Clarke and McIlroy set for Irish Open

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Major champions Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy expect a hero’s welcome when they return to Irish shores this week.

Major champions Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy expect a hero’s welcome when they return to Irish shores this week.

The current US Open champ, McIlroy, and Open champ, Clarke, will headline a strong field set to descend on County Kerry for the Irish Open at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club on Thursday.

The two major champions will be joined by past major winners and fellow Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington, and the unprecedented levels of success these golfers have achieved in recent times – particularly McIlroy and Clarke this year – should make for a very special atmosphere as their home fans anxiously anticipate their arrival.

“The Irish Open promises to be extra special this year, with Rory and I bringing back the US Open Trophy and the Claret Jug,” Clarke told europeantour.com.

“We always enjoy an amazing reception from the fans in Ireland, but I’ve got a feeling this could be like nothing we’ve seen before. We are both really looking forward to coming home and celebrating Irish golf’s achievements, and we will both be hoping to win the Irish Open to give the fans yet another reason to celebrate.”

And McIlroy added: “Darren’s magnificent victory at Royal St George’s means the Irish Open will be even more of a celebration this week.

“The reception I received last month when I brought the US Open Trophy home was unbelievable, and I’m sure it will be even better in Killarney when Darren also has the Claret Jug with him. It’s an amazing time for Irish golf at the moment, and I’m sure the fans will help make the Irish Open a truly special event.”

Harrington, who became the first home-grown player to win the Irish Open in 25 years back in 2007, is also looking forward to the event.

“I’ve always said that the Irish Open is the fifth biggest tournament for me. Obviously you have the four Majors, then for me winning my national Open is a must in your career,” he said.

“Luckily, the Irish Open is one of the best events in Europe – and one of the biggest – and is a prestigious tournament in its own right, especially moving back to Killarney. I grew up in the 1980s when it was one of the premier events on Tour, and it is certainly building in stature.”

The four major winners will be joined by other local favourites Shane Lowry, Ulsterman Michael Hoey, Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane, along with a host of other European hopefuls, including former Irish Open champions Stephed Dodd of Wales, English duo David Carter and Richard Finch, Dane Søren Hansen, Australian Brett Rumford and Swede Patrik Sjöland.

Defending champion Ross Fisher is also in the field, and will be looking to become the first player to successfully defend his Irish Open title since Colin Montgomerie (also in attendance this week) managed it back in 2001.

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