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Padraig Harrington aims to reach Masters

By Liam Kelly

Padraig Harrington needs to strike oil in the Shell Houston Open if he is to earn a place in the field for the Masters at Augusta next week.

Harrington, who first played at Augusta in 2000, missed the cut in the first Major of the year last season and did not qualify in 2014. He also missed the cut in 2013 and his last notable performance came in 2012, when he finished eighth.

Whatever about his past at Augusta - where Ulsterman Rory McIlroy will be one of the favourites - Harrington refuses to give up hope until the last putt has dropped in his bid to tee it up in Georgia next week.

The problem is that only a win in Houston can earn him a 16th Masters appearance, and that is a tall order given the presence of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and the usual strong PGA Tour field.

A two-time winner of the Open Championship, and a former US PGA champion, Harrington would love to get his hands on another Major title, particularly the Masters.

"The only way I can win the Masters is to win twice; I have to win one tournament to get in, and then I have to win it," he said. "That's the same with the Ryder Cup and the Olympics; I have to win first to put them on the horizon.

"Maybe that's an issue, that all I'm thinking about is winning.

"At times I'm getting caught up in the result rather than if I just played away and added it all up, I'd be better off."

Fellow Irishman Shane Lowry failed to get out of his group in the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin, Texas last week and he will welcome the chance to return to the strokeplay format.

Lowry will make only his second appearance in the Masters next week. Last year, on his debut, he missed the cut but is now a year older and wiser.

The Offaly native also has the memories of carving out a victory in the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational lodged in his psyche, and he knows he can mix it.

The two Irishmen in the field have quality playing partners for their first two rounds at the Golf Club of Houston in Texas.

Lowry hits off the first tee at 12.40pm local time (6.40pm GMT) in the company of 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink and three-time Major winner Vijay Singh.

Harrington gets into action off the 10th tee at 1.10pm (7.10pm GMT) with Angel Cabrera, who won the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters, and the impressive Australian Matt Jones.

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