Ian Poulter: “I play some of my best golf when I’m pretty confident. And I’m excited for this weekend. I can’t wait.” Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

Englishman has regained his confidence following a difficult last 12 months

 Rules officials help remove a signpost to allow Rory McIlroy  play a shot on the 15th hole during the second round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty

Proven Major winner leads by two from Kuchar as McIlroy storms back into contention

 Rory McIlroy  chips onto the 11th green during the second round of the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale. Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

McIlroy plays the conditions beautifully at Birkdale to finish on one-under

Philip Reid with the golf ball he was hit by, signed by Dustin Johnson.

DJ did say sorry, and he did sign the golf ball. So, thanks for that. I’ll find a frame for it

 Rory McIlroy plays from the rough on the eighth hole during the first round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, Southport. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

“JP gave me a talking to. Reminded me . . . ‘You’re Rory McIlroy, what are you doing?’"

 Shane Lowry: “I just have to keep plugging away because this game is very difficult at times.” Photograph:  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Double bogey on 16th costly for Offaly man who has to settle for a two-over 72

Padraig Harrington acknowledges the crowd after his first round at Royal Birkdale. Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Harrington, Lowry and Clarke all finish over par while McIlroy makes poor start

Rory McIlroy during a practice round at Royal Birkdale ahead of the 146th Open Championship. Photo: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images

Shane Lowry is the only one of the quartet not to have already lifted the claret jug

Jason Day of Australia hits a bunker shot during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Australian has faced a tumultuous time on and off course but is coming out the other side

Rory McIlroy is hopeful of turning his fortunes around at Royal Birkdale this week. Photograph: Gerry Penny/EPA

2014 British Open winner feels odds of 20/1 for him to win this week are very generous

R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers has called the BBC’s coverage of the British Open ‘tired’ and ‘outdated.’ Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

R&A’s stance on ‘growing game’ doesn’t sit easily with Majors stuck behind a paywall

Padraig Harrington and  Shane Lowry  practising  at Royal Birkdale.  Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Lowry looking forward to playing seven weeks in a row and making FedEx playoffs

Spaniard John Rahm  during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on Tuesday at Southport, England. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Irish Open winner gets into the zone by listening to ‘motivational’ rapper before rounds

Pádraig Harrington: 'I’ve come in in better form. I’m playing decent golf and contending, trying to contend.' Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Fourth-place finish in Scottish Open shows former champion’s game is in good shape

Rory McIlroy in action during a practice round for the the 146th Open Championship at  Royal Birkdale, Southport. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Major success at the US Masters has instilled further confidence in the popular Spaniard

 Pádraig Harrington  plays a shot from the rough on the sixth hole  at Royal Birkdale. Photograph:  Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Of all the courses on the British Open rota, this one punishes inaccuracy off the tee

Jon Rahm on the 17th tee during the third round of the 2017 Irish Open. Photograph: Inpho

Portstewart is likely to be host again whenever the tournament returns to the North

 Pádraig Harrington in action during the  Irish Open at Portstewart. “I am very comfortable where I am at with my game of golf and general attitude to it.” Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Time is also running out for Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell to secure Open spots

Jon Rahm celebrates with the trophy after his victory at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho

T-Bone steaks one of the secrets in winning title also held by Garcia, Seve and Olazabal

Spain’s Jon Rahm  embraces his caddie on the 18th green after his victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open  at Portstewart Golf Club. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Gavin Moynihan makes the most of late invite with closing 64 to finish as top Irish player

Spain’s Jon Rahm  hits from the rough on the 17th hole during the third round of the   Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Young Spanish sensation in contention to join the Spanish roll of honour at the Irish Open

Fans watching Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell on the 12th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The Spaniard is one off the lead with a number of Irish players also in contention

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waits on the 18th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

After missing cut at Portstewart, McIlroy still confident in his game and practice regime

Riory McIlroy’s Irish Open title defence looks over after he shot a second round 73. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Title defence is all but over with Paul Dunne leading the Irish charge at Portstewart

 Rory McIlroy lines up a putt during the first round  of the Irish Open  at  Portstewart, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Reuters

After a round of 72, the world number four said: “I felt like I was swimming against the stream”

Rory McIlroy plays his second shot to the 6th hole during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne, Graeme McDowell and Gavin Moynihan head Irish challenge at Portstewart

Graeme McDowell carded an opening round 67 at the Irish Open. Photograph: Peter Morrison/Inpho

Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington also enjoy good opening rounds at Portstewart

Rory McIlroy on the 1st at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The Northern Irishman said: “The next 10 years is where I really want to start to make hay and win a lot of tournaments and be in contention in a lot of majors.” Photograph: Justin Kernoghan/Photopress Belfast

Irish Open favourite would ‘love’ to get on sustained run like US golfer did in his prime

Paul Dunne: “My card’s been wrapped up for a while, the big goal would be to try and win something but I’m going to pick up as much money as I can on the way.”

With his card already secure, Dunne can afford to go take risks in Irish Open

Rory McIlroy putts on the 1st during the Pro-Am of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

‘I must have wrote that tweet and deleted it about five times before I actually sent it’

Rickie Fowler was the last big name American to compete in the Irish Open at Royal County Down in 2015. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho

None of the big name PGA Tour players are at Portstewart, despite the impending Open

Players make their way up the second fairway during practice on Wednesday at Porstewart. Photograph: Peter Morrison/Presseye/Inpho

Course will demand strategy and creative shot-making – a learning curve for many awaits

Padraig Harrington: “I’m putting well, the long game [is good].” Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dubliner sees upcoming Irish Open as the springboard to better things this season

Captain of Seapoint Peter Higgins. Photograph: Arthur Allison

Shandon Park, Donabate and Greenore also earn place in August’s K Club final

 Rory McIlroy with The Irish Open trophyat the K Club last year. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Moving tournament to Portrush in 2012, and Rory McIlroy’s involvement pivotal in saving event

Rory McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the 16th green during the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For Rory McIlroy, average putting weeks often lead to titles due to long game excellence

Rory McIlroy: finished tied-17th in the Travelers Championship. Photograph:  Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

World number four already looked happier with new putter in Travelers Championship

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up a putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

He was joined on six under par at Travelers Championship by Pádraig Harrington

Tim Rice: with the Irish PGA Championship trophy at Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort.

Limerickman posts a final round 70 to hold off challenge of Colm Moriarty

Tiger Woods tees off at Pebble Beach at the 2000 US Open. Photograph: Getty Images

Out of Bounds: Absence of Phil Mickelson and Woods didn’t help television figures

 Shane Lowry: “If it hadn’t been for the Irish Open, God knows where I’d be now.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Next month’s event at Portstewart is for professionals only

Brooks Koepka  celebrates with the trophy after winning the 117th US Open Championship at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisconsin. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Former Irish Boys’ Champion has been working with US Open winner since 2013

Brooks Koepka of the United States reacts after winning the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

American takes home maiden major title after holding off Brian Harman down the stretch

 The 18th pin flag, with a representation of Arnold Palmer’s winning moment from the 1960 US Open, is diaplayed during the final round of the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

With greater depth in Majors another first-time champion is likely

Leona Maguire of Slieve Russell hits an approach shot during the final day of the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship at Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club. Photograph:  Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images

British Amateur win the latest success for the dominant player in women’s amateur golf

Brian Harman leads heading into the final day of the US Open at Erin Hills. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty

Top 13 players separated by five shots as Justin Thomas lights up Erin Hills with 63

Shane Lowry signed for a third round 73 at Erin Hills. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

Sole Irish player to make the US Open cut struggles on the greens in third round

Shane Lowry tries to punch out of the sand onto the ninth green during the second round of the US Open at Erin Hills. Photo: Michael Madrid/USA Today

The Offaly golfer fought hard to make the cut on Friday and now looks to make a birdie run

Paul Casey hits from the fifth tee during the second round of the US Open at Erin Hills. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

US Open: Rory McIlroy, Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell missed the cut on Friday

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

World number two won’t play the weekend for second consecutive year at the US Open

Sergio Garcia of Spain and caddie Glen Murray wait for the green to clear at the 18th during the first round of the US Open at Erin Hills. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Meanwhile, E. Coli scare at Erin Hills, by the numbers, quote of the day and more

Shane Lowry of Ireland pulls a club from his bag as he prepares to play a shot from the 16th tee during the first round of the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

‘I am very happy with one-under even though the scoring (generally) is quite good’

McIlroy found a lot of the long fescue grass off the Erin Hills fairways. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

World number two struggled off the tee while Shane Lowry battled to a solid 71

Graeme Mcdowell reacts to a shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

Meanwhile, McDowell rues poor prep, by the numbers, quote of the day and more

Rickie Fowler waves to the gallery after his birdie putt on the first green during the first round of the US Open  at Erin Hills. Photograph:  Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY

Seven under par 65 gives the American the ideal fillip as he bids for a first Major title

Paul Dunne  plays his shot from the fifth tee during the first round of the 2017 UA Open at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisconsin. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty

Greystones man faces a struggle to make the cut following a three-over par first round 75

The Erin Hills clubhouse. Photograph: Streeter Lecka/Getty

Philip Reid looks at where dreams could be realised or dashed in Wisconsin this week

Erin Hills: What we know is that the greens aren’t as firm, and are more receptive, than you usually get at a US Open. And the fairways are wider. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Wider fairways and more receptive greens will facilitate a more aggressive game plan

 Holy Hill, a Catholic basilica, overlooks Erin Hills, venue for the 2017 US Open. Photograph: John Mummert/NYT

A basilica sits above Erin Hills where ability to drive long and true is likely to be key

Kevin Na: posted a social media video of how hard it is to emerge from the tall fescue grass at Erin Hills. Photograph: Michael Madrid/USA Today

American unimpressed with difficulty of emerging from punitive rough at Erin Hills

Rory McIlroy: “It’s a US Open. It’s supposed to be a tough test. If guys can’t put it into play within a 50-yards zone I don’t think they’ve got anything to complain about.” Photograph:  Michael Madrid/USA Today

Driver and new putter key to Irishman’s chances of claiming a fifth career Major

 Rory McIlroy in action  during a practice round prior to the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisconsin. Photograph:  Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Irishman says rib injury not a factor as he plays his third practice round in three days

 Paul Dunne: “If I am driving it like I am and putting it like I am come the tournament, I would be confident I can do well.” Photograph:  Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Greystones man confident his game is in good shape ahead of first US Open test

General view of the  9th green, a 165-yard par three, and in the background the  18th green, a 663-yard par five, at Erin Hills  in Erin, Wisconsin.  Photo:  Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After recent rules and course controversies, USGA want to wipe slate clean at Erin Hills

Ireland’s Shane Lowry looks dejected at the end of his final round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

A winless year so far leaves no room for excuses but there is room for improvement

Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick) holes his final putt on the 18th green in the 2017 East of Ireland Championship. Photograph: Pat Cashman

The 17-year-old overcame a six stroke overnight deficit with a final round of 66

Rory McIlroy: took a break from competitive action due to a rib injury. Photograph: David Goldman/AP

Rib injury won’t deter world number two from competing in the Major

A view from the first tee towards the green on the 427 yards par 4, eighth hole ‘Portnahapple’ on the Strand Course at Portstewart. Photograph: Inpho

Given a global audience, like Royal County Down, it won’t disappoint in impressing the world

 Shane Lowry: can focus on the positives ahead of the busiest time of the season.  Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty

Plenty of big targets still there for Offaly man after his top-ten finish in lucrative BMW PGA

Paul Dunne became the fourth Irish player to qualify for the US Open on Monday. Photograph: Getty Images

Irish golfer takes one of 15 places available at the qualifying tournament in London

Tiger Woods was booked into the Palm Beach County jail on Monday morning after he was arrested by police in Jupiter, Florida. Photograph: Getty Images

Will the salient image of a sporting great, in our minds, now be of that police mugshot?

Shane Lowry reacts to his drive on the 15th hole during day four of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Swede outmanoeuvres all to snatch PGA championship with majestic performance

  Shane Lowry looks dejected at the end of his final round at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

Irish golfer misses out in €1 million payday at BMW PGA Championships

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

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