009 Nedbank Golf Challenge, when he had to withdraw after the first round because he was suffering from a viral infection. His last full tournament was the 2008 South African Open Championship in 2008 at Pearl Valley, where he finished in a share of third with Ernie Els behind Richard Sterne.
Els, who is the player-host of the BMW SA Open, managed to get McIlroy to commit to playing at Glendower when the Big Easy played in the 2015 Irish Open as a favour to McIlroy.
“Rory was very serious when I told him he owed me one at the Irish Open,” said Els, “and I’m glad that he made the commitment so soon. His presence will help the growth of the SA Open which has been doing so well over the last few years.”