Wednesday 29 March 2017

Ireland's famous five at whistling straits

Darren Clarke

THOUGH he's missed the cut in eight of 11 appearances at the US PGA, Clarke relishes this week's return to Whistling Straits, where he led after a phenomenal first-round 65 in 2004 and ultimately finished tied-13th. The Ulsterman needs a top-two finish to force his way onto the Ryder Cup team but has played well enough recently to travel in hope.

FACTS -- Born August 14, 1968. Professional wins: 20. Most Recent Tour win: 2008 KLM Open. Tour Form in 2010: 18 played, 2 top-5's, 2 top-10's, 5 missed cuts. World Rank 98. European Stats: Stroke Avg 70.69 (14th), F'ways Hit 63.9pc (71st), Driving Distance 285.5 yds (81st), Greens in Reg 69.2pc (42nd), Putts per Round 29.5 (68th). Record at Majors: P: 52, Top-5: 2, Other Top-10 :4, Missed Cuts: 19. Odds: 150/1.

Padraig Harrington

GOOD to see Harrington laughing in the face of adversity at Killarney and he got his long game back together during Sunday's 66 at Firestone for another top 10. Still under pressure to make the Ryder Cup heading to Whistling Straits, where he tied 45th in 2004, but has the game to seal his place.

FACTS -- Born August 31, 1971. Professional wins: 27. Most Recent Tour win: 2008 US PGA. Tour Form in 2010: 17 played, 3 top-5's, 3 top-10's, 4 missed cuts. World Rank 17. US Stats: Stroke Avg 70.11 (17th), F'ways Hit 57.24pc (166th), Driving Distance 291.1 yds (53rd), Greens in Reg 61.87 (174th), Putts per Round 28.32 (9th). Record at Majors: 49 played, 3 wins, Top-5: 6, Other Top-10: 3. Missed Cuts: 15. Odds: 20/1.

Shane Lowry

FIFTEEN months into his pro career, Lowry looks comfortable among golf's elite. A solid Major debut at last month's Open was followed by another valuable learning experience during his defence of the '3' Irish Open title. Through rough and smooth, Lowry seems to be enjoying himself.

FACTS -- Born April 2, 1987. Professional wins: 1, 2009 '3' Irish Open as amateur. Tour Form in 2010: 17 played, 1 top-5, 1 top-10, 3 missed cuts. World Rank 80 (Dec 31: 135). European Stats: Stroke Avg 70.94 (29th), F'ways Hit 66pc (41st), Driving Distance 289.1 (55th), Greens in Reg 65.8pc (113th), Putts per Round 28.8 (29th). Record at Majors: 1 played (T37th 2010 Open). Odds: 125/1.

Rory McIlroy

NOBODY strikes a ball better, yet with this outrageous talent comes enormous expectation, none greater than his own. When McIlroy plays with a swagger, as he did at Quail Hollow, he's unbeatable. Yet when those shoulders slump (at Augusta, Pebble Beach and Killarney) he beats himself up. Ease up Rory, your day will come.

FACTS -- Born May 4, 1989. Professional wins: 2. Most Recent Tour win: 2010 Quail Hollow Championship. Tour Form in 2010: 17 played, 1 win, 3 top-5's, 3 top-10's, 4 missed cuts. World Rank 9. US Stats: Stroke Avg 70.56 (47th), F'ways Hit 62.94pc (108th), Driving Distance 298.9 (11th), Greens in Reg 66.67pc (79th), Putts per Round 29.53 (130th). Record at Majors: 8 played, Top-5's: 8, Top-10: 1, Missed Cuts: 2 Odds: 14/1.

Graeme McDowell

THIS guy's a class act. Plainly recovering from the inevitable aftershock of winning his first Major at June's US Open, McDowell should be well able to emulate his top-10 at last year's US PGA. As we saw at Pebble, few are better equipped than G-Mac to hang in when the going gets tough on Sunday.

FACTS -- Born July 30, 1979. Professional wins: 6. Most Recent on Tour: 2010 US Open. Tour Form in 2010: 2 wins, 1 top-5, 2 top-10's, 3 missed cuts. World Rank 11. European Stats: Stroke Avg 70.43 (8th), F'ways Hit 68.1pc (24th), Driving Distance 286.8 yds (29th), Greens in Reg 75.2pc (5th), Putts per Round 30.2 (132nd). Record at Majors: 20 played, 1 win, Top-10: 1 (at 2009 US PGA), Missed Cuts: 5 (inc 2004 at Whistling Straits). Odds: 40/1.

Irish Independent

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