Shane Lowry plays his approach to the 15th hole during day three of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Irish golfer four shots off clubhouse lead after shoting third round 70 on West Course

Shane Lowry shot a second round 74 at Wentworth. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Francesco Molinari, Pieters and Jamieson share lead at BMW PGA Championship

Rory McIlroy has withdrawn from next month’s Memorial Tournament. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty

Rib injury forces four-time Major winner to skip last warm-up before US Open in June

 Shane Lowry and his caddie on the seventh hole during day one of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Irish golfer two shots behind first-round leader Johan Carlsson

 Shane Lowry plays from a bunker during the BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am at Wentworth. Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Offalyman has had a good record in recent years at the BMW Championship

Leona Maguire of Duke during the 2016 East Lake Cup in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Out of Bounds: Role models haven’t halted this period of decline in participation levels

Less people under the age of 55 are playing golf in Ireland while participation increased in those aged in their 60s and 70s. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

However, more old people – as well as more women – are taking up the game later in life

The 18th green at the newly-tweaked Wentworth ahead of this week’s BMW PGA Championship. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

R&A looking to tap into football market, Twitter twaddle, word of mouth and more

Si Woo Kim of South Korea embraces his caddie Mark Cavens after winning the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: Tannen Maury/EPA

South Korean had shown no form coming into the Players but was always one to watch

Rob Reardon of Cork Golf Club plays to the green on the 16th. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Martin Walsh, Triona O’Loghlin and Colm Ó Riain combined to come out on top in Cork

Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel (right) accused Ian Poulter of not playing for the win at the Players Championship. Photo: Getty Images

Brandel Chamblee said that the English golfer didn’t play to win at the Players

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the first hole during the final round of The Players championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

‘Unless you get an image taken and you know exactly what’s going on you don’t know’

A scenic view of the 17th hole as seen during a practice round prior to the The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

If money and player power were all that were needed, it would already be the fifth Major

Rory McIlroy returns to action in the Players having signed a $100 million equipment deal with TaylorMade. Photograph: Warrn Little/Getty

McIlroy has signed $100m equipment deal and feels settled ahead of Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy has signed a $100 million equipment deal with TaylorMade, to go with his $200m clothing deal with Nike. Photograph: Harry How/Getty

Golfer will earn $300m over next decade through new deal and Nike clothing contract

John Daly of the United States is sprayed with champagne at the 18th green following his victory at the PGA Tour Champions Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands Country Club in Texas. Photograph: Darren Carroll/Getty Images

Different Strokes: Gavin Moynihan aiming for back-to-back successes on EuroPro Tour

 Cristie Kerr of the United States during a final round playoff at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club. Photograph: Darren Carroll/Getty Images

Out of Bounds: Mechanism exists to perhaps not cure disease, but players can be penalised

Ian Poulter: has been critical of the increasing use of green-reading technology by players on tour. Photograph:  Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Governing bodies focusing their attention on detailed mapping materials used on greens

Scotland’s Elliott Saltman (pictured) received a a three month suspension from the European Tour in 2011. Photo: Getty Images

Cheating is the antithesis of the moral code that exists in golf, but people still do it

 Shane Lowry in action during the  2017 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links  in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, last week. Photograph: Jared C Tilton/Getty Images

Golfer will play in 11 tournaments in 15 weeks as he seeks to arrest slide down rankings

Padraig Harrington with Sergio Garcia during the Open Championship in 2013. Photograph: Getty Images

Irishman and Spaniard both attended the wedding last Saturday at Ashford Castle

Justin Rose: “I think it’s very good to get some links golf under your belt before the Open.”Photograph: AP Photo

Participation of Olympic gold medallist at Irish event confirms its growing status

Rory McIlroy currently leads the PGA Tour driving distance statistics. Photo: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Distance stats continue to increase with governing bodies showing no sign of change

 Wesley Bryan and Ian Poulter shake hands on the 18th green after their final round of the 2017 RBC Heritage. Photograph: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Precious little movement as Wesley Bryan and Edoardo Molinari come up trumps

Winners Edmonstown Golf Club: Peter Kilcullen, Chief Customer Officer director Allianz, captain Tim O’Connor, lady captain Aoife Cousins, Gerry Hiney and Irish Times sports editor Malachy Logan. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Allianz Irish Times Officers’ Challenge regional qualifier takes place in Portmarnock

Ireland’s Paul Dunne  plays out of the bunker during a  playoff  against Italy’s Edoardo Molinari at the  Trophee Hassan II at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat, Morocco. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Irish golfer moves up to 20th in Road to Dubai standings after loss to Edoardo Molinari

Pádraig Harrington celebrates beating Sergio Garcia in a play-off to win the 2007 British Open. Photograph: Inpho

European success rate rose from 4.9 to 38.5 per cent in the 39 Majors after his 2007 win

 Sergio Garcia with  fiancee Angela Akins  after winning the US Masters in a sudden death playoff over Justin Rose on Sunday. Photograph: Andrew Gombert/EPA

While hot putter put new champion in frame, changed mental attitude was key

Sergio Garcia of Spain plays a shot from the pine needles on the 11th hole during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The Spaniard scrambled and dazzled on the final holes at Augusta to win a green jacket

Shane Lowry failed to make the cut at Augusta. Photograph: Erik Lesser/Epa

The first proves devillishly difficult while Shane Lowry appeared to be undercooked

Sergio Garcia celebrates after defeating Justin Rose at the first playoff hole to win the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Spaniard finally got over the line in a major championship after so many close calls

It was a tough day for Rory McIlroy who will need something special on Sunday at the 2017 US Masters. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

It’s set to be a stunning final day at Augusta with Rory McIlroy still just about in touch

Rory McIlroy reacts after his birdie on the sixth hole during the second round of the Masters. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Hoffman, Pieters, Garcia and Fowler held the halfway lead after day two at Augusta

Sergio Garcia  shakes hands with Shane Lowry  after they finished their second round at Augusta. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Offalyman signs for a disappointing 79 and looks likely to miss the cut by a single shot

William McGirt of the US kneels to get a better view after hitting from the fairway on the 17th hole during the second round of the 2017 Masters. Photo: Andrew Gombert/EPA

Steve Williams still going strong, Tiger helps William McGirt and much more

The main leaderboard near the first fairway during the first round of the 2017 Masters at Augusta National. Photograph: Getty Images

Shane Lowry hits 72, as Charley Hoffman defies the conditions to finish seven-under

Dustin Johnson: the world number one has been in superb form in advance of the US Masters at Augusta. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Increased focus on his short game could help Irishman seal grand slam of Major titles

 The James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia. Photograph: Annette Brown/Getty Images

From James Brown to the Confederate Monument, there’s more than just golf here

A view of the 10th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2017 Masters at Augusta National. Photograph: Getty Images

Willett climbing Everest, Thunderstorms due, Pressure on Hideki Matsuyama

A general view of the main tournament scoreboard during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. Photograph: Getty Images

The odds, form overview and what needs to click for the main men heading to Augusta

Rory McIlroy  talks to his caddie while walking to the 12th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament, Tuesday, April 4th, 2017, in Augusta, Georgia. Photograph: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

Irishman opts for new fairway woods in his bag ahead of tilt at coveted Augusta Masters glory

Shane Lowry takes a practice round on the course at the 2017 Masters Tournament  in Augusta, Georgia, on Monday.  Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

After his wedding and arrival of a baby daughter, Lowry has golf on his mind again

Rickie Fowler has three top-fives in his last five outings, including a win in the Honda Classic. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Texan is not afraid of the winds at Augusta and is ready to challenge for a green jacket

 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett   in his green jacket at Augusta on Sunday. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry take different approaches to Major preparations

Seeing the wood from the tree: Rory McIlroy’s   meltdown on the 10th hole cost him the  2011 Masters title. Photograph:  Brian Snyder/Reuters

Northern Irish man will have to master Augusta and his demons to enter history books

Paul Dunne of Ireland during the Tshwane Open in Pretoria, South Africa, earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images

In the four weeks since India Open, there’s been no regular events on European Tour

Rory McIlroy  during round one of the WGC-Dell Matchplay  at the Austin Country Club  in  Texas. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has taken to visiting Augusta in the week ahead of the Masters

Leading amateur  Rory McIlroy and British Open champion Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie, Scotland in 2007. Photograph: Getty Images

No new Irish player has managed to break into the world’s top-200 since Shane Lowry

Rory McIlroy: “I haven’t had the win that I’ve wanted, but it’s been good consistent play and that hopefully bodes well for the year ahead.” Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry has put a new putter in his bag for the WGC-Dell Matchplay

With history in the making in Tralee on Saturday night, Philip Reid looks back..

Portmarnock Golf Club: has been chosen to host  the (British) Amateur Championship in 2019 despite its male-only membership policy. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Two Dublin clubs continue to stick to outdated policy of male-only membership

Graeme McDowell will join Rory McIlroy in playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Meanwhile, four Irish head for nine-hole test, word of mouth, Twitter twaddle and more

Bubba Watson of the United States during the third round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship last week. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

In his four starts this year a struggling Bubba Watson’s best finish is tied-25th in Hawaii

Jon Rahm of Spain plays his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship at Club De Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Paul Dunne kicking on from last year, quotes of the week, Twitter twaddle and more

 Graeme McDowell:  paid a couple of reconnaissance visits to the venues for the upcoming  Valspar Championship and  Bay Hill Invitational events.  Photograph:  Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Big performances needed to seal place in WGC Matchplay and US Masters

Waterford manager Derek McGrath says his side must improve on their start. Photo: Inpho

The visitors started off slowly at Croke Park but eventually put Dublin to the sword

Dustin Johnson wins the WGC-Mexico Championship golf tournament at Chapultecpec Golf Club. Photograph: Orlando Ramirez/USA Today

Error-strewn closing round of 71 is only good enough for a share of seventh place

Dustin Johnson of the United States putts on the sixth hole during the final round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship at Club De Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The world number one was pushed all the way as he picked up a fourth WGC title

Dublin’s Rian McBride and Noel Connors of Waterford during their Allianz League clash at Croke Park. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

After starting slowly Dublin woke from their slumber but Waterford had too much

Paul McGinley: “I want to see him focusing on his golf in the next month, four or five weeks, and then getting down to joining history.”  Photograph: by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ex-Ryder Cup captain says other issues can prove a distraction to the Grand Slam bid

 Rory McIlroy makes his return to action in this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty

Rib injury might have peversely given him best preparation for Masters assault

 Rory McIlroy at the South African Open in January. His rib injury first manifested itself in Johannesburg. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

McIlroy’s return to competition marks belated start to his build-up to the Masters

Cuala’s Darragh O’Connell picks up the ball during his team’s semi-final win on Saturday. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Cuala’s dream very much alive as they become first to reach All-Ireland hurling final

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the third tee during the first round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Padraig Harrington missed the cut with Seamus Power also heading home early

There will  be too many weeks this season when Paul Dunne is ploughing a lone Irish furrow on the European Tour. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Look past the big names and lack of real depth on tour is disconcerting

Padraig Harrington of Ireland lines up a putt on the 12th hole during a continuation of the second round at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

Harrington still sticking to busy schedule, Dustin Johnson is top of the world and more

Des Smyth: “A lot of these young players, as good as they are, will go through difficult periods where they are going to need help.”  Photograph: Phil Inglis/Getty Images

Experienced mentor ready to assist young players as they adjust to professional game

Four-time Ladies Irish Open winner Sophie Gustafson with the trophy after her victory at Killeen Castle in 2010. The tournament hasn’t been played since 2012. Photograph: Inpho/Cathal Noonan

Event has now been conspicuous by absence from Ladies European Tour for five years

 Padraig Harrington is continuing to struggle with a shoulder injury and may not play at this week’s Genesis Open. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Meanwhile Harrington still struggling with shoulder injury and Spieth looking ominous

Paul Dunne is likely to head the Ireland team at the GolfSixes event in the  Centurion Golf Club outside St Albans on May 6th-7th. Photograph:  David Cannon/Getty Images

Six-hole team competition to be played in May is designed to attract younger audience

Dublin  and Tyrone players come to blows during the infamous ‘Battle of Omagh’ in  2006. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Metropolitans and Red Hand men have established a keen rivalry over last 22 years

Sergio Garcia reacts after missing his par putt to win the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie. Garcia would be beaten on a four-hole playoff by Padraig Harrington. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Spaniard is in a good place on and off course but does he have the bottle to win a big one?

Tiger Woods and his entourage leave the Emirates Golf after a short visit during the second round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Darren Clarke extends global reach and Garcia all but rules out Irish Open

Pádraig Harrington:  needs to kick-start his season stateside. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Shane Lowry and Séamus Power to join Day, Johnson, Spieth and Mickelson in California

The former clubhouse at Turvey Golf Club. Photo: Philip Reid/The Irish Times

While a corner has been turned since the bust, golf clubs are still not fully in the clear

Jon Rahm of Spain tees off on the 18th hole during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South in San Diego, California. Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Meanwhile, no Ladies Irish Open again and Bryson DeChambeau’s first world problems

Shane Lowry: said he was  “happy” with his week’s work at Torrey Pines. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Tiger Woods to play in Dubai Desert Classic as McDowell seeks to secure Augusta spot

Adam Hadwin of Canada poses with his ball after shooting a 59 during the third round of the CareerBuilder Challenge at La Quinta Country Club, California. Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Meanwhile, hopes high for Irish on Challenge Tour and Els backs Tiger for another major

 Rory McIlroy will miss next week’s Dubai Desert Classic as he continues his recovery from a rib injury. Photograph:  Warren Little/Getty Images

World number two hopes to be fit in time for the Honda Classic at Palm Beach

Paul McBride, a semi-finalist in the 2016 British Amateur, is in the initial Walker Cup squad. Photograph: Pat Cashman

Door still open for others to force way in before September, says captain Craig Watson

Rory McIlroy: “To be forced to miss this week through injury is really quite annoying.”  Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne only Irish in field that includes Johnson and Stenson

 Graeme Storm and Rory McIlroy share a joke during day four of the BMW South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Fairytale turnaround for Englishman after losing his European Tour Card at end of 2016

Stephanie Meadow, who is the latest addition to Investec’s ‘Wealth of Successful’ sport sponsorships. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Northern Irishwoman has big ambitions as she begins LPGA Tour season in Adelaide

The great Michael ‘Ducksie’ Walsh in action in 2007. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

‘Ducksie’ Walsh and Christy O’Connor were among others who were taken too soon

There is near unanimous agreement between predictors that Chelsea, under Antonio Conte, will win the 2016/’17 English Premier League title. Photograph: Reuters.

Sporting predictions for year gone by certainly do not bode well for 2017 forecasts

Muhammad Ali: accidental boxer was ranked the greatest athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated magazine. Photograph: Getty Images

Philip Reid recounts an array of achievements from legends lost this year

“I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy. There’s been many great players from my country who tried in past years and decades and there’s been a couple of really close calls . . . I’m really proud to have done that. It’s a dream come true.” Photograph: Getty Images

Sports review of 2016: Philip Reid on how the Swede shot a sublime final round 63 to pip Mickelson to Open glory

Thomas Bjorn shares a lighthearted moment with  Pádraig Harrington. The Dane will captain the European Ryder Cup Team in  2018.  Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Three-time Major winner believes Dane can lead Europe to success in Paris

Tiger Woods hitting his second from an out-of-bounds area on the 18th during his final round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Photograph:  Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Return of Woods provides late-season lift to the sport and evidence he has regained his hunger

Tiger Woods: ““I’m not dead, I’m ready to go.” Photograph: Jared C Tilton/Getty Images

Former world number one - he has slipped to 898th in the rankings - to make long-awaited comeback

 Leona Maguire  holds the trophy for the leading amateur  after the  2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open  at Woburn Golf Club. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

World’s number one to concentrate on completing her education at Duke University

Rafa Cabrera-Bello will employ Colin Byrne as his caddie next season. Photogrpah: Getty/ Francois Nel

Spaniard - who impressed during Ryder Cup - is increasing his focus on the PGA Tour

Ireland’s World Cup duo Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/R&A/via Getty Images

The duo – who have struggled this season – targeting victory as 28 countries face off

Rory  McIlroy:   became  tournament host for the Irish Open at Royal County Down in 2015 – his involvement helped to attract big names. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Purse has grown from €1.5m in 2011 to at least €6.5m in 2017 as event continues to grow

Henrik Stenson: has it in his own hands to claim the order of merit title. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Alex Noren, Danny Willett lead chase while Rory McIlroy still has an outside chance

Pat Perez in action during the fourth day of the Mayakoba OHL Classic golf tournament at Playa del Carmen in Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Photo: PA

The Waterford golfer saw his chances diminish after a horror triple bogey at the first

Kevin Phelan signed for a 69 for 279 and a share of ninth place at Las Colinas in Alicante. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

European Tour final qualification starts at PGA Catalunya on Saturday

 Thorbjorn Olesen celebrates with a glass of  champagne and his fellow Danish golfers Lucas Bjerregaard and Soren Kjeldsen following his victory at  the Turkish Airlines Open at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Antalya, Turkey. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

David Horsey and Haotong Li made final round runs with matching 65s

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark tees off on the 10th hole during day three of the Turkish Airlines Open at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington failed to make much ground in what looks like foregone conclusion

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark hits his second shot on the 12th hole during day two of the Turkish Airlines Open at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington could only manage second round 69 to sit well back on one under

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