Graeme McDowell was breathing a sigh of relief as he secured his place in next week's $9.5 million Players Championship.

The Ulsterman missed the cut on his Ballantine's Championship defence last week and feared he could be bumped out of the top 50 in the world who automatically qualified for the game's unofficial fifth major through Monday's world rankings

In the end he fell just one place to 48th to make the field with 0.15 points to spare.

And that means that Ireland will have three men in action at TPC Sawgrass with teen sensation Rory McIlroy and triple major winner Padraig Harrington also qualifying.

McDowell will take advantage of a week off to play a practice round at Baltray ahead of the 3 Irish Open in two weeks' time.

But McIlroy will head to Sawgrass via Las Vegas, where he plans to celebrate his 20th birthday with his pals this weekend.

The Holywood ace doesn't turn 20 until May 4 but plans to enjoy himself by watching Ricky Hatton's light-welterweight superfight with Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.