By Brian Keogh
The Irish Close gets underway in Cork today - but the absence of big names from the draw should give the GUI food for thought.
A clash with the St Andrews Links Trophy means that 2006 champion Rory McIlroy and beaten finalist Simon Ward will not tee it up at Little Island today.
A move back to the traditional August date could solve a perennial problem for the blue riband of Irish championships.
But there is still sure to be some top class action in Cork with recently crowned East of Ireland winner Richard Kilpatrick one of the favourites to go the distance.
‘West’ winner Joe Lyons, Clandeboye’s Jonnie Caldwell, Limerick’s Pat Murray and Esker Hills Shane Lowry are also fancied to go far.