Defending champion Tiger Woods and ten of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup Team will lead the world’s top golfers into action this week in the World Golf Championships – American Express Championship at Mount Juliet Conrad, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.
A glittering array of stars will gather over the pristine Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Mount Juliet Conrad including seven of the World’s Top Ten and 44of the World Top 50 with Woods and Ernie Els, the World Number Two and Three, leading the way.
The WGC – American Express Championship also marks a return to action for some of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes including the trio of Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, who are sure to get a fantastic welcome home from the Irish golf fans.
Joining them from the European Team who retained The Ryder Cup by a record 18 ½ - 9 ½ winning margin at Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Township, Michigan, will be Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, David Howell, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Thomas Levet and Lee Westwood.
Nine of the US Ryder Cup Team are also back in action – Chad Campbell, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Jay Haas, Davis Love III, Chris DiMarco, Chris Riley, David Toms and Woods.
Woods, making his second competitive appearance in Ireland, is one course for a hat-trick of WGC – American Express title having won the last two editions at Mount Juliet Conrad in 2002 and at Capital City Club, Atlanta, USA, last year. He has won nine WGC events in total, amassing €10,255,536 in 16 events.
Two years ago, in perfect weather conditions, Woods charmed the Irish golf fans with a stunning display, winning the title with a record 25 under par total of 263 after withstanding the final round charge from Retief Goosen.
This year, US Open Champion Goosen, winner of the Volvo Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002, is also back in action looking to go one better than 2002 and in the process overhaul his fellow South African Ernie Els at the top of the money list. With Singh and Open Champion Todd Hamilton in the field, spectators will be able to watch three of the season’s Major Champions in action.
Of the home players Clarke will be looking to add the WGC – American Express Championship to his two previous WGC titles – the 2000 Accenture Match Play and the 2003 NEC Invitational. He is the first player after Woods to win multiple WGC titles.
World Number One Vijay Singh pulled out of the event after after Hurricane Jeanne left his home without power and the Fijian felt it was time to stay with his family. Canadian Mike Weir and American John Daly were also late withdrawls suffering sickness and a foot injury respectively.
A purse of $7 million, the largest to be contested on the Continent of Europe, is on offer with a record $1.2 million for the Champion. The prize fund has grown by $1.5 million since the WGC- American Express Championship at Mount Juliet Conrad in 2002.
It is the fourth time the WGC – American Express Championship has been played in Europe, the first two editions having taken place at Valderrama and the 2002 Championship at Mount Juliet Conrad.