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US Masters: Irish trio harbour hopes of wearing green

We take a look at the three Irishmen in this week’s field at Augusta National.

AN IRISHMAN HAS never won the most famous Major of all – the US Masters.

The elite nature of the invitational event means that Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and the rest of the Irish contingent will have to find another way to occupy themselves for the next four days.

For three men though, they’ll feel that this is their chance to don the famous green jacket in what is one of the most open renewals of the Masters in recent memory. We take a look at their chances.

Pádraig Harrington

Once upon a time, not so many years ago, you would have put your house on Pádraig Harrington winning the Masters before he retired. Now, only a madman and the Dubliner himself would assess his chance of Augusta glory with any sort of confidence.

Since a phenomenal run of form in 2007/2008 which saw him win three Majors in the space of twelve months, Harrington has developed a near-obsession with his swing, tinkering and testing new routines until he finds one that he is finally happy with. Of course, many observers would have thought that a triple-Major winning swing might have been sufficient, but not Paddy.

That said, he has managed two top-ten finishes in the last four weeks which isn’t exactly dreadful. However, on both occasions, a familiar inability to steer clear of mini-implosions for 72 holes cost him dearly.

He’s driving well, his approach play has been ok, and his putting has been far from desperate. Overall, we should have a little bit more faith in Harrington’s chances – but we won’t be fooled again.

Recent form: Last 64 / Did Not Play / 10 / Cut / DNP / 8

Best Masters finish: Joint 5th (2002, 2008)

US Masters, 2005-2010: Cut / 27 / 7 / 5 / 35 / Cut

The bookies say: 40/1

TheScore says: We’d love to believe him when he says that he’ll win more Majors, but we can’t see it happening this week.

Graeme McDowell

G-Mac is arguably the Irishman with the best chance of springing a surprise at Augusta come Sunday. Although it would hardly be a surprise for the man ranked fifth in the world to win a Major, would it?

Inconsistency has been the Ulsterman’s Achilles’ heel so far this season. When he’s good, he’s good, as his eleven-under par final round at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January showed.

The problem is that when he’s bad, it can be catastrophic – his opening-day round of eight-over at the Arnold Palmer invitational serves as Exhibit A in that respect.

Can that disaster be written off as a one-time aberration? That’s the question which pundits and punters will be trying to answer when assessing McDowell’s chances this week.

Personally, I think it can – and I think an on-form McDowell could stake a claim. Augusta will suit his game, but it’s impossible to know how he’ll perform until we see him in action later on today.

Don’t be too quick to write him off.

Recent form: Last 16/ 6 / 39 / DNP / Cut / DNP

Best Masters finish: Joint 17th (2009)

US Masters, 2005-2010: Cut / DNP / DNP / DNP / 17 / Cut

The bookies say: 40/1

TheScore says: If you can win the US Open, you can win any Major – but given the form he’s in, he’s likely to find at least one or two a bit better than him this weekend.

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Rory McIlroy

Realistically, nobody expects Rory McIlroy to be sporting the green jacket come Sunday evening – but that won’t stop people from keeping a close eye on how he’s progressing.

As one of the poster boys for golf’s emerging young guard, McIlroy is one of the game’s most exciting prospects at the moment. The expectation in golfing circles is that he will win Majors – a few at least – over the course of his career. The difficulty is in deciding when he is finally good enough to win his first.

Over the next few days, you will hear a lot of “experts” say that Augusta favours big hitters. Music to Rory’s ears, as he has been the 12th longest off the tee so far this season. The wider fairways at this year’s Masters will be slightly more forgiving to his expected inaccuracies.

However, practically everyone that is dismissing McIlroy is doing so on the basis of his short game – the one area of his game that he really needs to work on.

If he is to have any chance, he needs to hit fairway after fairway, leaving himself with some makable birdie opportunities rather than scrambling to save par from the heavy stuff or from greenside bunkers.

It’s a big ask for the 21-year-old – but stranger things have happened.

Recent form: Last 32 / 70 / 10 / DNP / DNP / DNP

Best Masters finish: Joint 20th (2009)

US Masters, 2005-2010: DNP / DNP / DNP / DNP / 20 / Cut

The bookies say: 40/1

TheScore says: His day will come, but it probably won’t be this year. If he can get his short game right for the first three days, expect him to be lurking around the top 10 come Sunday.

Check out all of our Masters 2011 coverage here >

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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