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Why the Irish are suddenly great at golf

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CBSsports.com Senior Writer Steve Elling said last week - before Darren Clarke's victory in the British Open - that there is "no rational explanation" for why "the Emerald Isle has accounted for five major championships since this very month in 2007."

Now what I know about golf could fit on a matchbook cover. I don't play and I only rarely watch it on television. What I do know is this: Irish people LOVE golf and they play it all the time.

By 'all the time' I don't mean every single Saturday from May - October. They play year round in just about any weather. Honestly, unless the courses are covered in snow - a rarity - or it's one of those days where you can be drowned while standing on the side of a hill - less of a rarity - Irish golfers will be out there playing. {I bet Rory McIlroy will regret his whine about the weather in England this weekend because (a) the average Irish golfer knows he learned to play in those conditions and (b) Irish people don't like weather wimps.}

Playing golf in any weather - warm, cold, dry, damp - has got to be excellent preparation for the rigors of top level golf.

The other contributing factor to Irish success on the golf course is the transformation of life here over the past 25 years. The winding down of tensions in the north and the Celtic Tiger in the south were massive, intertwined confidence boosts for everyone in Ireland.

More than more physically demanding sports, golf is dominated by confidence. Self‑doubt is a killer in golf and if there is one thing Ireland has been great at producing it's self‑doubt. Once Padraig Harrington was able to channel that national confidence into success on the biggest stage it opened that psychological door for Graeme McDowell & Darren Clarke. McIlroy was raised in the new confident Ireland, brought up to believe he can succeed. Greatness awaits.

One other thing the Celtic Tiger brought to Irish golf was a lot more golf courses. The sport, which was a preserve of the well‑to‑do in times past, is now played by youngsters from all walks of life. For that reason, I expect Ireland's golfing prowess to continue to grow. Ireland will be a golf powerhouse.

{Photo - Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell & Padraig Harrington}

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