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Jug does jig as Hoylake hopefuls line up

The famous Claret Jug is on public display in Ireland for a second occasion in a week.

The trophy presented to the winner of the Open Championship, was on show at the Royal Portrush club on Monday for the announcement that the Northern Ireland links course has been restored to the Open rota. Now, as part of the new Open Qualifying Series, it will be on a stand at the first tee for all four days of the Irish Open at Fota Island.

Twelve Scots will be seeking to secure one of the three places in next month's 143rd Open at Hoylake by finishing inside the top 10 on a course that last played host to an Irish Open in 2002. If successful, they will join two other Scots competing this week, the former Open Champion Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher, who are already exempt.

Lawrie, who is contesting only his seventh event this season, is among just a handful of players who competed in both the 2001 and 2002 Irish Open at Fota Island, won respectively by Colin Montgomerie and the Dane Soren Hansen.

"I've always enjoyed playing in Ireland, said Lawrie. "It's very much like playing back home as everyone is always very friendly. To see the Claret Jug on the tee each day is a great incentive for those looking to play in the Open next month."

Organisers have drawn Gallacher alongside world No.6 Rory McIlroy and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington for the opening two rounds, with the Bathgate man looking to play all four rounds for a first time at Fota Island. He missed the cut in 2001 and had to withdraw after the opening day a year later.

Marc Warren last week travelled to Formby Hall to spend a day working with the putting coach Phil Kenyon as he seeks to improve his 140th place standing in averaging 30.1 putts per round this season.

While Warren was focused on his putting, fellow Scot Richie Ramsay is more concerned in tests of a personal nature as he tries to identify a mystery illness. "I've had this infection since Singapore and I just can't get rid of it," he said. "I have been undergoing a series of complaints like a chest infection in Sweden, while I was cold and shivery the week before in Spain. I am on antibiotics and have also had a blood test, but we just can't work out what's wrong. I'm getting sick so randomly; all I want to do is get back to 100% fitness."

Other Scots competing are Jack Doherty, Scott Henry, Jamie McLeary, Craig Lee, Peter Whiteford, Alastair Forsyth, Scott Jamieson, Chris Doak, David Drysdale and Andrew McArthur.

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