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Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington's mind in Whistling Straits as he doesn't plan to mount an Irish Open challenge


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Back on course: Padraig Harrington practices at Galgorm Castle ahead of his return to competitive action after six months out

Back on course: Padraig Harrington practices at Galgorm Castle ahead of his return to competitive action after six months out

PA

Back on course: Padraig Harrington practices at Galgorm Castle ahead of his return to competitive action after six months out

The wind conditions might be a bit similar - on a good day - but, besides that, there are very few similarities between Whistling Straits and Galgorm Castle.

Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, Padraig Harrington would have been in Wisconsin today, preparing his team for the first day of the Ryder Cup. Instead, the European captain will tee off at 9.25 this morning in the first round of the Irish Open.

Still, that hasn't put the biennial event on the backburners completely. Despite having to wait another 12 months to lead his troops into battle, Harrington did allow himself the fun of selecting what would have been his side to face the USA had this year's tournament gone ahead after last week's US Open.

"I've had a couple of months now since it was announced that the Ryder Cup was postponed where I really didn't have to think about it," says the 49-year-old.

"The last week or two there have been a lot more thoughts. I'd have picked the team last week, I'd have been there. I put on my phone last night to check the forecast to see what the weather would have been like - nice, sunny, 70 degrees all week.

"It's on my mind at the moment, but next week we'll be back to normal business. The points start again in January and we'll start thinking about it."

Instead, all of Harrington's attention is on making his first start in six months at Galgorm following a particularly lengthy lay-off through a troublesome knee injury and lockdown.

The expectations, therefore, are low, but that hasn't stopped the three-time Major champion from missing the grind of playing week in, week out on the Tour and he admits he's excited to get stuck in again.

"I won't be competitive, I'm not ready. You never would be in your first event, but I'm going to give it a shot. Go out there and play, no expectations, throw in a few more clichés and see what happens," claims Harrington.

"I've been playing for 25 years, having six months off isn't a bad thing for me. I spent those six months working a lot on my swing and technique and getting some stuff clear in my own head.

"The great thing after six months is I'm quite ready to go play some golf."

As for the course, Harrington was left impressed after playing two practice rounds with Paul Dunne on Tuesday and Wednesday, joined by Mark Power and Damien McGrane on each day.

While some have projected that Galgorm is scoreable, with some even thinking a round in the 50s is possible, Harrington doesn't think that'll be the case.

"A lot depends on the conditions and how much they move the tees up. I played two practice rounds on Tuesday, it was a brute and we lost at least a dozen golf balls," he revealed.

"If you get it in play, drive it well - the difficulty is off the tee - then there's opportunities. The targets are reasonably wide, they have big fringes so you can never be short-sided out there."

Belfast Telegraph