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Tourist chiefs play for marketing hole-in-one

They say you should strike while the iron is hot. And if it be a golfing iron then, the more crucial the timing of that strike.

Golf is a fickle game. Just ask Tiger Woods.

It also has its upside. Just ask Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and, yes, even Padraig Harrington whose form of late hasn't been quite up to that of the three Ulstermen, but whose tally of three golf majors equals that of the Ulster threesome - at least for now.

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This awesome foursome has combined to put Irish golf in a place that few, if any, would ever have imagined. All are lined up to play in this week's Irish Open in Killarney, a tournament without a current sponsor, and one that might have vanished into the long rough with regard to global media coverage, but will now be a headline maker wherever in the world the game is played and followed.

The awesome foursome has combined for some gob-smacking statistics.

The last three open titles are in Irish hands, as are the last two majors played.

Going back to Padraig Harrington's 2007 British Open triumph, the four have now won six of the last sixteen golf majors, and five of the last thirteen.

In the last five majors, which total 20 rounds of golf, either McIlroy or Clarke has led at the end of eleven of those rounds.

All four are due to play in the August 11-14th final major of this season, the PGA at the Atlanta Athletic Club course.

That foray will mean that the "Home of Champions" will be bereft of those champions for a few days - that's unless you are taking note of the hard driving advertising campaign on the Golf Channel and elsewhere.

Even before Clarke's dramatic win at Royal St. George's the Rory McIlroy triumph had sparked a deep-into-the-travel season marketing campaign by Tourism Ireland aimed at luring more golfers to the lush fairways and greens of the Emerald Isle.

At that point, Tourism Ireland had announced a €2.2m campaign aimed at building on McIlroy's U.S. Open victory at Congressional, and primarily focusing on the U.S. and UK markets.

The leading edge of the campaign would be the "Home of Champions" ad which was ready to roll but had to be quickly updated after Clarke's sensational win.

The ad will feature on the Golf Channel, both TV and web, roughly 200 times in the next few months. Part of the campaign will see the Golf Channel's "Big Break Show" take a trip to Ireland.

In addition, what Tourism Ireland estimates as 365,000 American readers will also see "island of Ireland" golf ads and features in Golfweek, Golf World, the Irish Echo and the Irish Voice.

A further 250,000 golf enthusiasts worldwide, according to TI, will be hearing about the Irish Open in Killarney through media, travel trade and social media, with a competition earlier thrown in to win a trip to see McIlroy, Clarke, Harrington and McDowell in action at the County Kerry venue.

Not only readers, but also golf writers from the likes of Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, Golfweek, Forbes, Sports Illustrated and the New York Times will be targeted by the campaign.

Tourism Ireland, according to a release, has also partnered with a group known as the "A Position," an association of U.S. Golf Writers.

According to the tourist body, four of the group's senior journalists are embarking on an Ireland golfing road trip.

They have set up a website for the trip, www.golfroad warriors.com. Tourism Ireland also has what it calls "a partner page" full of Irish stories and content. It's to be found at www.theaposition.com/partner/tourism-ireland.

While the campaign amounts to a major prompt as much as a promotion, the success of the major-winning Irish foursome has also generated a flood of the kind of worldwide coverage that would always follow victory in a major.

An example was a feature on the Golf World website in recent days that displayed a gallery of Irish golfing greats down the years from the four corners of the island.

In addition to the current Irish "big four" a gallery of yesteryear Irish stars included the likes of the great Christy O'Connor, Fred Daly, who won the British Open in 1947, and Harry Bradshaw, who might have won only for the fact that his ball landed in a broken beer bottle and he did not get any relief.

A broken bottle on the playing part of the course is unlikely at Killarney or Atlanta.

What is a far greater possibility is yet another Irish win and further confirmation that the business of golfing in Ireland is, right now at least, sitting pretty in a place that is anything but below par.