Lowry ends Harrington's 4,936-day reign

Shane Lowry is currently the top ranked professional golfer from the Republic of Ireland. Picture by Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieGolf is an all-Ireland sport but if distinctions are to be made between professionals from north and south of the border, Shane Lowry achieved a rare feat on Monday.

The 25-year old from Clara rose 14 places in the world rankings to 57th, overtaking Padraig Harrington, who fell two spots to 59th. No big deal in a world when Co Down man Rory McIlroy is the world No 1.

But now that’s it’s the fashion to differentiate between players from Northern Ireland and Ireland, it’s worth noting that Lowry became the first Republic of Ireland golfer for 4,936 days (13 years, 6 months, 4 days) to overtake Padraig Harrington in the Official World Ranking.

In fact, but for a one-week in April 1999, when Paul McGinley finished second in the Italian Open and briefly took over from his World Cup winning partner, Harrington has been the top ranked Republic of Ireland golfer since he finished tied for fifth behind Justin Leonard in the 1997 Open championship at Royal Troon.

For those who like figures, that’s 15 years, 3 months and 9 days ago - quite a feat for a player who has won three majors to date and may go on to win more.

Getting back to golf as an all-Ireland sport, Harrington was the top ranked player from either side of the border at year’s end for eight consecutive seasons from 2002 to 2009, matching Darren Clarke’s eight-year run from 1994 to 2001.

Since the Official World Golf Ranking began in 1986, eight players have finished the year as Ireland’s top man. Ronan Rafferty was Ireland’s No 1 six times while Des Smyth, David Feherty, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy have achieved the distinction once each.

McIlroy will take it again this year and looks likely capture the money list on both sides of the Atlantic as well as every other award known to man.

Lowry might not even stay ahead of Harrington come December 31 but it he does, he’ll have achieved a remarkable feat. Dislodging McIlroy, however, will take something Harrington-esque from the Offaly champion.

Top ranked Irish golfer at 31 December (world ranking)

  • 1986 Des Smyth (96)
  • 1987 Ronan Rafferty (58)
  • 1988 Ronan Rafferty (44)
  • 1989 Ronan Rafferty (21)
  • 1990 Ronan Rafferty (19)
  • 1991 David Feherty (42)
  • 1992 Ronan Rafferty (36)
  • 1993 Ronan Rafferty (44)
  • 1994 Darren Clarke (75)
  • 1995 Darren Clarke (86)
  • 1996 Darren Clarke (62)
  • 1997 Darren Clarke (36)
  • 1998 Darren Clarke (17)
  • 1999 Darren Clarke (19)
  • 2000 Darren Clarke (12)
  • 2001 Darren Clarke (9)
  • 2002 Padraig Harrington (7)
  • 2003 Padraig Harrington (8)
  • 2004 Padraig Harrington (6)
  • 2005 Padraig Harrington (17)
  • 2006 Padraig Harrington (8)
  • 2007 Padraig Harrington (8)
  • 2008 Padraig Harrington (4)
  • 2009 Padraig Harrington (5)
  • 2010 Graeme McDowell (6)
  • 2011 Rory McIlroy (3)
  • 2012 Rory McIlroy (1) *provisional

Top ranked Republic of Ireland golfer at 31 December (world ranking)

  • 1986 Des Smyth (96)
  • 1987 Christy O’Connor Jnr (121)
  • 1988 Des Smyth (49)
  • 1989 Christy O’Connor Jnr (71)
  • 1990 Eamonn Darcy (82)
  • 1991 Eamonn Darcy (70)    
  • 1992 Christy O’Connor Jnr (78)
  • 1993 Christy O’Connor Jnr (133)
  • 1994 Paul McGinley (162)
  • 1995 Philip Walton (97)
  • 1996 Paul McGinley (82)
  • 1997 Padraig Harrington (78)
  • 1998 Padraig Harrington (106)
  • 1999 Padraig Harrington (50)
  • 2000 Padraig Harrington (25)
  • 2001 Padraig Harrington (11)
  • 2002 Padraig Harrington (7)
  • 2003 Padraig Harrington (8)
  • 2004 Padraig Harrington (6)
  • 2005 Padraig Harrington (17)
  • 2006 Padraig Harrington (8)
  • 2007 Padraig Harrington (8)
  • 2008 Padraig Harrington (4)
  • 2009 Padraig Harrington (5)
  • 2010 Padraig Harrington (23)
  • 2011 Padraig Harrington (85)
  • 2012 Shane Lowry (57) * provisional