The field is led by Ireland’s Pádraig Harrington, who competes in the Players Championship at Sawgrass this week, and also includes Rory McIlroy, 20 yesterday, and fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, along with other leading members of the European circuit including Miguel-Angel Jimenez, Ross Fisher, Oliver Wilson and Soren Kjeldsen.
The great Spaniard, Jose-Maria Olazabal, who won the title at Portmarnock in 1990, makes a very welcome return to this country having successfully overcome injury and illness to again become a formidable force.
Few golfers of note have slipped off the radar as dramatically as New Zealander Michael Campbell, winner of the US Open at Pinehurst and the World Match Play at Wentworth in 2005 but without anything of note since. But he likes this country having captured the Smurfit European Open at The K Club in 2002 and the Irish Open at Portmarnock a year later. A return to form by him would go down well with players and fans alike.
Champion Richard Finch, three-time winner Colin Montgomerie and John Daly, in the middle of a four-week visit to this part of the world, have also entered while local man Des Smyth is another to have received a sponsor’s invitation.
All the regular Irish members of the Tour will be chasing a share of the €3m prize fund as will the leading eight on the domestic PGA Region from 2008, John Kelly, Philip Walton, Robert Giles, Simon Thornton, Eamonn Brady, Damien Mooney, Barry Trainor and John Dwyer.
Four amateurs, Eoin Arthurs (Island), Shane Lowry (Esker Hills), Scott Arnold (Australia) and Pedro Figueiredo, the teenage Portuguese winner of last year’s Irish Amateur Open, are also in the field.