Lowdown:
A strong field will assemble at County Louth Golf Club in Baltray this week for the 3 Irish Open. It’s a rare chance for the top pros to test their skills around a links layout and former Open Champions – Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie and John Daly are in the field.
The Irish Open has a new title sponsor for this season in the shape of mobile phone network provider 3. There’s also been a hike in the prize fund – it will total €3,000,000 for the week and the winner is set to receive a cheque for €500,000.

For the last two years the Irish Open has been held at the spectacular Adare Manor just outside Limerick where Padraig Harrington and Richard Finch have been champions. But this season the contest, fittingly, returns to the coast. Last time County Louth hosted the Irish Open was back in 2004. In that event, Australia’s Brett Rumford held off the challenge of Padraig Harrington to take the title.

Harrington, winner in 2007, will lead an impressive squad of Irish players that includes – Rory McIlroy, Peter Lawrie and Graeme McDowell.

Venue: Co Louth GC, Baltray, Ireland
Course stats: par 72, 7,063 yards
Purse: €3,000,000, Winner: €500,000
Defending Champion: Richard Finch (-10)

TV coverage:
Thursday 14 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 10am
Friday 15 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 10am
Saturday 16 – Live on Sky Sports Xtra from 2pm
Sunday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 12 noon

Player Watch:
Padraig Harrington – The two-time Open champion is currently the best links golfer in the world. He’ll start as favourite.
John Daly – He finished second in Italy last week and has proven he can deal with links golf, winning the Open Championship in 1995.
Graeme McDowell – He’s not been on the best run of form but he’ll be looking to use this week as a springboard. He grew up playing links golf and has all the shots necessary to play well here.

Key Hole: 18th. A straight par-5 of 559 yards. Depending on wind conditions, it should be reachable in two for the majority of the field. Could we see someone finishing with an eagle to steal the title?

Skills Required: Mastering the links. It’s a rare outing on the links for the European Tour and the players will have to adapt quickly. The man who has the low, penetrating iron shot and running pitch at his disposal will have a distinct advantage