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12 players who will make a trip to the K Club worthwhile

No Day or Spieth but the field still packs a punch.

1. Rory McIlroy

Source: Lynne Sladky

THE WORLD NUMBER three has been hot and cold in recent weeks, mixing some outstanding rounds with some decidedly average ones by his high standards.

It remains to be seen whether his extra commitments as event host will have an effect on his game.

Either way, the Holywood golfer’s presence and frightening ability will bring fans in their droves.

2. Shane Lowry

Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Offaly man has also struggled for consistency this season but his similar flashes of brilliance suggest he isn’t far from getting his first win of 2016.

Lowry has had a tendency to start big tournaments well — excellent opening rounds at the Phoenix Open (65), Honda Classic (67), Masters (68) and Players Championship (65) were undone by disappointing days thereafter.

He will be disappointed to only have posted one top-10 finish from so many promising beginnings and will no doubt be desperate to rectify that on home turf.

3. Danny Willett

Source: AP/Press Association Images

The addition of the recently-crowned Masters champion to the field was a timely one considering his stunning win at Augusta and a perceived lack of big names booked in to tee it up at the K Club.

Willett made his return to action last week at The Players Championship but missed the cut by one shot.

The Sheffield native finished in a tie for sixth in Down last year and will surely be in better shape after getting a couple of rounds under his belt at Sawgrass.

4. Graeme McDowell

Source: AP/Press Association Images

McIlroy and Lowry may be getting most of attention from Irish fans of late but in the background, G-Mac is starting to find some form.

He expressed his relief last November when securing his first win in 16 months at the OHL Classic in Mexico, however he has failed to really kick on since then.

A ninth-placed finish at The Players came on the back of four missed cuts, so he should be in a positive frame of mind for the Irish Open.

5. Lee Westwood

Source: Matt Slocum

The world number 37 will be fresher than a lot of the other big names having decided not to play at The Players Championship.

A second-place finish at the Masters last time out suggests the Englishman is in good touch this season despite his reduced workload.

Definitely one to watch this week.

6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

He may be just 22 years old but Fitzpatrick can now be considered one of Europe’s best.

The world number 41 has had two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, including a seventh-placed finish at Augusta, and looks likely to secure his second European Tour win sooner rather than later.

7. Russell Knox

Source: PGA TOUR/YouTube

The Scot’s stoic reaction to a sextuple bogey nine on the infamous par-three 17th at Sawgrass last Saturday won him fans across the world.

Though it’s his consistent performances on the PGA Tour, one win (WGC- HSBC Champions) and two second-place finishes from 15 events this season, that have seen him rise to number 28 in the world and third on the FedEx Cup standings.

Were it not for his meltdown last Saturday he may well have been pushing Jason Day right to the wire on Sunday night.

8. Paul Dunne

Source: Peter Byrne

The Greystones native comes into the Irish Open on the back of a week off and has settled well in his first full season on the European Tour.

He has missed just three cuts in his nine events this year across both tours and has recorded four top-16 finishes.

He is also capable of the remarkable, as we already know too well.

9. Victor Dubuisson

Source: Jae C. Hong

The Frenchman has proven himself as a man for the big occasion in the past but has perhaps failed to kick on like many expected.

A second-place finish in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship still stands out on his CV along with playing a leading role in Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup win and victory at the Turkish Airlines Open in 2013 and 2015.

The 26-year-old has struggled for form this year but still poses a threat this week.

10. Padraig Harrington

Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Dubliner has had a disappointing season to date but that would all change with a good run at his home event.

How the Irish fans would love to see the three-time Major winner find some form of old at the Kildare venue.

11. Rafa Cabrera Bello

Source: Jae C. Hong

Cabrera Bello has been one of the most consistent golfers in the world this year but comes into the Irish Open having missed a cut for the first time this season at The Players Championship.

Before that the Spaniard had recorded top-20 finishes in all bar one of his previous 10 tournaments and looks likely to be in contention again this week.

12. Miguel Angel Jimenez

Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

‘The Mechanic’ may not be the golfer he once was but the cigar-smoking Spaniard still draws the fans in like few others.

Now 52 years of age, Jimenez might be playing more of his golf on the Champions Tour but he has shown on a couple of occasions in recent times that he can still mix it with the world’s best over 72 holes.

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About the author:

Alan Waldron

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