The 76th edition of the Masters Tournament begins on Thursday with Irish hopes high going into the first Golf major of the year. Four Irish golfers will have the chance to make history this weekend as they look to become the first man from these shores to win that famous Green Jacket. Here’s a preview of the Irish golfers ahead of a big weekend in the Golfing calender.
Rory McIlroy (World Ranking #2)
Arguable the best golfer in the world right now despite losing his number one ranking to Englishman Luke Donald a few weeks ago. Mcllroy comes into this tournament hoping to banish the memories of his final round of 80 on the fourth day last year to let a four-shot lead and a first Major slip through his grasp. However, the man from Holywood, Co Down, showed great strength of courage to destroy a competitive field in the very next major, the US Open which he won by eight strokes. His rise to the top continued when he became World no.1 by winning the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. However, Mcllroy will have to improve on his showings at Augusta which have been largely forgettable so far in his young career but if he gives himself chances this week, he could finally eliminate the demons of last year and win that lucrative Green Jacket.
Graeme McDowell (World Ranking #15)
The 2010 US Open champion will be hoping to improve on his performances at Augusta with 17th place his previous best in 2009 but since he won his first major at Pebble Beach in 2010, he will have to be treated as a big contender for the Masters this weekend. McDowell comes into the tournament with his confidence high after recording his joint best finish on the PGA Tour outside of his US Open win, when he finished as runner-up, five strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago. However, he’s never really been in contention for a major since winning the US Open but if he puts himself into contention on day four, then don’t write off the Portrush native as he seeks to win his second major championship.
Padraig Harrington (World Ranking #96)
Even though he’s won three majors during his career, Padraig Harrington comes into this tournament as a “forgotten man”. Harrington has not won the Green Jacket, with tied fifth in 2008 his best finish and he looks a rank outsider to change that this weekend. However, the lack of pressure and attention from the Irish media could help Padraig play his own game and it might benefit him this week. Currently number 96 in the world rankings, Harrington will want to improve on his recent record at the Masters as he has failed to make the cut at Augusta for the last three years. He might not win the tournament this week, but a good solid week from Padraig Harrington could lead him to having a good 2012 and improve on his current world ranking.
Darren Clarke (World Ranking #59)
The current Open Champion has been enjoying his golf ever since he won at Royal St George’s last July, which has led him to return to Augusta for the first time in five years. Clarke was contemplating retirement before his steady win last year at the Open and his buildup to this week has been good. In Miami a fortnight ago, he shot two successive rounds in the 60s for the first time since Sandwich. Just like the other three Irish golfers, Clarke hasn’t had much luck at the Masters with tied eight his best in 1998. Clarke was a late doubt for the start of the Masters this week after suffering a groin muscle strain while playing in the weather-hit Shell Houston Open last week as preparation for the first golfing Major of the year. However, he has overcome the injury and he will play alongside Fred Couples of the United States and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan. It would be a fairytale if he could win at the Masters this week and who knows, If he keeps shooting 60′s this week, he will have a great chance.