For the first time since Europe's record-tying Ryder Cup win at the K Club last fall, Ireland will be the center of the continent's golfing world when the Irish Open begins Thursday.
No Irishman has won the event since John O'Leary in 1982, and the top players all know it.
'At this stage, I want any Irish title,' said Padraig Harrington, last year's Order of Merit champion. 'John O'Leary won in 1982, 25 years ago. But this is a great opportunity for me. We are coming to a golf course that suits me and I am looking forward to it.'
Harrington will be joined in the field by defending champion Thomas Bjorn of Denmark; last week's champion in Spain, Lee Westwood; and eight other winners from the European Tour's 2007 schedule: Markus Brier, Ariel Canete, Anton Haig, Peter Hedblom, Mikko Ilonen, Raphael Jacquelin, Daniel Vancsik and Y.E. Yang.
Last year, Harrington and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke knocked on the door at Carton House, but were unable to catch Bjorn. Harrington finished 10th, while Clarke parlayed a Saturday round of 67 into a third place finish.
GOLF CHANNEL will have coverage of all four rounds beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET each day. Next week is one of the biggest events on the European Tour, the BMW Championship, where David Howell ran away for a five-shot win last year to move into the top 10 in the world rankings.