Irish golf fans have been hoping for an Irishman to play his way into form in the build up to the British Open at Royal Portrush. They just weren’t expecting it to be Padraig Harrington.
The 2020 European Ryder Cup captain looked like the guy who won three majors in a 13-month spell between 2007-2008 in returning a 7-under-par 63 to lead the $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch. The 47 year old takes a two shot lead into the second round over South Africa’s Zander Lombard.
“I had neutral expectations,” Harrington admitted. “I’ve been playing all year trying to find my game. I’ve been struggling coming back after my wrist injury. You know, this week, I just decided I’d go and play and try and get stock on my game. That’s kind of been the feedback I’ve been getting from my team around me. Let’s go out and play and see where we’re at.
LEADERBOARD: Irish Open
“I didn’t expect 63 out of it. I was expecting a few weeks to get my head in the game, and we could then get our bearings, but you know, it just goes to show, when your head is in the right place, especially on a links golf course because you can work your way around the links. I did a really good job of it today.
“Out there today, I was in a good place, my head was in a good place and good things were happening. I hit lots of nice shots. I know I don’t have to play as well as that for the next three days. It would be nice if I did, but we’ll just go out there and try and do more of the same.”
Harrington is looking for his 16th European Tour victory, and his first since the 2016 Portugal Masters. He’s hoping to land his second Irish Open following victory in 2007. He used that win as a launch pad to win that year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The Dubliner successfully defended his Open Championship title at Royal Birkdale in 2008. He added the PGA Championship the following month and many predicted he would go on to challenge Harry Vardon and Nick Faldo for most majors won by a European. Both players won six, but Harrington is stuck on three. The closest he’s been to major glory is T-4 in the 2012 U.S. Open.
He couldn’t win this year’s Open Championship could he?
“Whenever I step on a links golf course, I am going to be good value, and going forward, only a fool would discount me on a links course.”
That spells bad news for the rest of the field at Lahinch, and offers high hopes for his chances in two week’s time.
He couldn’t, could he?