Graeme McDowell:  It was “a baptism of fire”, he said of the Irish Open at Royal County Down. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Those who played at Royal County Down will be ready for Chambers Bay, says McDowell

Soren Kjeldsen  of Denmark is handed the Irish Open trophy by tournament host  Rory McIlroy at  Royal County Down. Photo: Paul Faith/Getty

McGinley and Clarke would prefer event to be held closer to the British Open

 Irish Open winner Soren Kjeldsen kisses the trophy. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Dane holds nerve on first extra hole to see off Eddie Pepperell and Bernd Wiesberger

Pádraig Harrington reacts after narrowly missing  a putt on the first  green during the third round of the   Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club. Photo:  Brian Lawless/PA

Error-strewn round of 78 ends hope for Harrington as Dane take control

 Bernd Wiesberger of Austria (R) and Andy Sullivan of England feeling the chill during the second round at Royal County Down. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

World number one misses the cut by four shots at Irish Open despite a second round 71

Rory McIlroy hits his third shot on the fifth hole during his second – and final – round of the Irish Open at Royal County Down. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Six share the top spot at Royal County Down with Pádraig Harrington best of the Irish

Ireland’s Pádraig Harrington makes his way onto the 11th green with the mountains of Mourne in the background on the first day of the Irish Open at the Royal County Down Golf Club in Newcastle. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Dubliner in top form a week after having to pull out of PGA Championship

A scorer looks on as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks on the 9th green during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

World No 1’s Irish Open blues continue at Royal County Down

 Rory McIlroy runs through the gorse during the pro-am event prior to The Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club. Photo:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty

World number one ready to throw down the gauntlet to a distinguished field

Darren Clarke: “My desire is what keeps me out there practising and working hard and seeking those four consistent rounds in a row.”  Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho/Presseye

Ryder Cup captain encouraged by last round in Wentworth as he prepares for 24th bid

Miguel Angel Jimenez in lighthearted form during practice for the Irish Open at Royal County Down GC yesterday. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho/Presseye

Three-time Major champion gets extensive treatment to overcome a shoulder injury

Calm before the storm: A view of the par three fourth hole at Royal County Down ahead of the start of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye

World number one instrumental in getting Dubai Duty Free as sponsor for Royal County Down

 Shane Lowry tees off in yesterday’s final round of BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in Virginia Water, England. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

South Korean Byeong-hun An leaves field trailing in his wake after closing round 65

Peter Lawrie finished with a 74 for 290, which left him in tied-59th place at the BMW PGA Championship at  Wentworth. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Peter Lawrie will also be at Royal County Down as he tries to regain full tour card

Byeong-Hun An of South Korea celebrates victory with his caddie on the 18th green during day 4 of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Shane Lowry’s Wentworth bid falls short but Offaly man pleased with his return to form

Miguel Angel Jimenez  celebrates his hole-in-one on the second hole during the third round  of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Korean An joins Italian on 14 under while Jimenez makes ace on low scoring day

 Shane Lowry improved his opening round score by seven shots on Friday as he carded a 67 at the BMW PGA Championship. Photo:   Adam Davy/PA

Talking-to by caddie Dermot Byrne gives Irish star reassurance about his game

World number one Rory McIlroy will turn his attention to the Irish Open after a disappointing performance in the PGA Championship. Photograph: PA

World number one takes solace in extra few days’ rest after missing the cut at Wentworth

 Rory McIlroy shows his frustration on the 16th hole during day two of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The Irishman posted a 78 and missed the cut.  Photo:  Warren Little/Getty Images

Disappointing display from world number one as a 78 sees him miss the weekend cut

 Peter Lawrie in action at the  BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth yesterday. “This is the biggest one and I’m knuckling down and we’ll see how it goes.” Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

Dubliner aiming to take a big step towards retaining his tour card

 Rory McIlroy  tees off on the 9th hole during day one of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo:  Warren Little/Getty Images

Frustrated world number one Rory McIlroy six adrift following an opening 71

Thriving on the intimidation factor: Rory McIlroy holds press court at Wentworth on Wednesday. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Justin Rose and Danny Willett among likely contenders for BMW PGA Championship

  Broadcaster Chris Evans talks to Graeme McDowell  during the Pro-Am ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.  Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Northern Ireland golfer hopes to redeem his West Course record at Wentworth with a fresh approach after a one-year absence

 Rory McIlroy  and his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald pose with the trophy after his win  at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo:  Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Imposing world number one heading to Wentworth to defend his BMW PGA title

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland warms up on the practice range ahead of the final round at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

He’ll be hosting the Irish Open at Royal County Down next week in tiptop form

Rory McIlroy watches his shot from a sand trap on the fifth hole during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. Photo: Chuck Burton/Getty/Images

World number one hits 11 birdies and no bogeys in wonder round at Quail Hollow

Portmarnock Golf Club are to consult current members about admitting female members. Photograph: Inpho

Club’s gender policy hinders its chances of holding tournaments such as the Irish Open

Rory McIlroy: “It was nice to get the job done, really satisfying . . . now we move on to The Players at Sawgrass and try to do it again.” Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Players at Sawgrass the next target following his impressive WGC Matchplay title win

Shane Lowry  hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during round two of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park  in San Francisco, California. Photograph: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

American produces birdie on the 18th to secure one-hole win over Offaly golfer

Rory McIlroy  and  caddie JP Fitzgerald suffer in the cold and foggy conditions during the pro-am  for the World  Match Play  at Harding Park  in San Francisco, California. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

World number one will attend Mayweather-Pacquiao bout in Las Vegas

Jim Furyk celebrates earning his first PGA Tour win since 2010 in  a playoff at the RBC Heritage in  South Carolina. Photograph: Tyler Lecka/Getty Images

Woods and Els miss out as McIlroy, McDowell and Lowry qualify for revamped event

Toulon’s Chris Masoe and Bryan Habana celebrate after the game. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Strolling cat is only light entertainment as Toulon and Leinster stage a thriller

Reigning US Open champion Martin Kaymer will play at the Irish Open at Royal County Down at the end of May. Photograph:   Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Patrick Reed also coming to Royal County Down as Rory McIlroy continues to draw stars

 Patrick Reed  plays a bunker shot  during the second round of the  Masters. The world number 14 will play at the famed links beside Slieve Donard on May 28th-31st. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell hopes return to Heritage Classic can kickstart his season

Masters champion Jordan Spieth: “He’s athletic, he’s young, he has the right character and he wins.” Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Masters champion has two-pronged target: win more Majors and usurp Irishman

Tiger Woods celebrates his birdie on the 13th during his third round at the Masters. The former champion looked rejuvenated at Augusta. Photograph: Andrew Gombert/EPA

Tiger Woods returns to a game of young guns while the greens are more forgiving

Jordan Spieth of the United States reacts to a par-saving putt on the 16th green during the final round of the 2015 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club , Georgia. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

McIlroy saves his best until last with closing 66 to finish the tournament in fourth place

Tiger Woods stretches before hitting on the second fairway during the second round of the Masters  in Augusta. Photograph:  David J Phillip/AP Photo

Four-time champion believes he is still in contention with second-round 69

Jordan Spieth jumps to watch his ball during the second round at Augusta National. Photograph: Jim Watson

‘I don’t know what course Jordan is playing but it’s not the one I’m playing’ – Darren Clarke

Pádraig Harrington  tees off on the first hole   during Round 2 of the 79th Masters  at Augusta National. Photo: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty

Offaly man makes a 25-ft birdie putt on the 17th but it was to prove in vain

 Larry Mize celebrates chipping in at the  11th hole to win the US Masters in  1987. Photograph: David Cannon /Allsport

White Dogwood, which serves as the introduction to Amen Corner, is a real tough nut

Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the US Masters in Augusta National. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Masters favourite digs deep on trying day to card ninth straight sub-par round in Majors

Jordan Spieth of the US hits off the 13th tee during first round play of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta yesterday. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

Rory McIlroy shoots a 71, one-under, his ninth straight sub-par round in Majors

 Rory McIlroy plays a shot back to the fairway on the tenth hole after a costly  errant tee shot during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta. Photo:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Golf correspondent Philip Reid gives the lowdown on the only Major venue that's played every year

Rickie Fowler plays a tee shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 2015 Masters at Augusta National. Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty

Holder Bubba Watson the biggest threat to world number one’s ambitions at Augusta

Rory McIlroy on the practice ground in Augusta National golf club. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

World Number one relaxed bud admits butterflies will flutter when he takes his first tee shot at the Masters

Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry during a practice round on Monday in Augusta. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Harrington is back in Augusta and making sure he’s ready

A more engaging Tiger Woods on the tee yesterday during practice for the Masters. Is it possible not to play tournament golf for two months and return with the necessary sharpness? Photograph: Getty Images

The smiling Woods that has turned up at Augusta has ‘worked his ass off’ to be there

Graeme McDowell hopes lowered expectations can work in his favour in at the US Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Photograph:  Brian Snyder/Reuters

Augusta has not been kind, with Northern Irishman surviving only two cuts in seven

 Tiger Woods   and Darren Clarke are all smiles during as they talk  on the practice range  at Augusta National Golf Club ahead of the Masters. Photograph:  Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Nothing gentle about Ben’s week . . . Stadler’s zero sum game . . . JB’s two drivers . . . check that scorecard

Pádraig Harrington  and Shane Lowry  pose for a photo during a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club on Monday. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Offaly man realises a lifetime ambition to be teeing it up a Augusta National

Jack Nicklaus completed his Career Grand Slam within four years of turning professional at the 1966 British Open. Photograph: Inpho/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy is attempting to add his name to this list at the Masters

 Rory McIlroy celebrates his one-stroke victory at the  PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in 2014. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The world number one is seeking to become just the sixth man to win all four Majors

Tiger Woods has  confirmed he will play in next week’s Masters after completing a second practice round at Augusta National on Friday. Photograph: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

Four-times champion makes statement after completing a second practice round at Augusta

 Graeme McDowell in action at the   Valero Texas Open. The former US Open winner has made the cut just twice in seven appearances at the Masters.   Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke the only Irish players in Texas ahead of Augusta

Shane Lowry moves into a share of 32nd position at the end of the first round at the Texas Open. Photograph: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Lowry fought back from three successive bogeys with birdies on the 14th and 17th

Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the third hole during the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational  at  Bay Hill. Photograph: Michael Cohen/Getty Images.

Rory McIlroy struggles on greens but still well in the hunt after two-under-par 70

World number one McIlroy recognised the new title sponsors as “a strong global brand with great experience in sports sponsorship through golf, tennis and horse racing.” Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Sponsorship provides massive shot in the arm after Three finished sponsorship in 2010

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, and George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, put pen to paper on the contract which sees Dubai Duty Free become the title sponsor of the 2015 Irish Open hosted by The Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho

Tournament has been without a title sponsor since 2010

Dustin Johnson of the United States watches his tee shot on the twelfth hole during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship - he could be the latest to add his name to the Irish Open entry list. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

World number one has no plans to add to his sparse schedule ahead of the Masters

Dustin Johnson drives from the 12th tee on his way to winning the  WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Blue Monster course  in Doral, Florida. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

WGC victory particularly sweet following his six-month absence from the sport

 Graeme McDowell: “It’s early in the season, only tournament number four for me. It is not the start I wanted, but you have to just keep chipping away.” Photo:  Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Irishman finishes ten over par but says it’s very early in the season and no time to panic

 Shane Lowry: “It would have been nice to be on level. Still, I am up towards the top of the leaderboard, if you take JB Holmes out of it.” Photo:  David Cannon/Getty

Irishman posts a second round 74 to lie one-over as Blue Monster shows its teeth

Rory McIlroy during the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship on the Blue Monster in Doral, Florida. Photograph:  Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

World number one throws three iron into lake in sign of frustration with his game

Rory McIlroy continued to struggle on day two at Doral.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

World number one opens up with two birdies and two bogeys as he pursues leader JB Holmes

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland hits his second shot on the 10h hole during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral Blue Monster Course on Thursday. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images.

Portrush player happy enough with lot after ending opening round one over par

Three-time Major winner now has Ryder Cup and Olympics in his sights

 Adam Scott practising for the Cadillac Championship at Doral: “I’ve putted lots of different ways, it’s been feeling good. It’s not that big a deal . .  Photo:  David Cannon/Getty Images

New dad is eager to return to action at Doral following a winter lay-off

Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry: ‘I played with him in Pebble Beach  and he wasn’t playing that great,” said Lowry. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

‘It’s one of the best stories in quite a while,’ says Lowry of his compatriot

 ‘Bad boy’ Bubba Watson. Photograph:  Scott Halleran/Getty Images

From bad boy to role model, the US Masters holder has come a long way

Kevin Phelan of Ireland tees off on the second during the final round of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

England’s Andy Sullivan takes second European Tour title of the season

Lydia Ko won the women’s Australian Open, but what’s in her bag? (Photograph: ESTHER LIM/AFP/Getty Images)

Love gets another crack at Ryder Cup, Rory’s back, quote of the week and what’s in Lydia Ko’s bag?

Darren Clarke shows his emotion after his memorable singles win over Zach Johnson during the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club. It came just weeks after the death of his wife Heather. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

Experienced Irishman delighted to be chosen to lead the holders to Hazeltine

Importance of team’s belief in the captain was shown in last Ryder Cup

Darren Clarke celebrates Europe’s Ryder Cup win over the USA at The K Club in Kildare in 2006. Photograph:    Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Dungannon man has known triumph and personal disaster in stellar career

Shan Lowry missed out on a top 10 finish in the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Lowry finishes tied for 21st spot in AT&T Pro-Am after disappointing final round

Shane Lowry: posted an impressive seventh-place finish in his first appearance of the new season at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty

Cheque for almost $190,000 he won a big help in his bid to claim a PGA Tour card

“ Playing golf is what Rory McIlroy does better than anyone else in the world and, in case it has been forgotten, a trip to the US Masters in April could see him touch greatness as he seeks to become just the sixth man in the modern era of professional golf to claim a career grand slam.”  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

World number one can now return to writing his name in golfing history books

The Swilcan Bridge on the the Old Course at St Andrews. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty

Five-year deal from 2017 ends the 60-year association with BBC’s free-to-air service

Phoenix Open winner Brooks Koepka has been “picking the brain” of “unbelievable” McIlroy. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Shane Lowry to make season debut at Torrey Pines where Harrington also lines up

Rory McIlroy’s High Court case against his former agents, Horizon Sports Management, is due to begin on Tuesday in Dublin. Photograph: Reuters

World number one’s High Court case against former agents set to begin on Tuesday

Most TV viewers could watch Rory McIlroy winning the British Open at Hoylake last year, but from 2016, only Sky subscribers will have access to full live coverage. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Only hardcore fans who can afford to subscribe to pay-to-view will now have full access to the Open on television

Rory McIlroy and Horizon MD Conor Ridge pictured together at the White House in March  2012. Photograph: Benjamin Myers/Reuters

Golfer could spend two weeks on stand when proceedings against former agency begins

Rory McIlroy is confident going into the Dubai Desert Classic, in which he has finished in the top 10 every year since winning it in 2009. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Defending champion Stephen Gallacher going for an unprecedented treble

Rory McIlroy: “It’s just to try and stay as fresh as possible and give myself the best possible chance each and every week that I tee up, the best possible chance to play well.” Photo: Brendon thorne/Getty

Irishman starts season in Abu Dhabi Championship where he has finished runner-up three times

Former professional golfer Danielle McVeigh. Of playing so well through her father’s illness and following his death, McVeigh now believes she “just blocked it out”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Former golf professional who attended counsellors for depression has found there is more to life than golf

Peter Lawrie during the second round of the European Tour qualifying school final stage in November in Girona, Spain.Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Dubliner who lost his tour card has chance to collect some prize money in South Africa

Captain Paul McGinley (top right) holds the Ryder Cup as Team Europe golfers pose for a group photograph after the closing ceremony of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland. Photograph: Phil Noble / Reuters

Philip Reid on the stark contrast in both camps as Europe triumphed again at Gleneagles

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his one-stroke victory on the 18th green with his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald during the final round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Philip Reid recalls that rain-delayed final round, overcoming fading light to close the deal

 Katie Taylor pictured at Dublin Airport after arriving home from the world women’s boxing championships in South Korea where she won her fifth gold medal. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Brian O’Driscoll and Rory McIlroy trail boxing champion in poll

Lewis Hamilton on stage with presenter Gary Lineker during the 2014 Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Glasgow. Photograph:  David Davies/PA Wire.

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton pips world’s number one golfer to top prize

Europe captain Paul McGinley, right, with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. “I see my role as quite a big one, because we are going into the unknown. With the Ryder Cup captaincy, I knew what I was doing,” said McGinley. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Dubliner consulted with top Irish players including Rory McIlroy before accepting role

Stephanie Meadow smiles  on the second hole during the third round of the 69th US Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, North Carolina. Photograph:  Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Antrim woman makes debut at Pinehurst No.2 and finishes third with a cheque for €200k

Munster head coach Anthony Foley Mandatory preparing his players before the match against Clermont Auvergne. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Scott Quinnell’s pre-match warning went unheeded by Anthony Foley’s men

Shane Lowry: “A win would top off the year superbly and kickstart my 2015 campaign as well.” Photo: Yoshua Arias/EPA

Offalyman to tee it up for the first time at the lucrative Nedbank Challenge in Sun City

The BBC’s Match of the Day programme is 50 years old – but still delivering the goods

Rory McIlroy  receives the Race To Dubai trophy from HE Saeed Harib, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, after winnng The Race To Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

World number one will defend Australian Open title ahead of Grand Slam bid in April

Rory McIlroy: will pick up prizemoney of over €1 million for his Race to Dubai victory. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Irishman’s remarkable season ensures Tour’s final tournament in effect a dead rubber

  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland has won his second Race to Dubai title.  Photograph:  Scott Halleran/Getty Images

American owed lunch by world number one, who says season saw the best golf of his life

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