Tuesday 25 July 2017

Top of the class

Rory McIlroy leading the Irish players so far. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy leading the Irish players so far. Photo: Getty Images
Padraig Harrington Ireland's number 2 this year so far. Photo: Getty Images
Graeme McDowell currently Ireland's number 3. Photo: Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

1 Rory McIlroy

LOST in a volcanic ash cloud all of his own after missed cuts at Houston and The Masters, McIlroy (21) blew it all away at Quail Hollow. America swooned as the Holywood youngster followed up on Saturday's 66 in Charlotte with a seismic 62 on Sunday that left even Phil Mickelson floundering. Fatigue took its toll at Sawgrass, but watch out Wentworth, something pretty special is on the cards.

2010 -- Events: 9 (1 win, 2 other top 10s, 3 missed cuts). US Money List: 23rd ($1.324m). Europe: 38th (€258,003). Career earnings: Europe €4.841m; US and others: $1.759m. World Ranking: 9.

2 padraig harrington

PRESSURE is mounting on Harrington as he seeks his first victory on Tour since the 2008 US PGA and it shows. At Sawgrass, for example, he drove the ball adroitly, but several loose approach shots and poor putting led to his second missed cut in three events, including the Masters. If Harrington (38) pulls all the elements of his game together this week, his drought should end. They key word is 'if'.

2010 -- Events: 10 (3 top 10s, 3 missed cuts). US Money List: 36th ($928,749). Europe: 21st (€351,777). Career earnings: Europe €20.209m. US and others: $13.95m. World Ranking: 13.

3 Graeme McDowell

SHOOTING 65 on Friday at Sawgrass could be a watershed in McDowell's season. As he matched the low round of the week at The Players, the Ulsterman found his touch with the putter. He didn't follow it up as the greens turned nasty on Sunday, but McDowell (30) looks sharp enough to add to his tally of four European Tour victories in the coming weeks. However, his modest form in seven visits to the BMW PGA suggests it won't be at Wentworth.

2010 -- Events: 11 (2 top 10s, 3 missed cuts). European Money List: 28th (€295,194). Though not a PGA Tour member, he's also earned $412,825 in the US this year. Career earnings: Europe €7.102m. US $3.12m. World Ranking: 50.

4 Shane lowry

LOWRY made history last May by winning the 3 Irish Open as an amateur and the Clara hero (23) returned to Baltray yesterday on the first anniversary of that memorable win for a special outing organised by Atlas Tyres. Outwardly, he doesn't look different but, in golfing terms, Lowry has transformed. This self-assured young professional is still developing his game, but his destiny lies in the Tour's upper-echelons.

2010 -- Events: 10 (4 top 10s, 3 missed cuts). European Money List: 54th (€176,720). Career Earnings: Europe €321,563. Others: €85,000 (third in 2009 Dunlop-Phoenix in Japan). World Ranking: 95th.

5 gareth maybin

A lean, mean golfing machine, Maybin (29) won twice on the Hooters circuit in the US and then on the Challenge Tour at home before impressing on his rookie season on the European Tour in 2009. The Ballyclare favourite has one chink in his armour -- he's a streaky putter.

2010 -- Events: 10 (2 top 10s, 1 missed cut). European Money List: 24th (€320,641). Career earnings: Europe €949,397. US (Hooters Tour) and others: $175,807. World Ranking: 118.

6 Darren Clarke

DISPIRITING days for Clarke (41) as he tries desperately to find a spark to reignite a flagging career. Clarke is at the crossroads. How he fares on the new greens at Wentworth could be critical.

2010 -- Events: 10 (2 top 10s, 2 missed cuts). European Money List: 47th (€207,519). Career Earnings: Europe €16.792m US and others: $6.921m. World Ranking: 153.

7 Peter Lawrie

DESPITE playing some excellent golf recently, Lawrie (36) has been unable to produce four good rounds in a row. This dogged Dub won the Open de Espana a couple of years back, but has to return to his ever-steady best to regain those heights.

2010 -- Events: 10 (3 top 10s, 3 missed cuts). European Money List: 77th (€122,507). Career Earnings: Europe €3.420m. World Ranking: 166th.

8 Damien McGrane

FEW are tougher mentally than McGrane (39), but the Kells man was driven close to distraction this year by a fruitless search for a comfortable set of clubs following the introduction of the new 'V-grooves'. However, some green shoots started to appear in recent weeks.

2010 -- Events: 10 (No top 10s, 5 missed cuts). European Money List: 93rd (€92,923). Career Earnings: Europe €3.151m. World Ranking: 237th.

9 michael hoey

THOUGH seriously gifted, Hoey is an enigma. In 30 outings since his maiden European Tour win in the Open de Portugal last year, the 30-year-old has missed 14 cuts, withdrawn from three other events and finished in the top-10 just once. Yet on his day, this Belfast boy can play.

2010 -- Events: 10 (1 top 10, 4 missed cuts, 1 w/d). European Money List: 111th (€68,484). Career Earnings: Europe €538,841. World Ranking: 299th.

10 Paul McGinley

WENTWORTH is like 'home' to McGinley and he needs to revisit former glories on the West Course (the Dubliner was second here in the 2005 PGA) to revive forlorn hopes of playing in October's Ryder Cup. McGinley's greatest bugbear as he fights his way back after knee surgery is an incorrigible putter.

2010 -- Events: 5 (No top 10s, two missed cuts). European Money List: 221st (€13,290). Career Earnings: Europe €9.961m, US and others $748,585. World Ranking: 332nd.

11 Gary Murphy

THE unkindest cut befell Murphy (37) in Majorca last Friday when he followed Thursday's impressive opening 68 with a 79 to miss by one. His prospects of saving the card he earned in 17th place at Final Qualifying last November shrank further yesterday when he tumbled 11 rungs down the ladder to 28th as the Tour re-ranked the Q-School graduates.

2010 -- Events: 9 (No top 10s, 7 missed cuts, one w/d). European Money List: 259th (€7269). Career Earnings: Europe €2.166m. Others (including 2005 Azores Open win) $75,000. World Ranking: 547th.

12 simon thornton

A back injury forced Thornton (33) to abandon last Thursday's first round in Majorca, but there was good news for the Tour rookie and Q-School graduate when yesterday's re-ranking lifted him 11 places to 18th.

2010 -- Events: 7 (No top 10s, 2 top 20s, 3 missed cuts and 1 w/d). Money List: 164th (€32,541). Ranking: 603

Irish Independent

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