A total of ten players who have tasted Major Championship glory – including Ireland’s illustrious quartet – will join a galaxy of European Tour champions and Ryder Cup players when the Irish Open descends on Royal Portrush Golf Club in three weeks’ time.
At the official close of entries last night, there was no mistaking the sprinkling of stardust covering the field of 156 who will tee up in the first Irish Open to be staged in Northern Ireland for almost 60 years.
Heading the world-class line-up are Northern Ireland’s home-grown heroes, Open Champion Darren Clarke and US Open Champion Rory McIlroy, along with Portrush’s Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open winner, and Dublin’s multiple Major Champion Padraig Harrington.
The Irish foursome will be joined from June 28 to July 1 by a high powered American contingent led by reigning US PGA Champion Keegan Bradley and supplemented by his colourful compatriots John Daly and Rich Beem. The trio will all be bidding to become the first American to lift the Irish Open trophy since Hubert Green won at Portmarnock in 1977.
Beem, the 2002 US PGA Champion, and Bradley will both be making their maiden Irish Open appearances at Royal Portrush – in fact Bradley has never competed on European soil before - while Daly, who memorably won the 1991 US PGA Championship and The Open four years later, has featured in four previous editions of the €2million event, with a runner-up finish behind Germany’s Bernhard Langer on his debut at Mount Juliet in 1994 his best performance to date.
Two-time Masters Tournament winner José María Olazábal, who will lead Europe against the United States at The 2012 Ryder Cup in Chicago in September; rejuvenated Scotsman Paul Lawrie, currently in the form of his life some 13 years after his Open Championship triumph at Carnoustie; and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, winner of the 2005 US Open Championship at Pinehurst, complete the list of Major Champions who will fight for the right to succeed Simon Dyson as champion.
Olazábal, of course, also won the Irish Open at Portmarnock in 1990, and he and Dyson will be joined at Royal Portrush by his predecessor as Ryder Cup Captain, Colin Montgomerie, a three-time former winner of the title.
Other notable names in the field include home hero Michael Hoey, a winner of three European Tour titles, and a clutch of Irishmen including 2009 winner Shane Lowry, who triumphed at County Louth while still an amateur, and Paul McGinley, who played in three successful European Ryder Cup Teams and holed the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002.
Such is the incredible popularity of the 2012 Irish Open, advance tickets for the final round on Sunday, July 1 are now sold out, with a limited number still available for the first three rounds on Thursday June 28, Friday June 29 and Saturday June 30. Weekly season tickets are no longer on sale.
Hospitality packages are sold out for the first two tournament days, but a limited number are still available on Saturday and Sunday. For further details please visit www.europeantour.com/tickets