By Bernie McGuire in Dubai.
Padraig Harrington tees-up in this week’s 35th anniversary Hero Dubai Desert Classic clearly brimming with confidence after last week’s superb start to a new season.
Harrington brilliantly put himself into contention before his fourth place finish a mile ‘down the road’ in Abu Dhabi.
It was a best start of any new season for the now 51-year-old since a share of fifth at the 2014 Volvo Champions event in Durban while the best start on the PGA Tour in recent years was a T6th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in 2016.
“I feel good. I’ve felt good about my game at the end of the year, so nice to start off maybe a little quicker than I expected,” he said after contesting the Hero Dubai Desert Classic Pro-Am.
“Normally I wouldn’t be that good the first weekend. Always good to be in contention again. You want a chance, and certainly I’ll look back at last week and have a few regrets.
“You know, some of the good stuff I’m playing on the Champions Tour and being in contention, it doesn’t stress me as much, so I wasn’t as mentally drained. I wasn’t as mentally drained after last week.
“The other side to that, you get to my age, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays are not very exciting. It’s hard to get up for it on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I wouldn’t be full of energy at this moment. This is a big, big golf course, and with this rain coming in, it’s going to get even longer. The rough now, it’s actually quite easy. It is long but it has substance.
“But obviously if it’s wet, it’s going to be quite a difficult test. Preparing myself for today and tomorrow.”
Certainly Harrington’s efforts in shooting a third round 64 at Yas Links put the Dubliner in frame to become the oldest winner on the DP World Tour since Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Spanish Open at 50 years and 133 days in 2014.
Indeed, Jimenez is teeing-up this week after accepting an invitation as the 2010 champion.
Harrington first contested the Desert Classic in 1997 and with his best finish being a share of second alongside Tiger Woods in 2001 when Dane Thomas Bjorn reigned supreme.
There’s a photograph of Harrington he posted on his Twitter account on Monday showing him ‘up to his neck’ in a Cryotherapy tank here in Dubai with the caption: “A bit of Cryo recovery, minus 170. I’ll try to pack 10 plus sessions in 8 days”.
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) January 23, 2023
It naturally prompted the question, how was the Irishman’s body just a day after four rounds in the UAE capital, when for much of last year he had been playing only three rounds which is customary on the PGA Champions Tour.
“I’m pushing it to tomorrow’s limits, my body. I always have,” he said. “But you know, at this age in particular, I need a knee replacement. That’s just it. I need three months, six months of that, and so that’s not going to happen for a few years and at the moment I’m going to take my chances and put up with what I’ve got.
“The rest of the body, I’ve had a full-time physio for years. So, I probably push it a little bit too far, but I bring it back, or the physio brings it back, I should say. Trying to keep myself somewhat okay. It’s always been a balance, and when I get older, the want to rest side is winning out.”
Tour rookie Tom McKibbin will lead out the four Irish in the $US9m field, teeing-up after the bitter disappointment of last Saturday morning when he missed the cut in the delayed second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
And what a difference to last Friday when McKibbin was last out at 3.35pm local time Friday and now out first in his next tournament.
IRISH TEE TIMES …. 35th Edition Hero Dubai Desert Classic, Emirates Club, Dubai.
- 7.10am – Tom McKibbin (10 tee)
- 7.40am – Rory McIlroy (10th tee)
- 8am – Padraig Harrington (10th tee)
- 12 noon – Shane Lowry (1st tee)