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Stenson green with envy as he doffs his hat to Ireland's four aces

IT'S sometimes good to hear what others think of us ... and in the case of Sweden's Henrik Stenson (pictured), the prognosis for Ireland's four British Open hopefuls is positively brilliant.

Asked which of the Irish he fancied to lift the Claret Jug at Royal St George's, Stenson immediately plumped for Rory McIlroy.

"He's on a good run and I think he should be very pleased with his performance at the US Open. He should be in for a good week," added Stenson, before being assailed by second thoughts.

"Then again, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, with their ball flight and vast experience in the conditions, also must have a chance, while Padraig Harrington has won two Opens. So, I don't know. I'm back to where I started," he laughed. "Can I change my answer?"

England expects the world's two top-ranked players, No 1 Luke Donald and No 2 Lee Westwood, to raise a gallop for the home side. Westwood is expected to stand up better to a buffeting, weather-wise, in Sandwich, even if Donald's precision iron play and deadly putting clinched a third victory of 2011 last Sunday at the Scottish Open.

American confidence is at an all-time low after going a record five Majors without a winner, but the vastly experienced Steve Stricker must be rated after completing his John Deere hat-trick last weekend. And Rickie Fowler (22) rebounded brilliantly after a dreadful first round on his Open debut at St Andrews to go lower over the final 54 holes than anyone else in the field, not forgetting Nick Watney's seventh place in 2010. Yet with five of the last 16 Major titles won by Irish golfers, Stenson's confidence in the green team is well placed.

Irish Independent