Murphy's Irish Open
Murphy's Irish Open
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Event Features
Garcia undecided on U.S. and European Tours
Daly says he will play in U.S. Open next year
Carnoustie rough holds no fear for Monty
Woosnam nearing full fitness

Westwood looking for return to form

The Murphy's Irish Open returns to the scenic Druids Glen for the third successive year and it boasts one of the better fields to grace the European PGA tour this season.

Star attraction is big John Daly who makes the jaunt over from the States, keen to ease his mammoth gambling debts with a high finish.

The American is set to be subjected to the sort of conditions not becoming his homeland with showers predicted throughout the four days.

Druids Glen Golf Club - just 10 miles outside of Dublin - was named after the Druids altar from pre-Christian days which stands on the hillside overlooking the 12th green. The course was designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, the former Walker Cup player, and lies in beautiful Co. Wicklow, renowned as the Garden of Ireland.

The 1998 winner was David Carter - last week's runner-up in the Compaq European Grand Prix - and the two previous tournaments at Druids were won by Colin Montgomerie.

LEADING CONTENDERS:

Colin Montgomerie: The bookies make Monty a red-hot favourite for this event and rightfully so considering his track record at Druids Glen. He won the inaugural event at the course three years ago and followed up a year later with an astounding seven-stroke winning margin.

The Scot looked odds-on to complete a fantastic hat-trick last year when he reached a play-off with David Carter, only for the young Englishman to hold firm and claim his maiden Tour victory.

Monty's form is not shabby this year with victories in the Benson & Hedges International and the Volvo PGA Championship. His only finish outside the top 10 in Europe in five starts this year was a disappointing 20th in the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open.

Many observers may believe he had a poor US Open a fortnight ago but in my eyes he performed admirably at Pinehurst on a course which did not play to his great strength of driving accuracy.

Lee Westwood: The young pretender to Monty's European crown has endured a miserable season blighted by injury. Up until last week the nearest he has got to winning a European Tour event was the early season Dubai Desert Classic where he finished second.

He went on from that tournament to play in the World Match Play Championship on a course which he did not consider to be tough enough. The US Open was a similar story and he predictably missed the cut.

However, he showed a glimpse of his true form last week with a fifth place in the Compaq European Grand Prix at Slaley Hall.

Will undoubtedly be a force if he is over his injury woes.

Sergio Garcia: Played this event as an amateur last year and opened in style with a round of 68 to be in the early shake-up. He continued with two further solid rounds to stay on the fringe of contention before a horror final-round 81 saw him plummet down the order.

The mercurial Spaniard has not set the world alight in Europe this year with a highest finish of 19th in the Volvo PGA but he has been a revelation Stateside where he has threatened to win several tournaments.

The positive aspects of his European year is a form curve which is improving - form figures since Qatar of 96, 66, 25, 20 and 19.

Miguel Angel Jimenez: Excelled himself in the US Open by first making the cut and then appearing on the final round leaderboard, before tailing off towards the end.

A win in the Turespana Masters in Andalucia and five top ten finishes have booked a Ryder Cup spot for the team vice-captain of two years ago.

Druids Glen does not appear to suit the in-form Spaniard though, despite a 16th place finish last year. In the previous two years he did not make the weekend as he missed the cut.

Jarmo Sandelin: The tall Swede is another who has enjoyed a tremendous season posting two victories in the Spanish Open and German Open.

He is also a shock contender for the Volvo Order of Merit but he will need to be at the top of his game again to make an impact in the Irish Open. Finishing positions of 39th, 137th and 32nd at Druids Glen do not make inspired reading.

BEST OF THE REST:

John Daly starts his build-up to The Open at Carnoustie with a visit to Dublin but he is unlikely to trouble the likes of Monty and Westwood.

Accuracy is a key factor at Druids Glen which has never been a strong point for the "Wild Thing" but it will entertaining to watch him no matter what frame of mind he is in.

Out-of-form Bernhard Langer was disappointing in his native German Open and it is hard to see him transforming his game in Dublin.

Last week's European Tour runner-up David Carter arrives as defending champion and will no doubt be up among the leaders. His quoted odds of 25-1 do not appeal though.

Unlike his conqueror at Slaley Hall, David Park, who is available at 66-1 despite grabbing second and first spot in his last two starts. Park has also been on fire on the Challenge Tour with five top 10 finishes out of eight events completed.

And finally, I would have loved to have made a case for Ian Woosnam as the Welsh wonder has good course form. But he is only just returning from a nasty hand injury and he may, literally, need an event under his belt to get back into the swing.

SUMMARY:

I have been waiting all year for Lee Westwood to show any semblance of form this season in readiness to lump on and I reckon he could end his miserable run with victory in Ireland.

Slaley Hall saw fleeting glimpses of the old Westwood who was not on top form but still managed to grab fifth spot. He is yet to finish out of the top 20 at Druids Glen and finished runner-up to Monty in the year the Scotsman ran riot at the course.

He has struggled all year with injury problems but thankfully those are behind him now as he looks for his first European Tour victory this year. He WILL win again this year and hopefully it will be this week.

There is no getting away from Colin Montgomerie at Druids Glen who possesses an awesome record at the course. He may not be fantastic value with the bookies but you could hardly expect them to take him on with his record in Ireland.

Cover your betting stakes with a nibble on Monty.

How David Park is as high as 66-1 is beyond me! The theory is that he must come down to earth after finishing runner-up and first on his last two starts.

People said the same last week, and the same people said Mark O'Meara could not win the Open because he had already won the Masters.

In my book it always pays to follow the man in form and Park is a man worth sticking with until he suffers a blip.

Another player I want on my side in Co Wicklow is Sergio Garcia who sooner or later is going to threaten the leaderboard in Europe just as he has done in America this year.

The young Spaniard played admirably in the tournament last year until he cracked in the final round. The next future star of golf is made of sterner stuff now and history will not be repeated.


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