McIlroy continues Irish success in majors

Just over five years ago, no Irish golfer had won a major since Fred Daly in the 1947 Open, but how times have changed.

Starting at the 2007 Open, Padraig Harrington won three out of six, and then Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy - both from north of the border, like Daly – won back-to-back US Opens.

Darren Clarke followed that up by triumphing at the 2011 Open and McIlroy secured his second major with the 2012 USPGA crown at Kiawah Island.

Here we look back at the major triumphs:

2007 OPEN – Harrington was six behind Sergio Garcia with a round to go at Carnoustie and, after charging into contention, double bogeyed the last. Garcia, though, bogeyed it to fall into a tie and the Dubliner birdied the first extra hole, then held on. “I never let myself think I had just thrown away the Open on the 18th,” he said afterwards.

2008 OPEN – Harrington, doubtful beforehand because of a wrist injury, played a brilliant back nine highlighted by an eagle on the 17th for a four-shot win over Ian Poulter at Birkdale. He became the first European to retain the title since James Braid in 1906. “It’s a lot shinier than I remember,” he said of the trophy he had handed back at the start of the week.

2008 USPGA – Garcia and Harrington went head to head again at Oakland Hills and the result was the same as Europe’s 78-year wait for a winner of the title was ended. Harrington birdied the 17th – Garcia was closer and then missed – and a 15-footer at the last secured victory. “I’m actually disappointed I’m seven months away from the next major,” Harrington said.

2010 US OPEN – Tony Jacklin was the last European winner of the trophy in 1970 and with Dustin Johnson three clear at Pebble Beach after 54 holes it did not look good again. But Johnson had an early triple and double bogey, and eventually crashed to an 82 while world number 37 McDowell held his nerve. “Careers are defined by major championships and my career’s off and running today,” he said.

2011 US OPEN – Two months after a closing 80 when four ahead at the Masters, McIlroy started at Congressional with a 65. From three in front he went six clear with a 66, then eight ahead with a 68, setting 36-hole and 54-hole records. No nightmare this time, though, as an eight-shot victory ensured the trophy headed straight back to Northern Ireland. “At Augusta it was all a bit new to me. I have a clear mind now,” said the 22-year-old.

2011 OPEN – Northern Ireland’s Clarke became the oldest winner of the Open Championship since 1967 with a brilliant final round at Royal St George’s. Clarke, then 42, took a one-shot lead into the last day and repelled the challenge of American pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson with a closing 70 in tough conditions. His five-under-par total left him three clear of Mickelson. “It’s just incredible,” he said. “We’re blessed to have two fantastic players in Rory and G-Mac and I’m just the old man coming along behind them.”

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