There was very little challenge from the Irish contingent in last week's BMW Championship at Wentworth in England despite virtually all hands appearing on deck. Padraig Harrington was a conspicuous absentee, opting instead for minor knee surgery in advance of this summer's three majors.
Shane Lowry continued a good run with his joint-fourth place finish. This is his fourth straight top-20 finish and boosted him nearly 60 places in the Official World Golf Rankings (from 223 to 164).
Lowry benefited from a hot spell over the final three holes on Sunday that yielded two birdies and an eagle-3 at 18. That left him four strokes behind the top pair of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood (Donald won the playoff to take World No. 1 honors from Westwood). Lowry finished the event two strokes under par at 282 (74-72-69-67).
"I don't think I've ever played this good," Lowry said. "With this, my card is kept and that worry is out of the way. It's the best week of my career so far, and definitely in this field and on this golf course."
Rory McIlroy looked as if he might mount a rally after climbing to six strokes off the lead on Saturday, when he shot 68. The only blemish to that round came at 18, which he bogeyed, and should have foretold Sunday's travails. A double bogey at the third hole left him far too much work to do and he had to play evenly the rest of the round just to finish the day with 73. At 287 (76-70-68-73), he was three strokes over par and nine off the low number.
Darren Clarke figured prominently on the leaderboard over the first 36 holes, which included a bogey-free round on Thursday. You might be inclined to believe that carding five birdies on Saturday (against a total of three over the first two rounds) might have spearheaded a charge to the top, but he badly flubbed the eighth hole, where he took 8 strokes to find the cup. He settled for a share of 45th position at 290 (69-72-74-75).
Michael Hoey never got into contention, but held up rather well to grab a share of 31st place at 288 (71-74-74-69). The bogeys were plentiful, but so were the offsetting birdies.
Gareth Maybin also went the distance, but with a score better suited to a game measured in strikes and spares. His 300 (74-70-83-73) was good for a share of 62nd place.
Graeme McDowell was gone after 36 holes. A bogey fiesta on Thursday (six of them) presaged his exit, which resulted from a score (147) just one stroke on the high side of the cut line.
Joining McDowell on the sidelines were Peter Lawrie, 149 (74-75), David Higgins, 150 (77-73), Damien McGrane, 150 (78-72), Paul McGinley, 154 (80-74), and David Mortimer, 161 (79-82).