Peter Lawrie was the only Irish player in the Top-200 in the world rankings to make a positive movefollowing his share of 23rd with Pádraig Harrington in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
The Dubliner moved up six places to 151st, overtaking 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, who fell ten places to 154th while Abu Dhabi winner Jamie Donaldson soared 18 places to 29th and Humana Challenge victor Brian Gay rose 180 spots to 116th
Despite missing the cut in his first outing with his new Nike clubs, Rory McIlroy maintained his big lead over fellow Abu Dhabi flop Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings but there were falls for the rest of the Irish in the Top-200.
Harrington slipped two places to 50th in the world despite closing with bogey-free 69 and confirmed that he’ll make his debut in the Waste Management Open in Phoenix next week in the first of a four-event stretch that includes the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, the Northern Trust at Riviera and the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona.
Not at his best from tee to green, Harrington will be buoyed by an improvement on the greens - he topped the putts per round statistics in the desert - and now plans to work at home this week with motivational and routines coach Dave Alred.
Shane Lowry’s bid to make the top 50 in the world by the end of March and secure a Masters debut suffered a reverse when he missed the cut and slipped five places to 59th in the world.
Lowry will return to action in the Dubai Desert Classic this week as Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley heads a five-man Irish contingent for this week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters with Lawrie, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin and Damien McGrane.
European Tour Qualifying School graduate David Higgins is a reserve for Qatar but he has revealed that he will not make his 2013 debut until the next month’s Joburg Open as he continues his warm-weather preparations in Barbados, telling Golfcentral Daily that he will be moving from Callaway to TaylorMade equipment this season.
World No 17 Graeme McDowell will not return to action until the Northern Trust Open from February 17-19 but he’s determined to build on his excellent return to top form last season and challenge for a second major title.
The Ulsterman will be keen to prove that his 2010 US Open victory wasn’t a one-off and having ended his two-year wait for a tournament victory in Tiger Woods’ World Challenge in December, he’ll be pointing to his 2011 form in the majors as a sign that he can win another grand slam title.
Having missed the cut in six of his next seven major starts following his 2010 US Open win, the 33-year old made the cut in all four majors last year, recording top-12 finishes in each with top-five finishes at the US Open (T2) and The Open.
While victory at the World Golf Challenge was McDowell’s only personal title success, his all round game was significantly improved from where it was at times the previous year, reflected in the end-of-season golf betting.
Following his sensational 2010, McDowell took almost a year to recover and get used to his new status in the game. He’s been living in McIlroy’s huge shadow since then but his form in the 2012 majors has given him hope that he is on track for a big year this year.
Set to marry fiancée Kristin Stape later this year, the Ulsterman is in the middle of a 10-week break and happily recharging his batteries.
“This 10 weeks is huge for me really just from a resetting and recharging and resetting my goals and getting ready for a big year next year,” he said after his end of season win at Sherwood Country Club. “This will give me some nice momentum going into the off season. I’m going to shut her down here for a few weeks and certainly I will draw on the confidence this has given me this week.
“When I was playing well in 2009 and 2010 the putter was pretty red hot and it’s been pretty ice cold this year. Certainly something I’m looking at in the off‑season. “
When it comes to the majors, McDowell is always in and around the reckoning in the latest golf odds. While he’s more than 60-1 to win the Masters, he’s 26-1 with the bookies to claim the Open at Muirfield.
Latest world rankings
1 (1) Rory McIlroy
2 (2) Tiger Woods
3 (3) Luke Donald
4 (5) Justin Rose
6 (6) Adam Scott
7 (7) Lee Westwood
8 (8) Brandt Snedeker
9 (9) Bubba Watson
10 (10) Steve Stricker
17 (17) Graeme McDowell
50 (48) Pádraig Harrington
59 (54) Shane Lowry
138 (134) Michael Hoey
151 (157) Peter Lawrie
154 (144) Darren Clarke
306 (296) Paul McGinley