Heggarty's power play

By Brian Keogh

Antrim's Jimmy Heggarty is hoping that good putting will make up for lack of power when he bids to end Ireland's nine-year wait for a home winner of the AIB Irish Seniors Open.

At just under 7,000 yards, the PGA National Ireland course outside Naas in Co Kildare plays into the hands defending champion Sam Torrance.

But straight-hitting Heggarty believes that length isn't everything and with a good week on the greens he hopes to contend for his first over 50s title since joining the senior ranks exactly one year ago.

After claiming 34th place on the money list last year with a best finish of eighth in the Spanish Seniors Open, Heggarty is not ruling himself out of the reckoning.

He said: "The game hasn't kicked in for me so far this season but I was pleased with how I played in my first year and I know I can compete out there.

"It's a big golf course this week but it won't be as tough as it was when he played the Irish Professional Championship here in 2005.

"The long hitters will have an advantage but I can still hit the greens in two, so it is all about putting the ball in the hole. No matter where you play, you have got to hole the putts."

Torrance is the favourite to lift a title worth €67,500 to the winner and former Ryder Cup star Eamonn Darcy believes the course will suit the big-hitting Scot to a tee.

Struggling with a shoulder injury, Darcy said: "This is a long track and I like it. But it's an American course built in Ireland and even the walks between tees are enormous. I think Sam will love it.

"Hopefully I can hole a few putts but I wouldn't say I was confident coming in here. I am trying to project the injury a bit and it is a long course."

No Irishman has won the title since Joe McDermott triumphed at Woodbrook in 1998 and while Darcy hasn't totally ruled himself out of the running, he sees 6-1 favourite Torrance is the man to beat over the former Palmerstown House stud farm.

Christy O'Connor Jnr’s share of third place in 2002 is still the best Irish performance since McDermott’s 1998 win and with Des Smyth playing on the Champions Tour in the US, Ireland could might have to wait another year for a home win.

This year's €450,000 event will be the last edition with AIB as title sponsors and Torrance is hoping to add to last season's triumph at Fota Island in Cork and his two Irish Opens wins on the main tour

With one-handicap son Daniel, 18, on his bag for the first time the Scot is feeling good about his chances of lifting a Guinness in triumph on Sunday.

Torrance said: "I haven't got into my stride yet this season. But I feel I am well on the way with my swing. My hand is feeling a lot better and my son Daniel starts on the bag today, which is exciting for the Torrance family.

"He is a very good player himself so hopefully he will learn something and I might even learn something myself."

Ireland has nine men in the field with O'Sullivan, 59, hoping to bring his seniors tour career earnings over one million euro by claiming victory.

Rated a 100-1 shot with a best finish of tied 11th last year, the Corkman has changed his grip and gone back to an old putter in a desperate attempt to win for the first time since 2005

O'Sullivan said: "I've had a weak grip for years ever since I badly damage two fingers on my right hand during the 70s.

"But my grip is a lot stronger now and I can't believe how much better it feels. I should have done it years ago."

AIB Irish Seniors Open, PGA National Ireland (Palmerstown House)

First round tee-times (* denotes amateur)

08:00 J Benda (USA), DW Morris* (Ire)

08:10 P O'Hagan (Ire), R Carrasco (USA), L MacNamara* (Ire)

08:20 B Malley (USA), D Creamer (Eng), A Tapie (USA)

08:30 I Mosey (Eng), B Heuchan (Can), G Levenson (SA)

08:40 J Mashego (SA), B Larratt (Eng), D Merriman (Aus)

08:50 B Lincoln (SA), T Gale (Aus), P Oakley (USA)

09:00 GJ Brand (ENG), S Owen (NZ), L Higgins (Ire)

09:15 M Bembridge (Eng), M Gray (Sco), T Charnley (ENG)

09:25 K Spurgeon (Eng), P Leonard (N Ire), M Ferguson (Aus)

09:35 A Sowa (Arg), R Drummond (Sco), J Rhodes (Eng)

09:45 D Johnson (USA), T Allen (Eng), M Piñero (Sp)

09:55 D Durnian (Eng), T Horton (Eng), B Shearer (Aus)

10:05 A Garrido (Sp), J Heggarty (N Ire), DJ Russell (Eng)

10:15 J Quiros (Sp), J Chillas (Sco), J Hawkes (SA)

10:30 S Torrance (Sco), J Rivero (Sp), D O'Sullivan (Ire)

10:40 A Fernandez (Chi), D Good (Aus), T Rastall (Eng)

10:50 E Darcy (Ire), C Rocca (It), S Ginn (Aus)

11:00 H Carbonetti (Arg), G Ralph (Eng), G Encina (Chi)

11:10 C Mason (Eng), B Longmuir (Sco), G Cali (It)

11:20 J Bland (RSA), M Clayton (Aus), N Job (Eng)

11:35 P Teravainen (USA), B Cameron (Eng), B Smit (SA)

11:45 L Carbonetti (Arg), N Ratcliffe (Aus), M Miller (Sco)

11:55 T Johnstone (ZIM), G Watine (Fr), M Poxon (Eng)

12:05 V Garcia (Sp), S Martin (Sco), J Bruner (USA)

12:15 P Dugeny (Fr), E Polland (N Ire), D Cambridge (Jam)

12:25 A Morrow* (Ire), J Lapsley (NZ), E Rodriguez (Sp).