Sunday 25 February 2018

The six Irish in action at Oak Hill

It was never likely McIlroy could turn around a grim season in just four rounds at Firestone
It was never likely McIlroy could turn around a grim season in just four rounds at Firestone
Paul McGinley

Karl MacGinty

IRELAND has feasted on a rich diet of success at the Majors since Padraig Harrington broke a 60-year famine at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie.

Rory McIlroy won his second Major title and Irish golf's seventh in six years at last year's PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

Yet the prospects do not look good for the 'Green Team' at the US PGA ... their form suggests Boot Hill in Tombstone might be more appropriate than Oak Hill, Rochester.

Rory McIlroy (Odds: 33/1)

It was folly to expect McIlroy to turn around a grim season in just four rounds at Firestone. More time and tournament play is necessary for the 24-year-old to haul himself out of the deepest slump of his career, so his chances of hanging onto the Wanamaker Trophy look slim. Yet once McIlroy regains his competitive edge, success inevitably will follow.

The Tour fear Europe's poster boy, currently 68th in the Race to Dubai, will not make the 60-man field at November's showpiece DP World Championship. They needn't worry on that count.

Graeme McDowell (55/1)

Since that topsy-turvy eight-tournament stretch in which he won three tournaments and missed the cut in five others, McDowell made the weekend at the Open in Muirfield and the Canadian Open, while there was no cut last weekend in Bridgestone.

However, the Portrush man remains disconcertingly inconsistent. His accuracy off the tee should stand to G-Mac at Oak Hill, but bottomless greenside rough will severely punish any loose approach play.

Shane Lowry (250/1)

How different might it have been for the Clara man if he had been able to take momentum from last October's Portugal Masters win into the DP World Championship. Instead, he ended up in hospital in Dubai with shingles, missing a fine chance to break into the world top 50.

Trying to make that transition bore down on Lowry, as did unsuccessful efforts to clinch his US card. Yet, having adjusted to the speed of the greens after a difficult first two days at Firestone, Lowry's 69 last Sunday suggests he could sow an acorn or two at Oak Hill.

Padraig Harrington (125/1)

The Dubliner has made just one cut in four tournaments. That it was at the British Open shows he knows the ropes at the Majors, while his game is better suited to difficult course set-ups. Yet finishing 54th at Muirfield underlined his recent birdie famine.

Down to 128th in FedEx Cup points, he needs to perform here and next week at Wyndham to make the 125-man Barclays field, first of the US Tour's lucrative play-offs. Harrington must play these events to get back into the top 50 and boost his prospects in the Ryder Cup race.

Darren Clarke (350/1)

Ireland's top finisher in a share of 24th at the Open, the 44-year-old Ulsterman still has the game for the big occasion, provided he can get out of his own way. Working with top American mind guru Dr Bob Rotella should help once again this week, though one wonders how Clarke's putting and temper will hold up if the greens play as fast as Tiger Woods clearly wants.

Paul McGinley  (500/1)

As Ryder Cup skipper, McGinley was invited to play in his first Major since the 2009 Open and has been paired up with his US counterpart Tom Watson and one-time rival for the captaincy, Darren Clarke, for the first 36 holes. In recent years, injury problems have denied McGinley the opportunity to play more frequently on Tour, while his duties as captain are already are having an inevitable impact.

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