The Irishmen who graced the Augusta greens

Augusta can hardly be called a happy hunting ground for golfers from this island, given that no Irishman has ever pulled on the famous green jacket.

That said, Ireland has been represented in Georgia many times and there has been an Irishman competing in every Masters since 1998. Here are the 14 Irish golfers who have graced Augusta’s fairways in the quest for a green jacket.

Joe Carr

It is fitting that one of the country’s greatest golfing legends, Joe Carr, became the first Irishman to compete at the Masters. 

Invited by Bobby Jones in 1967, Carr played his opening two rounds with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus. 

It was the custom at Augusta to pair the reigning Masters champion with the British Amateur Champion, and while Nicklaus missed the cut, JB played the final two rounds to finish 55th. He returned in 1968, this time to be paired with Arnold Palmer. 

Palmer missed the cut while JB went on to finish 52nd. In both years he endured difficult weekends with a 78 being his best score. On his final visit, in 1969, JB played with Sam Snead. 

They both missed the cut. He was then 47 years of age. Carr was also the first Irishman to be made a member of Augusta National.

Christy O’Connor Junior

In 1977, 29-year old Christy O’Connor Jr was the second Irishman and the first Irish professional to be invited to the Masters. 

He missed the cut by eight shots after rounds of 78 and 79. Interestingly, Christy O’Connor Snr was invited 20 times, but declined every invitation for financial reasons.

Garth McGimpsey

Following his Amateur Championship victory in 1985, McGimpsey was invited to play at Augusta in 1986. 

He played with Arnold Palmer in the first round, and his 78 beat Arnie’s 80. 

A second round of 78 meant he missed the cut, as did Palmer. He returned in 1987 and his scores of 77 and 79 saw him miss the cut by five shots.

Ronan Rafferty

Rafferty’s invitation to Augusta came on the back of winning the European Order of Merit in 1989. 

He was the first Irishman since Carr to make the cut and, after rounds of 72, 74 and 69, his score of one-under put him in a tie for 11th after three rounds, behind Raymond Floyd.

Unfortunately, he started his final round with his only double bogey of the week, which stalled any potential charge. 

He finished with a 73 for an impressive T14, alongside Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Scott Hoch, Larry Mize, and Craig Stadler. 

He made 14 birdies over the four days.

In 1991, on his second and final visit to Augusta, Rafferty missed the cut with rounds of 73 and 76, but he left with a pair of crystal goblets for his Friday eagle on the 15th hole.

David Feherty

Feherty may now call himself an American, but back in 1992 he was playing in his only Masters as a Northern Irishman. 

On arrival, he famously toured the course in a buggy rather than practice, as he was overcome with the beauty of the course.

“I didn’t want to be distracted by all this beauty and variety while I was playing,” he said. 

I am glad I took that tour. Going along the 7th I half-expected a Salvador Dali clock to come tumbling from a tree.

Feherty finished in a tie for 52nd. He started with a 73 and a 72 to make the cut and then shot a 77 on the Saturday. He turned things around on the final day with an impressive 70, which included seven birdies.

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke made his debut at Augusta in 1998, at 29 years of age. 

He made the cut and then delivered two excellent rounds of 67 and 69 to finish in a tie for eighth. His opening round of 76 included a triple bogey on the 17th, while his third round delivered two eagles on the par-five 13th and 15th. He finished alongside Colin Montgomerie, Justin Leonard, and Tiger Woods. 

Despite 14 appearances in all, 1998 was his best finish, and he made the cut nine times.

On several occasions he came to Augusta on the back of good form (2002 to 2004, most noticeably), but never managed to carry that through. 

In 2003, hot on the heels of a sixth-place finish at the Players, he fired an opening round of 66. Due to rain, the first round took place on Friday, and Clarke’s 66 gave him a three-shot lead. 

Only seven players broke par.

Round two started on Friday afternoon and Clarke couldn’t maintain his momentum: a 76 left him on two-under, but still in second place behind Mike Weir. 

A disastrous 78 on Saturday, including a nine on the par-five 13th, saw him tumble him out of contention. 

That 66 was his best round at Augusta; his worst came in 2016, in his final appearance, when an 84 in his second round included five bogeys, four double bogeys and a lone birdie.

Pádraig Harrington

Pádraig’s history at the Masters began in 2000. He has competed 15 times and made the cut on nine occasions. 

On his 2000 debut, he was tied 19th and two years later he was tied fifth. He has finished in the top 10 four times. 

In 2007, when he won his first major, he was tied for seventh with Stuart Appleby. The following year he finished in a tie for fifth, for the second time, helped by a 69 in the third round. These are his best three results.

His Masters’ performance has an extra dimension, however: Pádraig won the par-3 contest on three occasions: 2003 (tie), 2004 and 2012 (tie).

And, in 2004, he became the first Irishman to score a hole-in-one at the Masters when he aced the 16th.

At the 2009 Masters, he had the chance to join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players to win three consecutive Majors. 

An opening 69 gave him a good start and an eagle on the 13th in round two reignited his challenge but, two holes later, the rules dampened his progress. He addressed his birdie putt on the 15th and then backed away because of a gust of wind. 

His ball moved and he was deemed to have caused it to move and so was penalised one stroke. He was on a score of three-under at the time and never improved on that, finishing on level-par for a tie of 35th.

In April 2012, in the third round, he was five-under for his last six holes and got to within three of the lead. On Sunday, he shot a level-par 72 to finish tied for eighth.

It could have been so much better as he missed a handful of short putts, including one on 18, which he double bogeyed. 

It was a final indignity in what was to be his last Sunday appearance at Augusta. Two further cuts came in 2013 and 2015.

Paul McGinley

McGinley’s debut came in 2002, with JP Fitzgerald on the bag. 

He was in solid form, recording consistent rounds of 72, 74, 71, 71, to finish on level-par and a tie for 18th. 

He qualified again in 2006, but missed the cut after rounds of 78, which included a double bogey on the opening hole, and 77.

Michael Hoey

As the amateur champion, Hoey qualified to play at Augusta in 2002. 

Like many amateurs before and after him, he missed the cut — but his scores of 75 and 73 meant the 23-year-old missed out by just one shot.

Brian McElhinney

The Donegal man and amateur champion arrived at Augusta in 2003, for his only Masters’ appearance. Scores of 80 (he was nine-over after 12 holes) and 75 were never going to see him make the weekend, but he had the company of Michael Campbell and Tom Watson for his Thursday and Friday rounds.

Graeme McDowell

GMac’s visits to Augusta have not been particularly successful. Of his nine appearances between 2005 and 2016, including eight consecutive appearances, he only made the cut three times. 

His best finish was in 2012, when he finished T12, thanks to a closing round of 68. 

He was six-under for his last 11 holes. His only other strong finish came in 2009, when he finished in a tie for 17th, just three places ahead of debutant Rory McIlroy. 

Over his four rounds he was never over par, finishing on four-under. In 2013, he missed the cut by one stroke when he bogeyed the last hole.

Rory McIlroy

Rory arrived at Augusta in 2009, to begin his quest for the green jacket. 

He finished 20th that year, but was almost disqualified at the end of his second round. He had moved into contention with an eagle three on the 13th, but then four-putted the 16th for a double bogey. 

On the 18th he made triple bogey, requiring two shots to escape a bunker. After the first attempt, McIlroy appeared to kick the sand which, according to the rules, was testing the surface of the hazard. 

The tournament’s rules committee reviewed the footage and, ultimately, decided that there was no infraction. McIlroy made the weekend, but only just. In his final round McIlroy made a charge, shooting six birdies in his final 10 holes.

Perhaps the brilliance and desperation that characterised Rory’s performance that first year has been reflected in his agonising Augusta endeavours since. 

His fourth-place finish in 2015, behind Jordan Spieth, remains the highest-placed finish by any golfer from this island.

Alan Dunbar

Alan Dunbar qualified to play in the US Masters as an amateur in 2013, after winning the previous year’s Amateur Championship. 

He failed to make the weekend after recording an 83 in the opening round, which included a triple bogey eight on the 2nd hole.

Shane Lowry

Shane is the latest Irishman to appear at Augusta, making his debut in 2015. 

He missed the cut that year after rounds of 75 and 72, but returned much the wiser in 2016, making the cut and finishing in a tie for 39th, after rounds of 68, 76, 79 and 75. 

His 68 on a blustery Thursday included four birdies in his opening six holes, and while he missed several birdie chances on the homeward run he found himself just two shots behind frontrunner, Jordan Spieth. 

That, unfortunately, was as good as it got… until Sunday, when he recorded a hole-in-one at the 16th. It turned out to be the 16th hole-in-one on that hole in Masters history. 

His front-nine score of 41 had long since taken him out of the running, however. As 2016 was only his second appearance, some golf pundits got his name wrong. 

He had to endure an ESPN presenter calling him Shane McLowry on Thursday, before the Golf Channel compounded the issue by referring to him as Stephen Lowry on Friday. 

He joked about it afterwards, tweeting: “So my new name is Steve McLowry.”

In 2017, rounds of 72 and 79 meant he was well off the cut mark. This will be his fourth visit to the hallowed Augusta.

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