Rory McIlroy  has said he and his  fiancée Erica Stoll are contemplating the prospect of starting a family in the next year or two. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

Irish Open winner monitoring situation ahead of return of golf to the Games in Rio

Matthew Southgate jokes with world number three Rory McIlroy during the third round of the Irish Open at the K Club. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile Eamonn Brady is remembering Seve before his dream Wentworth debut

Rory McIlroy acknowledges the galleries as he makes his way up the 18th fairway on the way to a three-shot victory at The K Club. Photograph: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Knox claimed birdies on 14th and 15th to move one ahead of tournament host

Rory McIlroy  poses with the trophy following his three-shot victory in the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at The K Club  in Straffan, Co Kildare. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

World No 3 closes with eagle on 18th to see off challenge of Russell Knox

A Weather Warning is announced as play is suspended during the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Photo:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Play finally suspended for the day at 8.30pm as McIlroy hits the front at the K Club

World number three Rory McIlroy plays from the rough on the fifth hole during the second round at The K Club.Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

World number three anxious to eliminate ‘soft bogeys’ in business end of tournament

Shane Lowry finished two over after the second round at The K Club - barely making the cut. Photograph: Inpho

Irish Open: Offalyman barely makes the cut, struggling on the lousy side of the draw

Rory McIlroy tees off on the third hole during his opening 67 at The K Club. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

World number three laments Muirfield’s decision on women members

The purse for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is set to rise to €7 million in coming years, making it one of the biggest on the European Tour. Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Dubai Duty Free set to increase investment to make prize fund amongst the biggest on European Tour

Danny Willett shares a joke with Lee Westwood’s caddie Billy Foster  during the first round of the  Dubai Duty Free Irish Open  at  The K Club in Dtraffan. Photograph: Paul Childs/ Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

Masters champion opens with blistering 65 on first day of Irish Open

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt at the Irish Open pro-am in The K Club as AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh, his caddie for the day, look on. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

K Club quest to claim €666,660 winner’s cheque will be tough

Antonia Beggs: “Everyone in Ireland seems to care about golf and everyone says you punch above your weight”

Irish Open director talks about life as a woman on tour

Rory McIlroy at the K Club: “It just hasn’t happened yet, and I’m trying to stay as patient as possible.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

As Irish Open starts, Graeme McDowell says world number three is the best around

Shane Lowry: was the last Irish player to win the Irish Open when he triumphed at Baltray, while still an amateur,  in 2009. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Last home winner of Irish Open says financial penalties don’t impact on players

Danny Willett at the K Club: “I just feel very fortunate that the second time I’ve been in contention in a Major I was able to polish it off.”  Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Englishman’s career has been transformed by his US Masters win at Augusta last month

 Rory McIlroy finished tied 12th at the Players:  “Hopefully this is the week that can kick-start the rest of the season.” Photo:  Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tournament host believes his game is in good shape as he prepares for K Club test

Jason Day of Australia celebrates with son Dash after winning  The Players Championship  at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jason Day takes Tiger talk in his stride; Jeung-hun Wang targets hat-trick

Christy O’Connor snr –  a  legend of Irish golf and golf in general  –  who has died aged 91. Photograph: Getty

Lee Trevino once remarked: ‘Christy flows through the ball like fine wine’

Paul Dunne is back on track after a bout of food poisoning. Photograph: Getty

The rookie pro is back on track after a spell in the hospital rather than on the greens

 Rory McIlroy has three successive top-10 finishes in Sawgrass. Photograph: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

World number three concedes that a more conservative approach is needed

 A general view of the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass  in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Eccentric Swede puts travails behind him with Champions Tour success

Authors Colin Byrne and Karl McCullagh at Royal Dublin yesterday with Irish Times sports editor Malachy Logan for the launch of The Little White Ball. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Informative, concise guide simplifies what is becoming increasingly technical game

 Branden Grace:  “Getting this first victory, I can settle down a bit and forget about just keeping the card.” Photo:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

South African has ticked off a big box by registering breakthrough win in the USA

Cormac Sharvin has decided to take the Challenge Tour route as he sets out on his professional career. Photo: Inpho

The Walker Cup star begins his season at the Turkish Airlines Challenge next month

 Danny Willett celebrates after winning  the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, on Sunday. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Englishman’s career set to shift into fast lane as he moves to ninth in world rankings

 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot on the 11th hole during the third round  at Augusta National. Photo:  David Cannon/Getty Images

World number two played the 4th and 11th holes at Augusta in a total of nine over par

Shane Lowry aced the 16th in his final round at Augusta National. Photograph: AP

Offaly’s finest landed a hole in one on the 16th green to end his US Masters week in style

England’s Danny Willett celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 80th playing of the US Masters at Augusta National. Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images

Englishman triumphs at Augusta as reigning champion collapses on back nine

Bernhard Langer heads into the final round of the US Masters firmly in contention. Photograph: AFP

58-year-old has played his way into Masters contention 21-years since last Green Jacket

Rory McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the 17th green as Jordan Spieth looks on during the third round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

A closing double bogey means Spieth will only take a one shot lead into the final round

Ireland’s Shane Lowry reacts after teeing off on the 12th hole during Round 2 of the 80th Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Getty Images

Offaly man recovers his composure following a difficult bogey-bogey start

Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the 7th hole during Round 2 of the 80th Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

Northern Irishman posts a battling 71 in difficult conditions to get to three under

Shane Lowry plays from the second tee during the first round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy stumbled to a bogey at the last but is still well in contention after a 70

 Rickie Fowler: his opening round of 80 effectively ends his US Masters challenge at Augusta. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Chastening opening 80 at Augusta for a man who was hoping to claim his first Major title

World number one Jason Day with his son Dash during the  Par 3 competition at Augusta yesterday. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Irishman aiming to join elite group who have claimed the career Grand Slam

 Bubba Watson:  has arguably the best game tee-to-green with his monster drives giving him an edge on the field. Photo:  Harry How/Getty Images

Proven winner Bubba Watson can master Augusta again

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 05:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald stand on the second tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Philip Reid: The World number three feels he has unfinished business at Augusta National

 The US Masters  replica trophy, left, along with the  US Open trophy, the Claret Jug (British Open) and the  Wanamaker trophy (USPGA).  Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Mementos of past glory days at Augusta take pride of place in winners’ homes

 Jason Day:  “There’s so many players that can win around here, there’s not just one heavy favourite.” Photo:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Confident aura surrounding world number one since his US PGA triumph last year

 Shane Lowry plays a shot on the 11th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the US Masters tournament at Augusta. Photo:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

With his old putter and a new driver in the bag, Offaly man ready to begin Masters bid

Rory McIlroy takes a break during a practice round with England’s Chris Wood yesterday prior to the start of the US Masters at Augusta National. Photograph: Harry How/Getty/Getty Images)

Irishman produces an ace on the 16th hole as he warms up for his Masters challenge

The sand at Augusta is extremely bright. “I remember going into a bunker and I had to step back out. the sun was shining directly in and it was blinding,” says Paddy Murphy. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

For amateurs lucky enough to play a round, it is usually an unforgettable experience

Rory McIlroy in action during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Holder looking to cut out mental errors as he defends WGC-Dell Matchplay crown

Top scores: Emma Byrne, Susan Whelan, Stephanie Roche, Sonia O’Sullivan and Leona Maguire

To celebrate International Women's Day, we've found an outstanding bunch of Irish women whose influence is felt around the world. (...)

 Adam Scott: “I’d love to just bottle up where my game’s been at the last couple weeks and move forward a month.” Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Australian continues his remarkable recent form with a great effort at WGC

Rory McIlroy during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral Blue Monster Course. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Clash of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the French Open deemed ‘unfortunate’

Rory McIlroy stands dejected during the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral. Photo: Stan Badz/Getty Images

World number three suffered final round collapse after leading by four shots

 Dustin Johnson and Donald Trump pose  after Johnson won last year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral Blue Monster Course in Doral, Florida. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell earns late spot in event after finishing fifth in Honda Classic

Actor James Nesbitt watches the super-bantamweight title unification bout between Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg   at Manchester Arena. Photograph:  Nick Potts/PA Wire

Actor entertains ringside as Eddie Jones circus continues at Twickenham

Rory McIlroy: the world number three will play six weeks out of the next eight in a packed early-season schedule. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington seeks to break in to top 50, while Shane Lowry makes good PGA start

Shane Lowry: finished in a tie for sixth  place at the  Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.  Arizona. Photo:  Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Offalyman has reason to feel confident as he heads for Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Rory McIlroy  plays a bunker shot during a practice round for the 2016 Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club  in Dubai, UAE, yesterday. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Defence of Desert Classic title offers Ulsterman chance to return to winning ways

 Paul Dunne in action during the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, California. Photograph: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Irish man has earned a late call up to the Phoenix Open after 13th place finish

Paul Dunne finished with an impressive birdie-eagle in his second round in San Diego. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Shane Lowry again hit a 71 at the Farmers Insurance Open on seasonal US Tour debut

Leona Maguire playing in Atlanta, Georgia, last November. Leona finished the season as the number one ranked female amateur golfer in the world.  Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

World number one amateur taking success in stride as she prepares for shot at Majors

Jordan Spieth of the United States and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy will renew their friendly rivalry at the Abu Dhabi Championship.  Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty.

Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Darren Clarke also in field at event in United Arab Emirates

 Pádraig Harrington  waves to the gallery  during the  Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club  in Lahaina, Hawaii. Photo:  Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Sixth-place finish in Tournament of Champions a fine start to season for Dubliner

 Paul Dunne: “ I know if my game keeps going in the direction it has been over the last few years that the results will come in time.” Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Greystones golfer with new sponsorhip deal is targeting a return in Joburg Open

 Olivia Mehaffey of team Europe plays a shot during the final day of the Junior Solheim Cup at St Leon-Rot Golf Club  in Sankt Leon-Rot, Germany. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ulster woman has a Curtis Cup on home soil ahead of taking up a scholarship in Arizona

Christy O’Connor Jnr gives the British Senior Open Trophy a kiss after winning the event in 1999 at Royal Portrush, Co Derry. Photograph: William Cherry/Pacemaker

Golf hero and ambassador’s legacy went far beyond his famous Ryder Cup shot

Ireland’s Christy O’Connor Jnr in action on the 2nd tee at the 2000 Open Golf Championship at St Andrews in Scotland. One of the biggest stars of Irish golf, has died. Photo:  Rebecca Naden/PA Wire

Tributes paid to achievements on the course as well as his decency as a person

European captain Tony Jacklin congratulates Christy O’Connor Jnr after his emotional win at the 18th in the 1989 Ryder Cup. Photograph: Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Christy O’Connor Jnr’s finest moments on a golf course - Woodbrook to Royal County Down

Pádraig Harrington: the 44-year-old is playing in the Hyundai Champion of Champions tournament, with just 32 players in the field, for the first time. Photo:  Victor Fraile/Getty Images)

Three-time Major winner and Graeme McDowell in field at Champion of Champions

Thanks to Katie Taylor, things are looking up for Ireland at the Olympics.   Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Our players and pundits see chances for Rio gold, but aren't so optimistic about Euro 2016

Amateur Paul Dunne of Ireland waves to the crowd as he walks off the 1st tee during the final round of the 144th Open Championship. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

The young Greystones native played some incredible golf at St Andrews, while making history

The successful bid  will see a complete reconstruction of Marco Simone golf resort near Romee. Photograph: EPA

Winning bid has guaranteed a prize fund of €7 million for the Italian Open for 11 years

Rory McIlroy launches his ball into the crowd after holing his winning putt on the 18th green during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

European golf’s number one won’t return to competitive action until late January

Rory McIlroy and his girlfriend Erica Stoll pose with the Race to Dubai Trophy after the final round of DP World Tour Championship European Tour. Ali Haider/EPA

`I’m happy that this was my last event of the year. I’d done well and ended the season on a high'

Paul Dunne: “I didn’t see it as a big deal to turn pro, I just saw it as the next thing to do.” Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

The 22-year-old achieved so much in 2015 but is now looking forward to challenges ahead

Shane Lowry is one of the players who can still win the Race to Dubai ahead of Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP

Seven players are still in with a chance of toppling Rory McIlroy at the summit

 Brian O’Driscoll: The former Ireland international was giving what amounted to a postmortem of his old team’s failings and inevitable defeat with some 20 minutes left in the game.  Photograph:  Chalres McQuillan/Getty Images

Brian O’Driscoll and Craig Doyle joked of a ‘horror show’ thanks to the bad weather

Graeme McDowell poses with the trophy after his victory in the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico. Photograph: Alonso Cupul/EPA

Northern Irishman wins Mayakoba Classic following a three-way playoff in Mexico

Shane Lowry is one of only two Irishmen in the limited field in the BMW Masters, along with Paul McGinley who is playing on a sponsor’s invitation. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Ankle injury continues to hamper progress with two competitions left in Race to Dubai

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland in action on the 1st tee during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open last week. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

‘Practice. Just practice. I have been practicing hard over the last three or four months’

Victor Dubuisson: shot a closing 66 for a 22-under-par tally, and a one stroke win over runner-up Jaco Van Zyl  in the Turkish Airlines Open.Photograph: Mark Runnackles/Getty

Three birdies in the last four holes seals a superb victory for the tearful Frenchman

Victor Dubuisson of France plays a bunker shot to the 18th green during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy could only manage a final round 71 finishing tied for sixth in Turkey

Rory McIlroy  in action during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club  in Antalya. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Eagle-birdie run on back nine helps World No 3 to third straight 67

Shane Lowry: the Offaly man is seeking to improve on his fifth place in the Race to Dubai standings at the Turkish Airlines Open. Photograph:  Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry still in the hunt as South African Jaco van Zyl leads

Rory McIlroy  tees off on the 1st during the second round of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Another bogey-free round has the world number three four shots off the lead

Rory McIlroy during the first round of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club in Antalya, Turkey. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

World number three player would like to see the Irish Open played closer to Open

Rory McIlroy shot 67 in the opening round of the Turkish airlines Open. Photograph: Getty

Shane Lowry left to rue late bogeys as South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl takes first round lead

Rory McIlroy in action ahead of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club in  Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The two Irish players will play together for the first two rounds of the Turkish Open

Graeme McDowell’s performances have improved since returning from his sabbatical in the autumn. Photograph: Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Five-week break helps Major winner put some perspective on disappointing season

Jamie Donaldson in action on the 17th hole during the Irish Open at Royal Portrush. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Place on the Open rota a reward for a lot of hard work from different quarters

Darren Clarke  at Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim. “Nobody could foresee that coming about during the bad old days . .”  Photo:  PA Wire

Oldest Major returning to Northern Ireland in 2019 – after a gap of some 68 years

 Shane’Lowry in Croke Park to announce Offaly GAA’s plans to develop a new centre of excellence. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

‘I’m playing in America until the Irish Open which is my first tournament back in Europe’

 Rory McIlroy will host the next three Irish Opens on behalf of his Rory Foundation. Photograph: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Dubai Duty Free extends title sponsorship to 2018 and purse for next year at The K Club tops €4m

 Shane Lowry  stands with his caddie Dermot Byrne during the final round of the British Masters at Woburn Golf Club. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 20-year-old English rookie claimed his first European Tour title at Woburn

Pádraig Harrington: One of eight Irish players in the field for the British Masters at Woburn.

Personal support of Ian Poulter ensures event returns after eight years

Paul Dunne drives off the 16th tee during final round of the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course on in St Andrews, Scotland. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Rookie professional earns €47,530 to join Lowry and McDowell in a tie for 19th place

Michael McGeady of Ireland has moved into a tie for fifth in Tour qualifying in France. Photograph: Getty

Derry man three shots off the lead in France, with Gavin Moynihan also on the move

The BBC will not be covering the live action of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon in 2016. Photograph: Getty Images

Following next year’s tournament Sky Sports had won the rights for live coverage

Ireland Walker Cup players Jack Hume and  Paul Dunne have both qualified for the second stage of European Tour Qualifying School. Photograph:  Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Walker Cup stars among qualifiers at Ebreichsdorf in Austria

Irish pair lying joint-seventh in Austria as they seek a top-20 spot

Tommy Quigley (centre) with his two sons Steve and Shane celebrate Thurles’ win in the Pierce Purcell Shield at the AIG Irish Cups and Shields Finals. Photograph: Pat Cashman

Colin Fairweather secures winning point for Belfast club in their win over Limerick

Royal Dublin finally reclaimed the Barton Shield at Carton House after a 47-year drought. Photo:  Pat Cashman

Mick Chambers’ side cruised past Galway to win the shield for the first time in 47 years

Jeff Hopkins of Royal Dublin lining up his putt on the 13th green during the AIG Barton Shield semi-final at Carton House. Photograph: Pat Cashman

Joe Lyons’s players will need all their resolve to defeat ‘The Dream Team’

The AIG Irish Cups and Shields finals take place over the O’Meara Course at Carton House. Photograph: Inpho

Royal Dublin go head-to-head with defending champions Muskerry in semi-final

 Gary Hurley in Walker Cup action: double-bogey on the 12th and back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th brought him back to earth at The Roxburghe in Scotland. Photograph: Getty Images

Waterford player’s 71 left him in tied-13th after the first round of the four-day qualifier, as he seeks to move on to stage two i(...)

Captain Nigel Edwards gives Paul Dunne a hug on the 18th as Britain and Ireland win the Walker Cup. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Walker Cup victory secured as Greystones golfer finds his form in Sunday’s matches

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