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Two Dublin clubs continue to stick to outdated policy of male-only membership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

Padraig Harrington hits his second shot on the 15th hole during day one of the Turkish Airlines Open. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Dubliner finishes on one over par after a battling first round in Belek

Roof with a view: Andrew Johnston hits a shot from the 16th tee which is on top of a villa during a practice round at the Turkish Open. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington hopes new style of putting will bring him back-to-back wins

David Sheahan produced a 10-under-par total of 282 for the 72-hole tournament  at Royal Dublin golf course. Photograph: Pat Cashman

At the age of 22, then medical student beat some of the top professionals at Royal Dublin

 Danny Willett: currently second in the Race to Dubai standings behind Henrik Stenson who is among those who have withdrawn from  the Turkey Airlines Open. Photograph:  Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry among the long list of absentees due to security concerns

Paul Dunne with his caddie Darren Reynolds. “The European Tour is a great tour to play on and I feel like I can compete.” Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

With his tour card retained, Greystones golfer now targeting a first tournament win

Irish golfer Padraig Harrington lines up a putt during the last round of Portugal Masters  in Vilamoura. Photo: Getty Images

Sunday’s Portugal Masters win opened door to last three Race to Dubai events

Padraig Harrington of Ireland poses with the trophy and a bottle of beer following his victory at the Portugal Masters at Victoria Clube de Golfe. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Forty-five year old shoots 65 in final round to claim the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura

Peter Lawrie – who was a one-time winner on the European Tour – has opted to turn his back on competitive golf to become director of golf at Luttrellstown Castle. Photo: Inpho

The 42-year-old is now the director of golf at Dublin club after quitting tournament play

Michael Hoey faces a battle to retain his Tour card. Photograph: Getty

37-year-old hasn’t survived a cut since the Scottish Open in July

Tiger Woods has postponed his return to competitive action. Photograph: Getty

14-time Major winner has pulled out of the Safeway Open and will return in December

Darren Clarke: “We’ve come up against a very strong American team and they’ve played better than we have.” Photograph:   David Cannon/Getty Images

Dubliner a contender alongside Bjorn and Lawrie to lead European team in Paris

Rory McIlroy: “I wanted to go out and lead by example. I tried my utmost to do that.” Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty

Effects of a hectic few weeks takes its toll as bid to retain Ryder Cup ends in defeat

USA’s Jimmy Walker and USA’s Patrick Reed celebrate after the USA won the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Patrick Reed sets tone for team with victory over Rory McIlroy in thrilling top match

 Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates on the 18th green after winning his match as Rory McIlroy of Europe looks on  at Hazeltine National Golf Club  in Chaska, Minnesota. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

American takes advantage as putter fails Europe’s main man down the stretch

 USA vice-captain Tom Lehman confronts a  fan who was heckling Sergio García of Europe during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy and European players run out of patience with verbal abuse from USA fans

Patrick Reed was irrepressible as the USA moved into a three point lead ahead of Sunday’s singles. Photograph: Getty

Irrepressible Reed and Westwood’s cold putter give hosts daunting three point lead

Europe’s Rory McIlroy tees off the 6th during the Foursomes on day two of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Partnership with Thomas Pieters bears more fruit as Europe edge Saturday foursomes

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson of Europe react after winning their round during afternoon fourball matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Europe managed to take three points from the afternoon session to cut the gap

Rory McIlroy of Europe reacts on the 15th green after making a putt to win the match during afternoon fourball matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

After a morning session whitewash, Europe came right back into the contest in fourballs

Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan were edged out by Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in a seesaw foursomes clash. Photograph: Getty

Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler come out on top in a seesaw foursomes tie

The first hole marker at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, USA. Photograph: PA

Philip Reid breaks down the opening day foursomes competition at Hazeltine

Team USA vice-captain Tiger Woods talks with Patrick Reed during their nin-hole walk-around at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

American is big fan favourite even if he’s hardly Mr Popular with his peers

Captain Darren Clarke of Europe speaks to the European team on stage during the 2016 Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Darren Clarke and Davis Love III unveiled opening foursomes pairings on eve of play

 Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker  and Rickie Fowler walk together durng practice for the Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photograph:  Tannen Maury/EPA

Pairing with Tiger Woods was an example of poor preparation in past

Europe captain Darren Clarke talks to   Danny Willett  during a practice session ahead of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photograph:  David Davies/PA Wire

Darren Clarke unamused by article calling fans ‘pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants’

Team USA captain Davis Love III: “This team has no history. They are a great team.”  Photograph: Erik  Lesser/EPA

American captain unperturbed by previous bad record in that format

Rory McIlroy: “I relish the opportunity to rally our guys and be one of the leaders and speak up in the team room but definitely lead by example on the course.” Photograph: John David Mercer/USA TODAY

World number three in no doubt about the scale of the challenge against US at Hazeltine

 Rory McIlroy after sinking his birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole, the 16th hole, to win the Tour Championship golf tournament at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: EPA

McIlroy’s personal CV is very nearly complete, with only the Masters left to win

 Rory McIlroy reacts after sinking his birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole, the 16th, to win the Tour Championship and secure the FedEx title at  East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Americans Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell seen off in Atlanta

 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waits to hit a tee shot  during the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 25th, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Title and cash windfall claimed as Ryan Moore beaten at fourth playoff hole

Team USA’s Rickie Fowler in the deep rough at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Photograph: Getty Images

Davis Love assures Darren Clarke there will be no real sleight of hand at play at Hazeltine

Rory McIlroy in action during the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Golfer is sole member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team competing in championship

Niall Kearney has a busy few weeks ahead of him, starting with his Irish PGA defence. Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

He looks to follow Christy O’Connor Snr, Harry Bradshaw and Pádraig Harrington

Leona Maguire helped Ireland to bronze medal success at the World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico. Photo: Inpho

The trio of Leona Maguire, Olivia Mehaffey and Annabel Wilson usurped Denmark

Former Epsom Derby winning jockey Christy Roche helped Cill Dara to a historic Jimmy Bruen Shield win at Carton House. Photo: Pat Cashman

It was a remarkable feat for the nine-hole club with Co Sligo winning the Senior Cup

Athenry team members and supporters celebrate their victory on the 20th green in the semi-final of the AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield at Carton House today. Photograph:  Pat Cashman

Sides show their mettle as they come through tough semi-finals in AIG Irish Senior Cup

Junior Cert takes second place as Smyth seals the deal for Castle in Irish Junior Cup

A view of Carton House. Photo: Inpho

In a tight game, Galway managed to pull off win against Carton House on their home soil

Bubba Watson plays his shot from the fifth hole during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and JB Holmes selected as Davis Love III’s first wildcards

The 9th green and clubhouse at Portmarnock Golf Club. The Dublin venue has been selected to host the 2019 Amateur Championship. Photo: Inpho

The R&A has selected the Dublin club despite recently removing Muirfield from Open rota

Aer Lingus ambassador and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke at St Anne’s Golf Club in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tyrone man delighted to see ‘inspirational’ McIlroy recapture form on PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy: after impressive win in Boston, he will target  FedEx Cup with just BMW and Tour Championship left. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Northern Irish man overcomes six-shot deficit to win the Deutsche Bank by two

Darren Clarke, the European Ryder Cup captain, is pictured during the Ryder Cup Europe Press Conference at Wentworth  in Virginia Water, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

For first time since 1997, there’s only one Irish player on European Ryder Cup team

Europe Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke will make public his wild card selections shortly after 12.30pm today at the Wentworth Club outside London. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer viewed as certainties, third spot is up for grabs

Patrick Reed boosted his Ryder Cup hopes with an opening round of 65 at The Barclays. Photograph: Getty

American takes first round lead at The Barclays with Rory McIlroy at level par

Dublin’s Kevin McManamon scores his side’s second goal of the game against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final in 2013. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Former Dublin forward believes best chance for Kingdom is to counter-attack champions

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