One of the most impressive fields of the year will assemble at Mount Juliet in County Kilkenny this week for the third staging of the World Golf Championships - American Express Championship.
Cancelled last year in the wake of the terrorist atrocities in America, the tournament returns to the schedule determined to give the fervent golfing public of the Emerald Isle a week to remember.
Headed by World Number One Tiger Woods, who makes his first competitive apprearance in Ireland having used the country as a warm-up location for the Open Golf Championship in the past, the field will see 49 of the current top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings in action.
Woods's inclusion in the field means that the winners of all four of the Major Champions from the 2002 season will be competing at Mount Juliet as he joins Open Champion Ernie Els and US PGA Champion Rich Beem in the starting line-up.
The 2002 WGC - American Express Championship will be Woods's 12th World Golf Championships event. In 11 previous World Golf Championships Woods has won five times, including the inaugural WGC - American Express Championship in 1999, and posted ten top ten finishes. In addition to his WGC - American Express Championship victory, Woods won the 1999, 2000 and 2001 WGC - NEC Invitationals and teamed with David Duval to win the 2000 WGC - EMC² World Cup.
Stephen Leaney’s impressive win in the Linde German Masters ensured that he will join the 64 other eligible players in the field. Lying 38th in the Volvo Order of Merit before the tournament, the Australian moved up to tenth place. Carl Pettersson of Sweden ended the week in 20th place on the Volvo Order of Merit to edge out six time Major Champion Nick Faldo.
As well as being an outstanding tournament in its own right, the WGC - American Express Championship is also a tantalising curtain-raiser to The 34th Ryder Cup Matches with 17 of the 24 players who will line up at The De Vere Belfry next week, fine tuning their games at Mount Juliet.
All the American team will compete with the exception of Stewart Cink and Hal Sutton while seven of the European team will be in action, the players not teeing up being Pierre Fulke, Paul McGinley, Jesper Parnevik, Phillip Price and Lee Westwood.