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Irish Open: Don’t forget about Padraig Harrington

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Darren Clarke has a refreshing drink of bottled water during yesterday's practice at sun-drenched Killarney

Darren Clarke has a refreshing drink of bottled water during yesterday's practice at sun-drenched Killarney

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Three-time Major |winner Padraig Harrington lines up a putt

Three-time Major |winner Padraig Harrington lines up a putt

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

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Darren Clarke has a refreshing drink of bottled water during yesterday's practice at sun-drenched Killarney

Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy have awoken a sleeping giant with their Major-winning feats this summer, whipping up a tidal wave of public interest which will fully restore the Irish Open to former glories in Killarney this week.

Yet might their mind-blowing efforts at the US and British Opens also rouse an Irish golfing icon from recent slumbers, providing the spark which could help Padraig Harrington rekindle the confidence which made him a world-beater in 2007 and 2008.

The Dubliner, 40 next month, is credited by World No 1 Luke Donald and Major-winners Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and, of course, Clarke and McIlroy, with helping to inspire Europe's recent uprising in world golf.

Since completing a staggering third Major-win in 13 months at the 2008 US PGA in Oakland Hills, however, Harrington has registered just one victory at last October's Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia, an Asian Tour event which will be co-sanctioned by Europe this autumn.

Harrington, actually, was on the driving range at Royal St Georges last Sunday week as Clarke set out for his date destiny at The Open.

Having missed the cut for the fifth time in the last seven Major Championships, he was just filling time in Sandwich before fulfiling a corporate engagement in the London area the following day.

Though wild and wayward off the tee at Royal St George's, where he placed last for driving accuracy after 36 holes, the most disturbing feature by far of Harrington's performance at The Open was his lack of trust on the greens.

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“Certainly if I look at any part of my game this year, I've been erratic on the greens,” he admitted in Killarney yesterday.

“I've had some poor weeks and I've had some decent weeks (but) my results are probably pretty much 100 per cent aligned with how I've performed on the greens.

“Yeah, I've been a little out of trust,” added Harrington, who finished second to England's Ross Fisher in the Killeen Course last summer.

“I could tell you I was great out there today but it's only Tuesday. I feel like I might have turned the corner but I'd like to play a few tournaments and turn the corner in competition rather than just in practice. I'm optimistic.”

And a touch defiant too! Harrington insisted his failure to win in over nine months is not an issue for him except, “when I have to sit down and endure people questioning why don't you win every week or why haven't you won.

“No doubt if I win, I'll enjoy it and I'll celebrate. In many ways it will take a monkey off my back,” he added.

“But that monkey is not put there by me.”

Harrington insists that a professional golfer cannot afford to get bound-up in anything as “fickle” as the pursuit of “instant results” but instead most concentrate on “sustainable stuff” like the quality and level of his performance.

Though famed as an eternal optimist, a little crack occasionally appears in Harrington's game face.

Asked yesterday if the pressure on him this week had been reduced by the heroics of McIlroy and Clarke, Harrington said: “Oh I think so ... plus I'd won it before (in 2007 to spark his rampage at the Majors). So that takes a bit of the pressure off.

“I'm not that stressed coming into my national Open as I would be in other years,” he added. “I'm probably bringing some other stress in with me but not the stress of having to win this, no.”

Other stress? “Just I'd like to win a tournament. It's been eight months or so. I would be nice to have some good performances.

“That would be my own personal stress. Besides that, not too many external factors are worrying me at the moment.”

So Harrington does hear the whispering demons of doubt. Yet they could be drowned out this weekend by the roar of record crowds in Killarney, when the raw excitement of playing in a good, old-fashioned Irish Open might just carry the Dubliner to the morale-boosting victory he so badly needs.


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