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2006 Nissan Irish OpenThe European Tour is in the midst of a solid month-long stretch of events that include some of the strongest fields of the season.
 
This week the tour lands in Ireland for the Nissan Irish Open and welcomes home fan favorites and Ryder Cup stars Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Other Ryder Cuppers teeing it up include Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke and one of the hottest players on tour, Paul Casey.
 
Harrington hopes the home-cookin' will spark what has been a lackluster start thus far in 2006. A pair of top-20 finishes on the PGA TOUR is pretty much all he has to show for the year and the former sixth-ranked player in the world has now slipped all the way down to 29th in the rankings.
 
Paul Casey
Paul Casey has had four straight top-10 finishes.
Also in the mix are Henrik Stenson and David Howell. Stenson currently sits atop Europe's Ryder Cup World Points List and also happens to be the highest ranked player in the field. He, along with Monty, surprisingly missed the cut last week.
 
Howell, ranked three notches below Stenson at 15th in the world, is the tour's leading money winner with Stenson in the No. 2 spot.
 
The man to beat, however, might be England's Casey.
 
Despite coughing up the 54-hole lead at last week's British Masters, Casey has put together a good run over the past couple of months. Starting at the TCL Classic in March, Casey has posted four straight top-10 finishes to go along with his fifth tour win at the Volvo China Open at the beginning of the season.
 
Another player who seems to have his game together is Sweden's Johan Edfors, who with his win at the British Masters became the first two-time winner on the European Tour this season. A 2005 Qualifying School graduate, the first-place check also moved him up to 5th on the Order of Merit.
 
Harrington and McGinley will be vying to become the first Irishman to win the title since John OLeary, going back all the way to 1982.
 
The Nissan Irish Open has a purse of $2,793,000 with $465,495 going to the champion. The event is played at the Carton House Golf Club, in Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
 
Welshman Stephen Dodd took the title last year, defeating Englands David Howell at the first play-off hole. Other winners of this event include three-time champions Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, Sergio Garcia (1999) and Ben Crenshaw (1976).
 
The Golf Channel will air all four rounds beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Nissan Irish Open