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Harrington predicts swift return to the links swing for Irish Open

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Padraic Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Padraic Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Padraic Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Pádraig Harrington might have ruled himself out as host next year but he's predicting a quick return to the links swing for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

The Dubliner is a likely front-runner to host in 2021, with several links courses eager to stage the $7m Rolex Series event.

The move from links in July to parkland from May 28-31 next year was prompted by the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational moving to the Irish Open date and the Olympics in Japan coming the week after The Open.

"The links swing has not gone by the board," Harrington said. "It's just that this opportunity arose with the Olympics now part of the summer schedule.

"So the links swing is going to be back for sure. And it is of benefit to the Irish Open to have that option where players will want to play links golf two weeks before The Open and not a week before."

The European Tour consulted marquee stars Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and defending champion Jon Rahm about moving the Irish Open and offered them several alternatives.

"They gave them a few options and that's the one they chose," Harrington said. "That opened up the idea that you didn't need to go to a links course.

"Mount Juliet has shown itself to be a great tournament venue. It's not just that they've had good winners or that the golf course is a great layout that's always in good condition, it's one of those places that lends itself to a festival atmosphere.

"I for one will be looking forward to it, and the players will enjoy it."

As Ryder Cup skipper, he's eagerly watching the conclusion of the Race to Dubai where Lowry lies third behind Bernd Wiesberger and the absent Rahm ahead of this week's WGC HSBC Champions in China.

Chance

Lowry, who will play in Turkey and Dubai but skip the trip to Sun City for the Nedbank Golf Challenge in a fortnight, tees it up with Wiesberger knowing he has a chance to cut into the Austrian's lead.

McIlroy, meanwhile, is looking to win his fourth event of the season and close the gap on Brooks Koepka at the top of the world rankings.

"I feel like this year's gone very well," said McIlroy. "I think last week in Japan was my 17th top-10 of the year, so I've played consistent golf."

Harrington believes the game is stronger at the top than ever with "at least half a dozen" players capable of leaving the rest for dead if they play their best.

It's not just about McIlroy and Koepka, and Harrington knows that Tiger Woods, who equalled Sam Snead's tally of 82 PGA Tour wins in Japan this week, has not gone away.

"He won the Masters, which is something I predicted he would do," Harrington said. "We were surprised he didn't kick on from that, but he came out very strong last week.

"You are looking at a player who physically can't play a lot of tournaments and he is going to have to limit his schedule.

"But any week he turns up fit and healthy, if things go his way, he can win. The more pressure there is, the more intensity there is and the tougher the golf course, the more it plays into his hands. He looks in good shape to win more Majors.

"He's won twice this year and if he tees it up in nine events feeling fit and healthy next year - and he will play more - he will win two or three."

Harrington still has 11 events of a PGA Tour medical exemption remaining. He could have returned for this week's Bermuda Championship at Port Royal but will wait until the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am next year, leaving Seamus Power to fly the flag after his three-week break.

Irish Independent