Poulter: Lahinch is ideal prep for the Open
Ian Poulter is the latest big star to commit to what promises to be a sellout Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch from July 4-7.
The addition of the Ryder Cup "Postman" to a field that already boasts majors champions Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett, Pádraig 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 within walking distance.
"It really will be the whole package and not just about the golf. Aside from the golfing, there's the surfing, the great pubs, the craic and the banter."
World number 26 Poulter is looking forward to making his first Irish Open appearance south of the border for 13 years. It will act as preparation for The Open 11 days later.
"It's been a while and to play a run of tournaments leading up to The Open Championship 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 golf course."
Lahinch's Old Course was radically redesigned by Dr Alister MacKenzie in 1927, six years before he built Augusta National, and revamped again by Dr Martin Hawtree in 1999.
But it will be a testing, 7,000 yards-plus, par-70 for the big hitters in July with the second and fifth holes reduced from fives to par-fours.
"Anybody who knows Lahinch will know that the second hole is a 510-yard par-five," said McGinley, who is trying to set up Lahinch as close as possible to the conditions the stars will face at Royal Portrush.
"It's ok for the amateurs but not for the pros - that's a short par-four for them nowadays!
"So we are going to make that a par-four and also the Klondyke [fifth] which, depending on the wind, will] probably be a two-iron, seven-iron for them.
"I don't want big high rough, but I am aware of what's going on in Royal Portrush, I have talked to the R&A about what kind of ideas they are going to have in fairway widths and run-offs.
"Obviously, I can't copy it exactly, but in terms of fairway heights and green speeds and all those things, I want to be on the same page as that."
The sponsors are hoping to top 100,000 fans for the week, and despite some crowd control restrictions for health and safety reasons, McGinley is confident huge galleries will swarm to Lahinch and its pedestrianised streets in the evening.
"In terms of the quality of the field and creating that festival atmosphere, it's all on course to be a sell-out," he said.
Seamus Power - who was sixth in last week's RBC Heritage and partners Canadian David Hearn in this week's Zurich Classic - 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.
Graeme 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 at the Zurich Classic 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, as do the seven Irishmen teeing it up in the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
Team Ireland's Gary Hurley, Ruaidhri McGee, Conor O'Rourke, Paul McBride and Cormac Sharvin are joined at Samsun Golf Club by Jonny Caldwell for the first full-field event of the Challenge Tour season.