Irish golfer Rory McIlroy

Three Irish players will tee off this Thursday in the first major of the year, the 2009 Masters from Augusta National in Georgia.

Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell will be joined by 19-year-old wunderkind Rory McIlroy who is drawing rave reviews as the "Celtic Tiger."

Rory McIlroy was just seven when the 21-year-old Tiger Woods roared out of nowhere to win his first Masters at Augusta in April, 1997.

McIlroy, who was glued to the TV back in 1997 to watch the Masters says that Tiger's win was a major inspiration for him.

"He was only 21 and you could sort of relate to someone that age," McIlroy said. "You were thinking to yourself, 'Well, hopefully when I'm that age, I can do something like that.'

"It was definitely inspirational to see someone come out and make such a great start to their professional career. That's what I've always wanted to do.

"You know, if I can play well enough this week, I might be able to emulate it."

McIlroy has been receiving very favorable reviews from some of the best pros on tour.

His form in the three of the four tournaments he has played stateside in recent weeks suggests that the wunderkind could do a Sergio – Garcia, who burst on to the world scene as a 19-year-old with a second place finish at the 1999 at US PGA – this weekend.

So, we'll have three of Ireland’s best to roar on this week, whether greenside at the 19th hole, or glued to the TV on the couch.

Leading the charge of course will be Padraig Harrington, who will also be attempting to emulate Tiger Woods, this time by winning three majors back-to-back.

Harrington, a triple major winner, won the last two majors of 2008 (the British Open and the US PGA). 

Though eight months have passed since that sensational month for Irish golf, the 37-year-old will hope to rediscover that Midas touch around the hallowed greens of Augusta National.

Harrington, who freely admits the he tailors his preparations for major tournaments, has been finding his form nicely in the run-up to this year's Masters. 

In his last two tournaments, he has been there or thereabouts. On Sunday, he tied for 20th place at the Player Championship in Doral and finished 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

The key to doing well in the Masters is to have a short game that is on fire.  If Harrington can rediscover the short game that kept him in the tournament during his PGA win, then Irish eyes might be smiling come Easter Sunday.

Also teeing up on Thursday is Graeme McDowell, who made his debut at the course in 2005 and returns for his second bite at the Masters’ cherry.

The Ulsterman is no stranger to the PGA tour, having spent a couple of years in America in the middle of the decade.  The 29-year-old is coming in to the tournament on his best run of form since playing for Europe in the Ryder Cup. Though cut in his début Masters, expect McDowell to be around for the weekend,