Big rankings mover Lowry sets sights on top 50 spot

Shane Lowry has made the most spectacular rise up golf’s rankings table over 2012.

Big rankings mover Lowry sets sights on top 50 spot

However, the 25-year-old Offalyman finished two agonising spots outside the leading 50 who automatically qualify for invitations into next year’s Masters at Augusta and US Open at Merion.

Lowry began the year in 119th but a magnificent finish to the campaign, highlighted by a spectacular victory in the Portugal Masters, lifted him to 52nd at the finish.

In fact, Lowry was more than a little unlucky not to have done better as illness caused him to withdraw from the season-ending Dubai World Championship, where a top 10 finish would have put him inside the top 50 and on his way to Augusta. He can still qualify, as the leading 50 on April 1 who haven’t already earned a spot are invited. Lowry can take a big step towards achieving that goal in February as he now qualifies for the points-laden WGC-Accenture World Championship in Arizona.

Rory McIlroy began the year in third spot but a superb campaign, during which his eight-shot triumph in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island shines out like a beacon, gave him top spot. He holds the biggest lead over the second-placed golfer, Luke Donald, since 2009 when Tiger Woods enjoyed an even greater advantage over Phil Mickelson.

Pádraig Harrington will take comfort from the fact that top 10 finishes in the Masters and US Open helped improve his ranking from 85th to 59th, but he won’t be happy until he gets back into the top 50 at the very least. His place in all the Major championships is, of course, secured by his status as a three-time Major winner.

Irish world rankings at the end of 2012 (start of year in brackets).

1 Rory McIlroy (3)

15 Graeme McDowell (13)

52 Shane Lowry (119)

59 Pádraig Harrington (85)

138 Michael Hoey (102)

145 Darren Clarke (48)

155 Peter Lawrie (157).

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