Lefty eyes world No. 1 with Woods in Ireland

Tiger Woods tees off during J.P. McManus Invitational Pro-Am in Ireland.

ADARE, Ireland – Tiger Woods will headline an Irish charity tournament this week, though it could be his last with the No. 1 ranking.

Woods is preparing for next week’s British Open at St. Andrews and could lose the top ranking for the first time in five years before then.

Rival Phil Mickelson, ranked No. 2, missed a chance at the U.S. Open to move up the rankings. He’ll get another opportunity at the Scottish Open this weekend at Loch Lomond. Woods is skipping that event.

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Phil Mickelson during the final round of the U.S. Open.

Instead Woods will play in the J.P. McManus Invitational Pro-Am, a two-day event in Adare that starts Monday. Woods flew overnight by private jet to make his afternoon tee time in Ireland.

Every five years, McManus, an Irish horse racing billionaire, brings together mixed groups of pros, Irish business leaders and Hollywood celebrities for an event expected to raise more than $37 million for dozens of Irish charities.

This year’s celebrity golfers include actors Michael Douglas, Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Aidan Quinn, Kyle MacLachlan and Peter Gallagher; English Premier League soccer coaches Harry Redknapp and Martin O’Neill; and Irish boy band Westlife.

Padraig Harrington, who won the last McManus trophy in 2005, said he expected Woods to rebound quickly at St. Andrews, where Woods won two of his three British Opens in 2000 and 2005.

“There’s no doubt, any time Tiger hits form at all, he’s comfortably the favorite to win any of the majors,” said Harrington, who also was teeing off Monday at Adare. “St. Andrews sets up very well for him.”

Like Woods, Harrington is skipping the Scottish Open but said he plans to head straight to St. Andrews by Friday for at least two weekend practice runs.

“He spins the ball very well,” Harrington said of Woods. “He’s the No. 1 player at getting the ball to finish where it lands. St. Andrews requires that so much because of the firmness of the greens. So I wouldn’t write him off, that’s for sure.”

Harrington, who has struggled since winning three majors in 2007-08, said St. Andrews would become “a lottery” if winds gust throughout the four-day event July 15-18.

“The greens are firmer than any we’ll play for the rest of the year, and the pin positions are exceptionally tight, so you’ve got to hit the ball into the greens very high,” he said. “Obviously if it’s very windy, that’s not so easy to go. It becomes guesswork if you have to throw the ball up in the air into a strong wind.”

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