Clarke Harrington in the Spotlight in Ireland


2005 Smurfit European OpenWith the 134th Open Championship just a fortnight away, the European Tour has assembled a strong field for the Smurfit European Open at the K Club in Dublin, Ireland.
Headlining the field are Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, both of whom have faced tough medical problems within their families over the past several months.
Clarke is returning from a three week layoff where he was at the side of his ailing wife, who is battling cancer.
'Heather is thankfully out of hospital now and her progress is such that we felt the time was right for me to return,' said Clarke. 'It will be good to get back, and particularly in Ireland at a course and tournament I have always enjoyed playing.'
Clarke picked a good place to return to the tour as he has had great success at this event. Not only does he hold the course record of 60, which came back in 1999, but also took home the top prize in 2001.
Harrington himself has been trying to keep close tabs on his father, who has throat cancer. Despite a rough outing at the U.S. Open where he missed the cut, Harrington rebounded in a big way at this past weeks Barclays Classic.
Tied with Jim Furyk coming to the 72nd hole, Harrington rolled in a 65-foot walk-off eagle putt for his second career PGA Tour title, and another trophy to take back home to his father.
Both players, however, will have to try to keep their emotions in check in front of the home crowds with the likes of defending champion Retief Goosen, newly crowned U.S. Open champ Michael Campbell, and European Tour stalwarts Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood vying for the trophy.
Campbell, who held off Tiger Woods two weeks ago to win his first major championship, will return to the K Club with good vibes. The New Zealander claimed the Smurfit title in back 2002.
Westwood also feels right at home in this event, notching back-to-back victories in 1999 and 2000 and pair of top-10s the last two years, including a second place finish in 2004.
Also in the mix are both captains for the 2006 Ryder Cup matches - Ian Woosnam and Tom Lehman.
The event will give the two opposing captains a good look at The K Clubs Palmer Course before returning for next year's biennial matches. The K Club has hosted nine of the previous ten editions of the Smurfit European Open.
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