How the Irish look heading to Hoylake

The 18th at Royal Liverpool. Picture @HavershamBaker

Six of Ireland's seven Open Championship contenders will head for Hoylake this evening with dreams of winning the Claret Jug.

Two of them have done it before while the seventh, amateur Paul Dunne, will be hoping to build on some superb performances in team competition recently and become the first Irish amateur since Rory McIlroy in 2007 to win the silver medal.

At the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, five of our Open hopefuls made the cut to at least give themselves four competitive rounds on a links course before they do battle with Royal Liverpool.

Shane Lowry starts the final round with thebest chance of the five after a 68 left him tied for seventh on five under, five strokes behind leaders Justin Rose (66) and Marc Warren (67), who lead by one from Kristoffer Broberg.

Rory McIlroy, fresh from his accidented 78 of Friday but fragile as far as confidence goes, also posted a 68 but looks too far back at three under to have a chance with 12 players between him and the lead. 

Darren Clarke (70) is nine behind [Gareth Maybin is 10 adrift after a 69] with Pádraig Harrington (71) 11 off the pace alonside Michael Hoey, who shot 74.

Here's a quick run down on the Irishmen heading for Hoylake and their chances at Royal Liverpool.

Rory McIlroy

  • Betting: 12/1 fav
  • World Ranking: 8
  • Majors played: 23
  • Major wins: 2
  • Major Top-10s: 8
  • Last 6 events (before Scottish): T8-T6-1-T15-T23-MC
  • Open record: Played 6 (1 as amateur). Wins 0, Top 10s 1; Made cut 5/6. Best finish — T3 (2010)
  • 2006 Open: DNP
  • Overview: Just when he appeared to be rounding into top form with his win in the BMW PGA, doubts have crept into McIlroy's game in recent weeks with his 78 in the second round of the Scottish Open a real worry ahead of Hoylake. The good is still superb, as he showed with his opening 64 in Aberdeen, but there's always a question mark.  
  • Prediction: While a wet and windy Open will not suit McIlroy, he showed in the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush that he can handle the conditions. Friday's 78 will have done some damage. Outlook? Cloudy. 

Graeme McDowell

  • Betting: 25/1
  • World Ranking: 17
  • Majors played: 35
  • Major wins: 1
  • Major Top-10s: 4
  • Last 6 events: T23-T62-T24-T28-T6-1
  • Open record: Played 10;  Wins 0; Top 10s 1; Made cut 7/10. Best finish — T5 (2012)
  • 2006 Open: T61
  • Overview: A win in his last outing in the Open de France came just in the nick of time. Hoylake will suit his game and he's got the patience and experience to contend if he finds his best form from tee to green.
  • Prediction: Ireland's best chance of a win this year. Fresh, experienced and heading for a course which suits his game. Outlook? Bright

Shane Lowry

  • Betting: 100/1
  • World Ranking: 73
  • Majors played: 6
  • Major wins: 0
  • Major Top-10s: 0
  • Last 6 events (before Scottish): T15-2-T25-MC-MC-T12 
  • Open record: Played 2; Wins 0; Top 10s 0; Made cut 2/2. Best finish — T32 (2013)
  • 2006 Open: DNP
  • Overview: Highly erratic this season, Lowry loves the big stage and links golf as he showed at Muirfield last year. A good outside bet for leading Irishman but may be too green in majors to win one at this stage.
  • Prediction: Like Pádraig Harrington in 1996, no-one would be surprised to see Lowry do well in an Open, as he's proved at the Dunhill Links. Not as sharp as he'd like but close. 
  • Prediction: Ireland's best chance of a win this year. Fresh, experienced and heading for a course which suits his game. Outlook? Sunny spells.

Michael Hoey

  • Betting: 125/1
  • World Ranking: 162
  • Majors played: 4
  • Major wins: 0
  • Major Top-10s: 0
  • Last 6 events (before Scottish): MC-T18-T48-T8-T22-7
  • Open record: Played 2 (1 as amateur). Wins 0; Top 10s 0; Made cut 0/2. Best finish — CUT.
  • 2006 Open: DNP
  • Overview: Gaining in consistency all the time, Hoey has the game and the form to make a serious impact at Hoylake. As always, his temperament will be key.
  • Prediction: This could be Hoey's big chance to step up in class. Has all the shots and he's playing very well. Outlook? Flashes of lightning. Direct strikes possible.

Padraig Harrington

  • Betting: 66/1
  • World Ranking: 249
  • Majors played: 61
  • Major wins: 3
  • Major Top-10s: 15
  • Last 6 events(before Scottish): MC-T22-T61-T65-T14-MC 
  • Open record: Played 17. Wins 2; Top 10s 4; Made cut 12/17. Best finish — Winner (2007 & 2008)
  • 2006 Open: CUT
  • Overview: We know he's liable to pop up and contend for major No 4 at any stage but whether he still has the cutting edge, especially with the putter, remains a doubt. Bad weather could play into his hands but his form is not encouraging.
  • Prediction: Apart from the HP Byron Nelson, Harrington has shown little signs that he's ready to produce another Open winning performance. More likely to miss the cut but for the fact that he's Pádraig Harrington. Outlook? Hazy.

Darren Clarke

  • Betting: 150/1
  • World Ranking: 379
  • Majors played: 63
  • Major wins: 1
  • Major Top-10s: 7
  • Last 6 events (before Scottish): MC-MC-MC-MC-T58-MC
  • Open record: Played 22. Wins 1; Tops 10s 4; Made the cut 17/22. Best finish — Winner (2011)
  • 2006 Open: CUT
  • Overview: Liek Harrington, he's capable of contending in an Open at any stage, as he proved by winning in 2011. Great bet for top Irishman if he gets the breaks and putts reasonably.
  • Prediction: In 2011 he looked to have no chance but got the better side of the draw, played superbly and holed putts. If his head is in the right place, he can have another day in the sun. Outlook? Sunny spells.

Paul Dunne (am)

  • Betting: 9/4 to make cut; 3/1 for Silver Medal
  • World Ranking: N/A (53rd in World Amateur Ranking)
  • Majors played: 0
  • Major wins: 0
  • Major Top-10s: 0
  • Last 6 events: n/a
  • Open record: n/a
  • 2006 Open: DNP
  • Overview: Playing the golf of his life, Dunne had a solid year for UAB, finished second in the East and played brilliantly in the Palmer Cup and the European Team Championships. If his putter remains hot, he can make the cut.
  • Prediction: A streaky putter, Dunne's got the intelligence to think his way around but may be tired after several big weeks in a row. The mental game will be his biggest challenge. Outlook? Cloudy with some sunny spells.