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Padraig Harrington prepared to act host for Irish Open

By Karl MacGinty

Padraig Harrington is prepared to put the full weight of his reputation as a three-time Major Champion behind the campaign to save the Irish Open.

The future of Ireland's premier golf event has been thrown into doubt by the stunning decision of ‘3' to withdraw their sponsorship despite the enormous success of the tournament in Killarney last August.

At a time when Ireland boasts a rich crop of world-beating professionals, our national championship finds itself without the financial wherewithal to take its rightful place among golf's other prestigious championships.

The Irish Open certainly can count on support from our leading players, with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, both members of the world top-10 pledging their commitment to the cause in recent days.

Yet Harrington went a step further last night, revealing he'd already made “informal” and “tentative” efforts to find new sponsors for the event, and that he'd even be prepared to serve in the role of tournament host or ambassador, if required.

Tiger Woods has hosted the AT&T Championship and the Chevron World Challenge in the 'States, while Spaniards Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano each perform a figurehead role at tournaments in their native country, lending considerable gravitas and intensive work behind the scenes to the event.

Harrington was at pains to play down any approaches he might have made so far on the tournament's behalf. “I'll put it like this,” he explained. “I've already made tentative enquiries in places to see whether companies would be interested in sponsoring the Irish Open. It was on a very casual basis, obviously nothing formal, but I suppose if something came out of that, and it required me to be an ambassador for the event or something like that, I'd be prepared to do it, definitely.”

In the past, Harrington tended to view hosting a tournament as something he'd like to try towards the end of his career.

Yet, if required, he feels he'd be up to the challenge now, despite his firm belief that his Major-winning days are far from over.

“I'm not as stressed about my preparation for tournaments as I used be years ago,” he explained.

“I'm a lot more relaxed around tournaments so, yeah, I feel I'd be capable of handing the extra responsibility.”

The profile of a mobile phone company's clientele does not fit neatly with golf, Harrington concedes, adding that added that expending around €8m over two years would be hard to justify for a company looking to a limited market in Ireland so instead, the event should be pitched at large international companies.

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