Monday, July 22, 2024

McIlroy, Power and Harrington all in tune-up mode, while Power needs to surge in Scotland – Irish Golfer Magazine

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The week before a major championship is less about winning, more about fine-tuning your performance so that you hit the ground running the following Thursday, but for Seamus Power, this week is a different story.

Not yet exempt into the Open Championship at Royal Troon, Power must be among the highest three not-already-exempt finishers if he’s to make a third-successive appearance at the game’s oldest major. Yet to make a cut at the Open, he arrived suffering a hip injury in 2023 and took time off to recover from the injury in the weeks following.

The Waterford man arrives hot on the heels of a 17th-place finish at the John Deere Classic last week, but has been a little Jekyll and Hyde of late, posting four top-20s in his last nine PGA Tour starts, a further T27, but with four missed cuts thrown into the bargain as well. It’s a big ask to be among the leading three non-qualified, but that will certainly be the goal and if he finds himself in contention down the stretch on Sunday, it will be a bonus.

McIlroy makes his first start and first public appearance since burning out of the Pinehurst car park moments after Bryson DeChambeau had holed the winning putt, and though he is the defending champion here at the Renaissance Club – and has a plaque in the 18th fairway to commemorate his 2-iron approach on the 72nd hole – the narrative in his pre-tournament press conference almost entirely centred around the U.S. Open and its aftermath.

As always with the four-time major champion, this week prior to a major is a precursor to the next, and a successful defence of his 2023 victory will mean little if he doesn’t back it up with a strong performance at Troon the week after.

Tom McKibbin enjoyed a well-earned week off as the DP World Tour visited Germany last week, so he comes in off the back of a runner-up finish at the Italian Open – a result which cemented his place in the Open Championship – so like McIlroy, he’ll be more concerned with readjusting to tournament golf in links mode than winning, though that would all change of course should he be among the tournament leaders heading into the weekend. T35 here on debut in 2023, the 21-year-old wonderkid’s star is only rising so it would come as no surprise if he were to perform well again and head for Troon brimming with confidence.

Pádraig Harrington completes the Irish interest, opting to tee it up at Renaissance rather than Firestone Country Club where the Kaulig Companies Championship – formerly the Senior Players Championship – is being held on the Champions Tour.

The evergreen Dubliner is still convinced that he can win amongst the big guns, and he has back-to-back weeks to try to prove the doubters wrong back on his favoured terrain.

The all-star cast sees the likes of major winners Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas all set to compete, while Viktor Hovland, Ludvig Åberg, Tommy Fleetwood and 2023 runner-up, Bob MacIntyre are among the Ryder Cup stars also present.

With a two-tee start in operation, Power and McIlroy begin their rounds simultaneously at 08:28 with Power joined by Americans Jordan Gumberg and Davis Riley, while McIlroy is with home favourite MacIntyre and Hovland.

Harrington will be the first of the Irish to start, however, when he pairs up with Billy Horschel and Lucas Glover at 07:55, while McKibbin begins day one in the afternoon wave and will get the chance to impress Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald who also has another potential 2025 European Team member in Belgium’s Thomas Detry for company.

FULL TEE TIMES

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