Colin Montgomerie is forced out of Irish Open by injury
Colin Montgomerie has been forced to pull out of this week's Irish Open because of an Achilles injury.
The Ryder Cup captain has not played since the Scottish Open three weeks ago and failed to qualify for the Open Championship at Sandwich.
Montgomerie has not made the field for next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio or the US PGA Championship a week later.
The Scot won the Irish Open in 1996, 1997 and 2001.
Montgomerie's next appearance might not be until the Czech Open or the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles at the end of next month.
New Open champion Darren Clarke will join other Irish major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington at their national open in Killarney which looks certain to draw big crowds.
Harrington is the only one of the quartet who has won the Irish Open but Clarke, despite his lengthy celebrations after his Sandwich victory, is hoping to challenge in county Kerry.
"I've been close on a number of occasions and never quite got the job done," said Clarke.
"It would be a hell of an achievement - a dream come true - to have The Open and Irish Open trophies on display back at home.
"It has already been an amazing month for me and to do the double would be unbelievable."
Nick Faldo and Harrington won both events in 1992 and 2007 but their Irish Open victories came in advance of their Open triumphs.
Clarke has earned a tour victory on Irish soil as he won the European Open at the K Club 10 years ago.
However, despite Irish golf being on an unprecedented high, the prize money has been cut in half to £1.32million following the withdrawal of telecommunications company 3, title sponsors for the previous three years.
The European Tour is confident that a major new sponsor will be on board for the 2012 event.
Ross Fisher will be defending his title this week while the field also includes Simon Dyson, David Horsey, Gregory Bourdy and 2008 winner Richard Finch.
Ulster's top amateurs Alan Dunbar, Paul Cutler and Dermot McElroy will also be in the field.