An illustrious field of Major Champions, Ryder Cup players and European Tour winners will converge on Carton House Golf Club this week, when the Irish Open will again command the attention of a global audience.
Headlined by the Emerald Isle’s Major winning quartet of Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and World Number Two Rory McIlroy, the €2million event has again attracted some of the world’s greatest golfers to Maynooth, in Co. Kildare.
The 2003 Irish Open champion Michael Campbell, Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Ryder Cup-winning Captain José Maria Olazábal will also be in attendance, taking the number of Major Champions to seven.
Between them, the ‘Magnificent Seven’ have captured 11 Major titles, with Harrington – the winner of the Irish Open in 2007 – contributing the most with three.
There are 79 European Tour winners in the stellar line-up, which includes the defending champion Jamie Donaldson of Wales, who followed his Irish Open success with victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January.
That was one of 14 victories during the 2013 campaign recorded by players lining up at Carton House, with 2004 Irish Open Champion Brett Rumford the only multiple winner of the season to date with success in both the Ballantine’s Championship and Volvo China Open.
An abundance of Ryder Cup pedigree will also be on display in the 58th edition of the Irish Open, with McDowell, another of the 2013 champions having captured his eighth European Tour title last month at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria, one of 17 players teeing up at Carton House GC who can boast previous experience of golf’s greatest team event.
Four members of Olazábal’s triumphant team from the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ – Lawrie, McDowell, McIlroy and Italian Francesco Molinari – will be reunited with their Captain, who won the Irish Open in 1990.
The list of former winners in the field includes Shane Lowry, the local hero attached to Carton House who triumphed in such memorable fashion as an amateur in 2009.
Lowry said: “It should be a great week, especially if we can have a bit of decent weather. The greens are always in beautiful condition, so holing putts shouldn’t be a problem. But it probably won’t be that low scoring a week, as it’s pretty long and the rough can be thick in places, though perhaps not quite as thick as in previous years.
“I only live just round the corner from the course, so I spend a lot of time there. I had a practice round before playing in Munich last week, and the greens were incredibly pure.
“It’s going to be an exciting week for me and for Irish golf in general, so I can’t wait. It’s going to be difficult to focus purely on my golf as I’m sure people will be wanting autographs and photos, but hopefully once all the excitement has died down, I can put four decent rounds together.”
Carton House will be hosting the tournament for the first time since 2006, when Thomas Björn captured the title, and the Dane arrives in Ireland on the back of a runner-up finish behind Ernie Els at last week’s BMW International Open in Germany.
He said: “I wanted to try and get myself in the top 20 in The Race to Dubai, so even though I was obviously disappointed to miss out on the win last week, I still achieved that goal. It’s great that I’m going to Ireland to play on a golf course I’ve won on before, so I’ll keep carrying on and fighting hard until I win another tournament. Hopefully it comes this week.”