As the ‘Year of the Dog’ draws to a close let’s look back on the Irish that did most of the barking and those who also went through 2018 lacking any real bite.
Rory McIlroy was back at the top of the winner’s-only dining table, joined by Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan. After going without a victory in 2017, McIlroy captured pro career win No. 23 and PGA Tour triumph No.14 in shooting a closing round 64 to capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando while Dunne and Moynihan combined to win the European Tour’s Golf Sixes in England.
For the support cast of Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell it was a very disappointing 2018 season however one real highlight was Seamus Power securing his PGA Tour card despite a nail-biting August Sunday afternoon glued to the ‘box’.
And in this review process I have graded Ireland’s top players on their 2018 season and also looking at their best finish, their lowest and also a highest score.
Lowest round – 62 – Day 1, BMW Championship.
Highest round – 80 – Day 1, US Open.
Lowest round – 65, Day 3, Career Builder, Day 1, FedEx St. Jude Classic, Day 3, John Deere Classic.
Highest round – 78, Day 3, AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Shane Lowry was all smiles at the start of 2018 in moving his young family into rented premises for six months within the Mirasol Resort just off PGA Blvd in Palm Beach, Florida.
It was Lowry’s goal, in the final year of a 3-year exemption in capturing the 2015 WGC – Bridgestone Invitational, to use a ‘base’ in the States to set in place the foundations of a full-time move to the US.
He had to wait eight events before a first top-20 at the Houston Open and with Lowry continuing to struggle leading to missing the cut in both the US Open and The Open.
Missing the cut at Carnoustie led Lowry to split after nine-years with caddy, Dermot Byrne.
Lowry’s PGA playing rights now were very much in danger when his younger brother, Allan accepted the role of caddy at the following week’s Canadian Open.
The Lowry’s combined to secure a then best finish of the year in sharing 12th place and they backed that up with a 15th at the Barracuda Championship and then another 12th at the PGA Championship.
Lowry went to Greensboro lying 139th on the PGA money list needing to finish top-10 at worst to hold onto his ‘card’ but only having to swallow the bitter disappointment of missing the cut and now be staring at the uncertainty of when or where he will receive an invitation to tee-up in the States.
Though there was joy back in Europe with Lowry sixth at the Portugal Masters and then storming to second in the rain-shortened Andalucia Valderrama Masters.
Lowry’s end-of-year 75th World Ranking qualifies him for the PGA Championship but he will be desperate also to be exempt for the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.
Lowest round – 64, Day 2, Portugal Masters.
Highest round – 79, Day 2, US Open.
The Greystones golfer stuck to the ‘A Player To Watch in 2018’ script with a PGA Tour best finish of 5th in the Corales Puntacana Championship and then a brilliant T8th a week later in the Houston Open.
Dunne returned to Europe to finish a gallant second to Jon Rahm in the Spanish Open and then after a fourth top-10 of the new season in the China Open, he teamed with Gavin Moynihan to deliver Ireland victory in the European Tour’s unofficial counting Golf Sixes.
There was no further top-10s in the remaining 16 ‘individual’ events with his only real joy in grabbing the lead on day one of the Turkish Airlines Open
Dunne ended the year down 40 spots from his 2017 finish to 56th on the Race to Dubai and his second-best money-earning year of Euro 813,000 along with $273,000 on the PGA Tour.
But in a more-important new year picture, Dunne’s ranking of 117th on the World Rankings, down 42 places compared to this time last year, means he’s not exempt to any of the four Majors of 2019.
Best ‘unofficial’ 2018 result – Shared victory with Gavin Moynihan in the Golf Sixes.
Lowest round – 64, Day 1, Houston Open, Day 1, Turkish Airlines Open.
Highest round – 78, Day 1, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Day 1, Nedbank Championship.
Though those results were far too late for Harrington who forfeited PGA Tour membership for a third year running by finishing 220th on the money list and of his 16 PGA Tour starts Harrington made the cut in just six.
He had relied on invitations last year and this year Harrington has taken the one-off option of drawing on his PGA top-40 career list standing to play a full PGA Tour year.
Hopefully 2019 will commence with good news for Harrington when he’s handed the 2020 European Ryder Cup team captaincy.
Lowest round – 65, Day 3 Czech Master, Day 3 KLM Open, Day 1, Turkish Airlines Open.
Highest round – 79, Day 3, Houston Open
He contested 25 events on both sides of ‘The Pond’ with a best of 5th at the Italian Open in June for his only top-10 of 2018.
Like Lowry and Harrington, it was teeing-up in the States that spoiled McDowell’s year and of the 17 ‘counting’ events he contested, he missed the cut in seven and posted a best finish of 17th at the Canadian Open.
His eventual 144th FedEx Cup standing meant losing his PGA Tour card and he heads into 2019 needing to secure invitations to compete on golf’s richest stage.
McDowell was the focus of TV coverage earlier this month when he and partner, Emiliano Grillo, finished runner-up in the QBE Shootout and‘G Mac’ now heads into a 17th pro season with his poorest World Ranking since winning his second pro event early in 2004.
One highlight will be returning to Pebble Beach for the 2018 US Open where on Father’s Day in 2010 McDowell brilliantly became the first Irish-born golfer to win the US Open.
Lowest round – 64, Day 4, Italian Open
Highest round – 80, Day 2, AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
8th – Rory McIlroy (11th)
75th – Shane Lowry (62nd)
117th – Paul Dunne (75th)
190th -Padraig Harrington (150th)
237th – Graeme McDowell (185th)
361st – Seamus Power (339th)
526th – Gavin Moynihan (350th)
556th – Michael Hoey (638th)
2007th – Darren Clarke (1361st)