Padraig Harrington returned to Ireland with his sights set firmly on winning the Irish Open for the second time at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation – the fourth Rolex Series event of the season.
The 46-year-old, who overcame Bradley Dredge in a play-off to claim victory in the 2007 edition of the event before going to win The Open Championship at Carnoustie later that year, arrives at Ballyliffin Golf Club intent on adding another title to his 15 European Tour wins.
Although this week will mark the Dubliner’s first visit to the county of Donegal, Harrington believes he can continue his enviable record on links golf courses – which includes his Open Championship victories in 2007 and in 2008, the latter at Royal Birkdale.
“I’m here with the sole purpose of trying to win, that’s for sure,” said the ever-confident three-time Major champion. “The nature of the game for me now is to win or nothing. I don’t get any enjoyment finishing in the top ten, it is no fun to me.
“Maybe I put myself under too much stress when the gun goes, but outside of that, I’ve shown that if I can get myself into that position, where I have a chance of winning, I only play better down the stretch, but I struggle sometimes getting to that position.
“I played nine holes today and it is a very traditional links golf course which requires an awful lot of thinking, a lot of strategy on the golf course, which hopefully will play into my hands and gives me a lot of options.”
Shane Lowry, who memorably won his home event as an amateur in 2009 at County Louth, also goes in search of a second European Tour victory on home soil. The Clara man seems happier than ever to return to his sun-drenched homeland and hopes that the drying conditions will play to his strengths.
“Just when you come around the corner and towards near North West Golf Club in Donegal, the view is spectacular,” said Lowry. “I played nine holes this morning and it’s fantastic.
“I’ve missed the cut the last three years at The Open, so that doesn’t say that my links golf is unbelievable, but I do know how to play it, especially when it gets firm like this.
“I think when it gets firm and fast and fiery with a bit of wind, I think that plays more into the Irish and British players advantage than anything else.”
Harrington gets his tournament underway alongside Chris Wood and Kiradech Aphibarnrat at 08.30 while Lowry’s homecoming is set for 1330 alongside Lee Westwood and the fiery Thomas Pieters.