Major men Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington are hoping to bounce back from missing the cut in Killarney when they join Tiger Woods in Rubber City next week.
Woods announced late on Thursday that he will make his first appearance since he withdrew after just nine holes of the Players Championship in May when he tees it up in next week’s $8.5m WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.
But while Harrington has issues to resolve, Clarke can’t wait to get to back to tree-line Firestone, where he won the 2003 NEC-Invitational to claim his second World Golf Championship title.
And the Ulsterman could be drawn with long-time pal Woods and get the chance to thank the 14-time major winner in person for the text messages of advice that helped him earn his first major victory at Sandwich
After a 74 left him out in the cold in Killarney on one-over, Clarke said: “I’m just delighted to be there. I’ll play wherever they put me, but it’s great he’s coming back to play again.
“He sent me some great texts during the Open - on Saturday night and more on Sunday night- and he’s been a very good friend for a long time.
“His texts helped me but I’m not going to tell you what he said. That’s between friends.”
Clarke later sent Woods a “welcome back” text as he prepared to make the trip home to Portrush before jetting out to the US for the Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA.
Had he made the cut in Killarney, the world No 31 could have passed Woods in next week’s world rankings.
The American, currently 21st, will fall to at least 28th on Monday but Clarke can do nothing about that now after struggling in round two to miss just his third cut in 20 Irish Open appearances.
A bogey at the last, where he missed a seven footer for par after aggressively trying to chip in from just off the green, left him with a sour taste less than two weeks after his Open triumph.
After opening with a 69 and picking up birdies at the first and third, he jumped to sixth on the leaderboard before tough pins and mental fatigue took their toll.
He bogeyed the fourth and fifth, birdied the sixth but then dropped four shots on the back nine as his Open exertions and post-victory celebrations caught up with him.
Clarke groaned: “Obviously I’m disappointed with my score but there’s always next week. I played average and putted very average. I had a tough day there. I just couldn’t get anything going at all and weekend off is not what I wanted.
“I didn’t have much time off after The Open, but that’s no excuse for shooting 74 today.”
Harrington had another bad week on the greens as he added a 72 to his first round 73 to miss the cut on three over.
He had a fierce battle with Woods at Akron in 2009 but walked away disappointed as he took a triple bogey eight on the 16th in the final round when leading Woods by one at the time.
But he’d love a chance to gain some revenge over Woods and ease the pain of his sixth missed cut this season.
Harrington said: “Obviously it’s great to see him back. Hopefully he’s fit and healthy - and I’m looking forward to going down the stretch with him next week.”
Down to 64th in the world and set to fall further, the Dubliner certainly needs some good news soon.
And he confessed that he made need to radically change his approach as he searches for the spark that will reignite his game.
Outscored by five shots by Damien McGrane, he birdied the first but never recovered after a poor chip led to a double bogey at the tough sixth.
He then admitted that a bogey at the next “knocked the stuffing” out of him and while he birdied the eighth, he bogeyed the 10th and failed to produce the back nine fireworks he needed to make the cut.
Believing his game needs a lift, Harrington said: “Changes are required, absolutely. Unfortunately a change is required for the sake of it, rather than anything else.
“I’m doing everything that I would have done that won me three Majors. Just obviously something, a spark, something fresh is needed and doing the same old things every day.”
He added: “It’s disappointing, but it’s only a game,” stated Harrington. “Even on my worst days I’m not too bad. It’s not like I’m shooting 77-78 sort of thing, but momentum is an important thing and I don’t have it at the moment.
“I’m not thinking of changing personnel. I’ve got to change something in myself, attitude or something along the lines of that. I’m not taking time off - I like playing golf.
Harrington’s critics are writing him off as a major player but Clarke insisted that it would be foolish to write off Woods despite his failure to win since November 2009.
Clarke said: “He’s been the world’s best player for a very, very long time, and you know, despite all of the stuff that’s happened to him, we still remain good friends.
“We first met in ‘96 at Lytham when he was an amateur and when I was working with Butch, I was with him a bit in Vegas whenever he was there and stuff.”
A reporter wrote that Clarke was in an “inexorable” decline a few years ago but the Ulsterman added: “It would be a very brave man that would write that about Tiger Woods.”