Shane Lowry hopes to cap an impressive season by successfully defending his Portugal Masters crown.
Lowry captured his second European Tour event at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course 12 months ago - his first as a professional - and has continued to impress this season with five top-ten finishes, including a share of third at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on his last appearance.
Lowry, who has not missed a cut since February, now wants to consolidate that consistency with another victory.
“It was three and a half years since I’d won the Irish Open, so it had been a while since I won anything,” said Shane about the victory last year.
“I had quite a few good finishes, but to get that first win as a pro was great. I feel like I’ve kicked on a little bit this year.
“I feel like I’ve put myself in position more times than not to win this year and it’s been good for me. I probably should have won at the Dunhill (Links Championship).
“I gave myself a great chance. I’m playing quite well recently, so I’m coming here in good form and really looking forward to this week.”
Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin are also in the field with both players still outside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings.
Simon Thornton, currently 136 in Race to Dubai is also in the field, alongside Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke is playing in the Nanshan China Masters on the OneAsia circuit.
Clarke is convinced that it will only be a matter of time before a Chinese player features regularly among the world’s best.
“There has been a quite remarkable change for the good in China and I expect this to continue and accelerate in the immediate future,” said Clarke.
The former Open Champion is predicting a difficult test at the Montgomerie designed course.
“I think the course is very demanding,” said the Northern Irishman.
“It’s playing long because the fairways are soft and the greens have a lot of undulation in them.
“Off the back tees we’re having to hit four irons, five irons, six irons – long-to-medium irons into the green to try and get to the flag. The greens are a little bit slow, but they’re pure and I expect them to speed up by the weekend.”