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In form Campbell looking to retain Irish title

If the in-form Michael Campbell retains his Irish Open title this week it would make his mental coach Jos Vanstiphout a fortune teller as well.

Vanstiphout, who Campbell teamed up with three weeks' ago after a two-year split, predicted at Loch Lomond that the New Zealander would win in the following five weeks.

Campbell was close to a victory straight away as he finished second in the Scottish Open after a 63 in the third round.

Last week he was a strong early challenger in theOpen and although he had to settle for a share of 20th place Campbell believes he is still on course to prove his sports psychologist's forecast right.

He won last year at Portmarnock and now feels he is in even better shape for another highly thought of links on Ireland's east coast.

"My form coming into this tournament is a lot better than it was 12 months ago," said the New Zealander. "I'd played four months in America, missed every cut and then won.

"This time I'm playing a lot better.

"And I've had plenty of practice on links courses in the last week and a half so I'm looking forward to the challenge."

However, taking his seventh European Tour title, and his third in Ireland after victory in the 2002 European Open, could be a tough task against several players with an extra incentive to win.

Padraig Harrington will be anxious to get among the leaders after missing the cut at Royal Troon where he was one of those strongly fancied to claim a maiden major honour.

The Irishman is still not pain-free after injuring his neck but says he has the problem "under control".

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, happy with a strong finish at Troon, is looking for his first win of the year.

He has won two top amateur titles at the hosting County Louth course and is familiar with the Baltray layout.

Clarke also has his former caddie JP Fitzgerald, a member at County Louth, on his bag as he considers whether to dispense with the services of veteran bagman Pete Coleman.

Coleman blamed himself for Clarke overshooting the 18th green out of bounds in the first round of the British Open after which his player could never get back into contention.

Britain's Ian Poulter is looking for success this week to ensure he stays in Europe's Ryder Cup top-10 but said he would not be wearing any outrageous clothing after last week's Union Flag trousers and spectacular plus-fours.

Thomas Bjorn, who lost in a playoff to Campbell in last year's Irish Open, withdrew before travelling while Nick Faldo and Phillip Price pulled out after missing the cut in the British Open.

Faldo is worried by shoulder, arm and hip pain and may turn to yoga to find relief, while Price reported he was "feeling sick".

However, Britain's Greg Owen returns to tour duty after a three-month layoff in which he has had a back operation.

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