A View From Below

Sporting debate and opinion

Luck of the Irish – Major winners from Northern Ireland put English golfers in the shade

Three out of the last five winners of major golf championships have heralded from the nation of Northern Ireland.

A country with a population of barely 2 million has produced the world class talents of Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke. McDowell took home the 2010 U.S. Open, McIlroy this year’s trophy and Clarke 2011’s claret jug.

On the other hand, England, despite a population of around 60 million and five golfers in the top 50 of the world, haven’t enjoyed a major winner since Sir Nick Faldo won the last of his 6 majors at the Masters in 1996.

Despite producing the two highest ranked golfers in the world, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, as well as the talents of Paul Casey and Ian Poulter in the top 20, as well as Justin Rose at number 32, English golfers achievements in the big prizes have paled in significance with the recent exploits of the Paddy’s from the North.

McDowell capped a fine 2010 season by triumphing at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open, finishing his final round with an aggregate level par score to hold of the chasing pack and send Norther Ireland on an unbelievable sequence of major winners.

Exactly a year later, golfing prodigy Rory McIlroy took the U.S. Open back to Irish shores after a dominant display at Congressional. The Holywood youngster ended his week a staggering 16 under par to grab his first major and brush aside suggestions of being a ‘choker’ after his collapse at Augusta just months earlier.

McIlroy was such an emphatic winner in Washington that Irish fans will be confident of celebrating many more major victories in the future, such is the high esteem the 22-year-old is held in by the golfing world.

Billed as the successor to Tiger Woods, the next poster boy of Golf and a possible multiple major champion, Rory McIlroy is the next big thing.

And so on to this month’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s, Kent. Torrid weather conditions and the absence of former star Tiger Woods, meant the claret jug really was up for grabs. Pre tournament talk focused on the chances of England’s top 2, Donald and Westwood, while the fan-far continued to follow McIlroy after his victory in America.

However, it became apparent that English hopes would be dashed early, as Donald, Westwood and Poulter all failed to miss the cut on the windswept east coast. McIlroy plodded along well, but failed to reach his previous heights.

It was left to Darren Clarke to win his first major championship, at the ripe old age 42, beating the course and the field to finish the week on 5 under par.
It was a heart-warming story for the Ulsterman to be crowed champion at St George’s, who tragically lost his wife Heather to breast cancer in 2006.

Clarke’s career had been in the doldrums for the best part of a decade before he claimed the Open, and he has targeted more major victories in the years to come. It really was a fitting end to a difficult, and at times dogged tournament.

The question remains for English golf – when will we next see a major winner?
One would be foolish to be against the freakishly consistent Luke Donald not picking up one soon, whilst Lee Westwood is always there or thereabouts in golf’s most prestigious tournaments.

If Ian Poulter can concentrate on his game harder then he may well have a chance, Paul Casey is usually a decent bet, and Justin Rose appears to be putting better recently, his main weakness so England’s 15 year wait for a major may be about to come to an end.

However, with the PGA Championship around the corner, who would discount another winner from Northern Ireland’s guiness loving trio…

 

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July 20, 2011 - Posted by | Golf

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