Four Irish players will feature in the year’s second Major to be played at the Congressional Country Club, just outside of Washington.
Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and newcomer Shane Lowry heads a strong looking contingent to the prestigious course which last hosted an US open in 1997 (Ernie Els won that year).
Current World number seven, McDowell is the reigning champion having won at Pebble Beach last year. This was the 31 year-olds biggest achievement so far in his nine years as a professional golfer and capped an incredible year which ended with him being crowned the 2010 European Tour Golfer of the year.
Despite missing the cut at the Master, the first European winner of America’s national championship for 40 years and Ireland’s first US Open champion, will surely be focused on the capturing the top prize once more this week.
McDowell has yet to win this year and has failed to make the cut in three of the nine tournaments he has played this year. His best finish this year has been a third at Hyundai Tournament of Champions although he was part of the Lake Nona team that won the 2011 Tavistock Cup.
In keeping with US Open tradition, McDowell will begin his defence alongside British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and top amateur Peter Uihlein.
Meanwhile 22 year-old Rory McIlroy has elevated up the golfing ranks to world number eight in just his fourth year playing professionally. Rory is yet to record a victory at a Major, going incredibly close to winning the 2010 US Masters.
He headed into the final round with a four-shot lead over the rest of the field, however he crumbled on the last day to plummet down the leader board and eventually end up finishing in 15th place.
McIlroy will be eager to make amends for that Master’s trip and like McDowell is yet to win this year, his best finish being a 3rd at the Maybank Malayasian Open.
McIlroy is paired with American’s Dustin Johnson and former winner Phil Mickelson in an intriguing threesome. McIlroy will be able to converse on last round miseries with Johnson who like the Northern Irish man lost out in dramatic fashion at the 2010 US PGA Championship.
Ireland’s outside hope is Padraig Harrington, who has recently dropped out of the world’s top 50 for the first time since March 2000. Harrington would have been hoping for a strong showing in last weekend’s St. Jude Classic in Memphis to give him some momentum and confidence going into this week. That tournament ended in bitter disappointment however, as Harrington could only manage to finish in a tie for 52nd place.
Harrington has missed the cut in four of his last five majors, a statistic that will be hard for him to swallow. His form has been patchy the last couple of years but with three majors under his belt write him off at your peril.
Padraig Harrington will play alongside Argentinean Angel Cabrera and American Stewart Cink.
The final member of the Irish quartet is former Irish Open champion Shane Lowry, who will make his US Open debut this Thursday.
The in-form Offaly man qualified for the Major at Walton Heath on May 30th when he comfortably made it through after finishing on eight under. (Former Ryder cup captain Colin Montgomerie was among those who missed the cut.)
With no pressure or expectations on his shoulders, Lowry expects to make a solid debut. “I can’t wait to get out there. From watching US Opens in previous years, level par is always a good score.“If I can just go out, stay patient and enjoy myself, I should be okay.”
Lowry is matched with Korea’s Daehyun Kim and American Chez Reavie.
The past four Major winners have all been won by a first-time winner while the last 10 Majors have all had different winners. The days when Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh dominated every tournament on the circuit have changed.
World number two Lee Westwood is the current favourite for the title at 11/1 with World number one Luke Donald second favourite on 14/1, neither Englishman has ever won a major tournament and will be hoping to end their duck.
Harrington’s playing partner Mickelson is joint second favourite with Donald with Steve Stricker the next highest placed American on 22/1 according to PaddyPower.com
Rory McIlroy is a decent shout at 18/1 and with Bubba Watson a good outside bet at 40/1 alongside McIlroy’s compatriot McDowell. Masters winner Charl Schwartzel is a 50/1 bet for the Trophy.
The 2011 US Open promises to be one of the most open fields in the US Open and if the Irish players can play to the top of their game, and receive the necessary rub of the green at the right times, there is no doubt we could see the crown coming back across the pond for the second year in a row.
Graeme Mcdowell to be top Irish player @ 5/2
Sportsnewsireland.com will have live score updates on all GAA Championship matches over the summer.