Open pen pics

By Brian Keogh

Ireland’s Open challengers

Padraig Harrington

Age: 36. Ht: 6’1”. Wt. 195 lbs. World ranking: 14.

Open record: 1996 (Lytham) T-18; 1997 (Troon) T-5; 1998 (Birkdale) CUT; 1999 (Carnoustie) 29; 2000 (St Andrews) T-20; 2001 (Lytham) T-37; 2002 (Murifield) T-5; 2003 (St George’s) T-22; 2004 (Troon) CUT; 2006 (Hoylake) CUT; 2007 (Carnoustie) Win.

Played 11, 38 rounds, average score 71.55. Lowest score 66. Highest score 77.

Betting: 33-1 from 16-1 last week.

His wrist injury has cast a cloud over his Open title defence and seen the bookies slash his chances of winning from 16-1 to 33-1.

Missed the cut on his last appearance at Royal Birkdale in 1998 and needs a good week to boost his chances of making the 2008 Ryder Cup team.

Since he won the Open last year, Harrington has failed to win again on one of the main tours though he did capture the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco last October and successfully defended the Irish PGA last weekend.

Graeme McDowell

Age: 28. Ht. 5’11” Wt.: 170lbs. World Ranking: 29

Open record: 2004 (Troon) CUT, 2005 (St Andrews) T-11; 2006 (Hoylake) T-61; 2007 (Carnoustie) CUT.

With his Ryder Cup place in his pocket thanks to two European Tour wins this year, McDowell is buzzing with excitement about the Open.

The first round leader at Hoylake in 2006, he faded to tied 61st but feels better equipped to deal with the pressure this time.

Making his fifth start in the Open, he has played 12 rounds with a scoring average of 72.83.

Lowest score 66. Highest score 79. In the Open he has shot three rounds in the 60s.

Betting: 40-1.

Damien McGrane

Age: 37. Ht: 5’8”. Wt: 160lbs. World ranking: 170

Open record: Debut.

Hard work and dedication finally paid off for McGrane when he captured his maiden European Tour title with a nine stroke win in the Volvo China Open in March. Learnt his trade under Joey Purcell at Portmarnock.

Ranked 21st on the 2008 Order of Merit, he has broken par in exactly half the rounds of golf he has played this year.

Not a fan of pre-qualifying for Major championships, McGrane clinched his place at Birkdale as one of leading non-exempt players from the Order of Merit following the BMW PGA at Wentworth in May.

Lowest score 2008: 66. Highest: 79.

Philip Walton

Age: 46. Ht: 5’10”. Wt. 161lbs. World ranking: 1,425

Open record: 1981 (St George’s) CUT; 1985 (St George’s) CUT; 1986 (Turnberry) CUT; 1987 (Muirfield) T-50; 1988 (Lytham) T-53; 1989 (Troon) T-13; 1990 (St Andrews) CUT; 1991 (Birkdale) CUT; 1992 (Muirfield) CUT; 1995 (St Andrews) WD; 1996 (Lytham) CUT; 1998 (Birkdale) T-36.

Walton has played in 12 Opens, playing 32 rounds with a scoring average of 73.94. He has shot three rounds in the 60s and four rounds under par.

Lowest Open score: 68. Highest Open score: 85.

Betting: 500-1.

Ireland’s Ryder Cup hero at Oak Hill in 1995, Walton is fulfilling the dying wish of his late father Joe by playing the Open.

Encouraged by his brother Allan, he topped the qualifiers in Local Final Qualifying at West Lancs last Tuesday and then finished second behind Padraig Harrington in the Irish PGA at The European Club.

Determined to get back on tour before he hits 50, the popular Dubliner has set his sights on making the cut but dreams of leading the Irish challenge.

Bookies Paddy Power have offered odds of 25-1 on Walton finishing as the leading Irishman.