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Watch: Padraig Harrington has learnt his injury lesson as he gets to grips with Portstewart course

By Adam McKendry

As he sits in front of a packed media room, Padraig Harrington addresses a rather uncomfortable topic - the fact that, but for a large stroke of luck, he probably wouldn't be sitting there.

In what can only be described as a freak accident, Harrington was very close to a career-ending elbow injury last month as he was struck by an amateur he was mentoring when the young man took his backswing.

Remarkably, Harrington got away with just needing stitches in the elbow - six to be exact - and now, just over a month later, he will tee it up at Portstewart Golf Club this week at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

“I've got to say, I've given quite a few lessons since then!” the two-time Open Championship winner laughs, before descending into a more serious tone, admitting, “It’s amazing how cautious I've become.

“I'm definitely a bit more anxious, no doubt about it. I was down on the range the other day with my two sons and yeah, I'm not as blasé about walking around, or letting anybody else walk around for that matter either.

Padraig Harrington at the Irish Open

Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

“Certainly it could have been a lot worse for me. Maybe it was a good lesson to learn.”

Rather than focus on the “what ifs”, the Irishman is more focused on the here and now, and here and now he's ready to mount a challenge for his home championship, with a view on preparing for The Open in a couple of weeks.

Amazingly the three-time Major champion has never played Portstewart before - “there is a beautiful flow to it”, he says - but that won't stop a man who has never been short on confidence in the past.

And, given that he is somewhat fortunate to be at the event in the first place, it seems rather fitting that the 45-year old, now World No.163, reflects on where the Irish Open has risen to on the European Tour compared to where it was.

“We’re where I suppose we want the Irish Open to be,” he says. “There was a time, I think it got to the stage that we kind of expected the Irish Open to be there. Clearly that was proven wrong over the last, say, 10 or 15 years.

“Thankfully with Rory (McIlroy) and the Rory Foundation and the effort he's put in, it's brought it back to where it should be. I use the word “should”; not really should be, where would like it to be.

“But we should never take it for granted. We shouldn't forget those times in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 when the tournament was being propped up by the European Tour. A lot of people were suggesting it wasn't a stature of a tournament that the Irish Open should have been.

“In the game of professional golf, or certainly in organising tournaments, you can take nothing for granted. Nothing deserves to be anywhere by right. It has to be earnt.”

Certainly as long as figures like McIlroy and Harrington continue to promote the event, the Irish Open is earning its way to the very top.

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