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Royal County Down can host The Open, insists Padraig Harrington

By Peter Hutcheon

Royal County Down could join Royal Portrush on the Open Championship rota, according to Padraig Harrington.

The 2007 Open champion says he would not be at all surprised to see the Newcastle links being seriously looked at as a possible future venue by the R&A.

"I think this golf course is capable of hosting any tournament," he said.

"In terms of the golf course, like Portrush, it was always thought of as a great links golf course, and the question was, can they host the event and the infrastructure for an Open Championship?

"And I assume that's the same question at Royal County Down and that's why we're here for an Irish Open.

"If they do such a good job like Royal Portrush, it really puts their name out there as we can host a great event like the Open Championship.

"Portrush has done that and there's no stopping them now."

Harrington, who won the Irish Open at Adare Manor in 2007, is putting his money on an Irish winner this week.

"You wouldn't bet against the Irish," he said.

"There's more chance of having an Irish winner than not.

"It can be tough at times playing in your own national event but if you take the fact that we are on a links course it takes a few people out and the tough conditions that we are expecting, it takes a few more out," he said.

"I believe that with the conditions that are forecast you want to have a natural aptitude for playing links golf - basically to have grown up playing it.

"It will play into the hands of the Irish guys who have competed in links golf in their junior days."

Royal County Down is not a place Harrington did play much in his own amateur days. Before arriving for a couple of practice rounds a couple of weeks ago, he had only played it twice before.

"It's not as intimidating as I remember it as a kid," he said.

"To be honest, I think it's more enjoyable as a golf course now than what I remember.

"It's a tough course, but I warmed to it more when I played it four weeks ago.

"But, then again, I only played it in January so maybe playing it in May is a bit better."

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