Top stars set to grace Irish Open
CHRISTINA KIM and Stacy Lewis have joined the bevy of global golf stars heading for next month's Irish Ladies Open after the LPGA Tour's $2m Imperial Springs Championship fell victim to China syndrome.
Red tape has forced the US Tour to abandon plans to stage the inaugural tournament at the new Chinese golf resort of Imperial Springs on the same weekend as the Irish Ladies Open.
This has led to a fabulous fallout for Irish golf fans in Solheim Cup year, giving them another chance to get up close and personal with crowd favourite Kim and Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Lewis at Killeen Castle.
And one of the most compelling features of the upcoming Irish Open will be the head-on collision between American teenage sensation Lexi Thompson and Ireland's gifted duo, Leona and Lisa Maguire.
"Don't be too surprised if Lexi and one of the twins happen to get drawn together," said tournament director Roddy Carr mischievously.
Thompson, who turned professional at age 15 last June and has been making headlines on the LPGA Tour, is the same age as the Maguires who, at 16, rank among the world's top amateurs.
Defending champion Sophie Gustafson doubtless will have to resist a strong challenge from fellow Swedes Maria Hjorth and Caroline Hedwall, plus other recent European Tour winners Melissa Reid, Sandra Gal and the peerless Laura Davies.
The home challenge will be led by Rebecca Codd, Martina Gillen and Co Down's Curtis Cup star Danielle McVeigh, who ranks with the Maguires in the list of Ireland's top amateurs.
With so many stars in the field, the Irish Open should serve as the perfect aperitif for September's Solheim Cup clash between Europe and the USA at Killeen.