The 2017 Majors had it all - except for an Irish winner

Out of Bounds: 12 Major championships have come and gone since the last win in 2014

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry have had frustrating seasons. Photograph: Getty Images

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry have had frustrating seasons. Photograph: Getty Images

 

This was the year in the Majors that had it all, except for one thing . . . . an Irish winner, which in one way only demonstrates how spoilt we were during the golden generation when there were nine Irish wins on the biggest of stages in an eight year period.

Now, though, a drought which once extended to 60 years between Fred Daly’s win in the British Open of 1947 to Pádraig Harrington’s breakthrough victory in the Open at Carnoustie in 2007 has resurfaced.

Okay, it is only three years dating back to Rory McIlroy’s 2014 US PGA win in the gathering darkness of Valhalla. But 12 Major championships have come and gone since then, and that seems like a long time ago.

McIlroy remains the most likely Irish player to contend in the Majors each and every year

Unlike the winless years of 2015 and 2016 - when Paul Dunne contended at the Open at St Andrews (2015) and Shane Lowry, both at Chambers Bay (2015) and more specifically at Oakmont (2016) where he led going into the final round, eyed up the US Open trophy and entertained realistic chances of success - there was never any real prospect of an Irish winner in 2017, certainly not when the numbers were added up.

That Rory McIlroy - in an injury-ridden, disrupted season - still was the one who managed to fashion the best finishes of all the Irish players says it all really.

McIlroy was tied-seventh at the Masters and tied-fourth at the British Open. But there was a distance between him and the champion in each event: in Augusta, he was six strokes adrift of Sergio Garcia and, at Royal Birkdale, he was seven shots behind Jordan Spieth.

Going forward, McIlroy remains the most likely Irish player to contend in the Majors each and every year, although getting fully fit and injury-free - having suffered injury setbacks in both 2015 and 2017 - would seem to be a challenge to be addressed if he is to fulfil his fullest potential.

Four Majors at the age of 28 - as McIlroy has - is something most players can only dream about; and provides proof positive of his ability and his status already as one of the greatest European players. Nick Faldo, with six, is the leading European in terms of annexing modern Majors and, behind him, Seve Ballesteros, with five.

So, McIlroy - in the modern era since the Grand Slam encompassed the Masters, US Open, British Open and US PGA - within touching distance of overhauling both Seve and Faldo: one to match the Spaniard; two to match the Englishman, and three to have the place as the greatest European player as his own.

One other thing, too. McIlroy is only one championship - the Masters - away from completing the career Grand Slam. Which is why, listening to him speak at Quail Hollow Golf Club on Sunday evening, he returned a number of times to the task of getting fit and well for that particular assignment at Augusta next year.

It is all of eight months away, but Augusta is very much already on his mind; which is why he really has to listen to what the medical people tell him in the coming days in reviewing the prognosis on a rib injury which has now extended to his upper back and left arm.

As far as future Irish winners of the Majors, McIlroy - on the evidence of this albeit injury-disrupted campaign - remains the one most likely.

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