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Irish Open will be ideal preparation for Open Championship at Portrush, says Ian Poulter

 

Game plan: Ian Poulter will play Lahinch before The Open
Game plan: Ian Poulter will play Lahinch before The Open

By Brian Keogh

Ian Poulter is the latest big star to commit to what promises to be a sell-out Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch from July 4-7.

The addition of the Ryder Cup 'Postman' to a field that already boasts Major champions Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell and Rolex Series winners Shane Lowry and Lee Westwood, proves that host Paul McGinley is set to deliver the Irish Open festival he's been promising.

"I've said it from day one, a festival kind of feeling is what I want," McGinley said. "The second green goes right up into the middle of the town, 100 yards away from the nearest pub. Everything is walking distance."

World No.26 Poulter is looking forward to making his first Irish Open appearance south of the border for 13 years and preparing for The Open in Portrush 11 days later.

"It's been a while and to play a run of tournaments leading up to The Open is going to be great," said the Englishman (43), who contended for the Masters earlier this month. "Lahinch will be a good test, a great links course."

Seamus Power, who was sixth in last week's RBC Heritage and partners Canadian David Hearn in this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans looking to build on their top-five finish last year, is keen to play in Co Clare.

Lowry is also a big fan and he partners Ryder Cup skipper Harrington at TPC Louisiana looking to build on his tie for third in Hilton Head on Sunday.

McDowell, a South of Ireland winner at Lahinch in 2000, has already promised to bring his caddie Ken Comboy to his favourite pub.

"Kenny's is still there, right?" said McDowell, who teams up with Henrik Stenson in New Orleans.

Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and Michael Hoey, who are in action in the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco, all know Lahinch well.

Meanwhile, Leona Maguire, who will make her pro Major debut in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June, has other Major dates in her sights.

Maguire got a special exemption into Hazeltine from her sponsors KPMG for consolidating her place in the world's top 300 following her breakthrough win in the Symetra Tour's Windsor Golf Classic.

Now she's targeting the US Women's Open, the Evian Championship and the AIG Women's British Open.

"The top 30 in the LET Order of Merit make the British Open, but I'll need to be higher for the Evian," said 46th-ranked Maguire, who plans to play in Sectional Qualifying for the US Women's Open in Atlanta next month.

"The Women's PGA is the only Major I didn't play as an amateur, but KPMG told me if I got my ranking inside the top 300, I'd get in. I missed out last year, so it was nice to get the win in San Francisco. The invitation to Hazeltine was a cherry on top."

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