Sport

Mount Juliet ready to welcome world's top players

From Mount Juliet, Kilkenny.

Cherry pickers and electronic hoardings are being unloaded from scut trucks in the car park. The final preparations are being made and as usual, a few young lads who'd rather not be there only for the pay cheque on Sunday are busy directing cars onto the plastic sheeting protecting the paddock.

The grass is wet after a heavy fall of rain overnight. More is due to fall throughout the afternoon, but if the radar is to be believed that will be the end of it barring a small sup at lunchtime tomorrow when the pro-am is in full swing.

The press tent is a comfortable space to work in with the smell of what could only be some kind of beef dish wafting over the divider. The canvas roof flutters and swells with the gusting wind that blows in from time to time. While it is strikingly strong today, the wind is meant to be soft for the tournament.

On the whole, the weather looks set to be mostly dry and cool for the 2022 edition of the Irish Open, and at the time of writing a bit of sunshine is poking through the clouds.

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The course which was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1991 has found its way into the hearts and minds of fans and players alike with a near-constant hazard of water around the fairways.

Australian Lucas Herbert won in Kilkenny last year and returns this week to defend his title. The Aussie was -19 last time out when the event was played at reduced capacity due to covid-19.

Waterford's own Seamus Power will be aiming to make hay on what's been a life-changing year and a half. The Touraneena man will be lining out at his first Irish since 2019 in Lahinch where he claimed a 60th place finish. The 2021 Barbasol winner was nowhere near the world's top 300 at that time, but since then it's been a meteoric rise to 36th.

He has played in his first-ever majors and made the cut in all three at the first time of asking with a seriously impressive T9 finish at the PGA Championship in May.

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This past weekend his challenge at the Travellers Championship ended all too soon with a sketchy back nine on Saturday where he handed back his good work with a bogey and a double.

Aside from the Waterford man, both Shane Lowry and the newly crowned US Senior Open Champion Padraig Harrington will also be in action. Of the worlds top 50, six will be in action this weekend. Power and Lowry are included along with the US Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick as well as Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters and the defending champion Herbert.

The pro-am gets everything underway tomorrow morning, with Power teeing off at 7.30 am.

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