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Reteif Goosen tops string field for European Open

World number four Retief Goosen leads a strong and experienced cast in the European Open at County Kildare, Ireland for the first act in an eagerly-awaited K Club double bill.

The 37-year-old South African will be joined in Thursday's first round by former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, eight-times European number one Colin Montgomerie and twice former winner Lee Westwood.

Irish hopes rest mainly with Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley as the K Club stages a dress rehearsal for act two when it hosts the 36th Ryder Cup later this year.

Seven of the 10 players occupying automatic spots in the European Ryder Cup team will be in action on the Smurfit course this week.

The biennial match between Europe and the U.S. will be staged on the Palmer course between Sept 22-24.

John Bickerton, who boosted his chances of making his Cup debut by winning the French Open on Sunday, will be looking to further impress captain Ian Woosnam.

Woosnam and his American counterpart Tom Lehman are also competing as they take a close-hand look at what their teams can expect from the K Club in less than three months' time.

Last year's event on the Palmer course provided plenty of drama, Briton Kenneth Ferrie capitalising on late collapses by Thomas Bjorn and Raphael Jacquelin to win by two strokes from Montgomerie and Graeme Storm.

Ferrie enhanced his reputation when he claimed a share of sixth spot on his U.S. Open debut last month.

The Smurfit course is staging the tournament for only the second time in 12 years.

On the previous occasion, it was Goosen who emerged triumphant in 2004.

Goosen had arrived at the K Club two weeks after winning his second U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills and the South African produced another sparkling performance to win by five strokes from Westwood and Australian pair Richard Green and Peter O'Malley.

Briton Westwood also has fond memories of the European Open, having captured the trophy in 1999 and 2000.

Among the other candidates for a first prize of 578,000 euros are Britons Paul Broadhurst, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Phillip Price, world number 15 Henrik Stenson of Sweden and former PGA champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

July 5, 2006

 




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