Padraig Harrington insists he is not feeling any pressure going into the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland, with much of the attention this week focusing on the homecoming of current Major Champions Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
The former Open and US PGA Champion was runner up to Ross Fisher 12 months ago, pushing the Englishman all the way with a final round 65 as more than 82,000 fans flocked to Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
Having already won his national Open in 2007 – just before he captured his first Claret Jug – Harrington is feeling relatively relaxed about returning to Co. Kerry, although he admits he is keen to get his hands on another trophy this year.
“I'm not that stressed as I would be coming into my National Open in other years,” he said, when asked if the attention was on Ireland’s other Major winners this year. “I’m probably bringing some other stress in with me but not the stress of having to win this.
“I’d just I'd like to win a tournament,” he laughed. “It's been eight months or so (since winning the Iskandar Johor Open). It would be nice to have some good performances. That would be my own personal stress. Besides that, there are not too many external factors worrying me at the moment.
Harrington has fond memories of his title challenge at Killarney 12 months, which despite the fervent home support ultimately came up just short as he finished runner up for a remarkable 27th time on The European Tour.
“It was as a great event last year and the crowds were great,” he said. “The atmosphere was great and Ross Fisher was a clear winner, even though I came reasonably close.
“I made it somewhat exciting. It would be nice to have a similar performance this year, and you know, maybe for somebody not to play as well as Ross played last year. He really did play great golf.
“You never really know when it comes to winning a tournament. You just try to look after playing your own game. It will be interesting to see how I get on this year. Obviously I did a lot of things right last year. I got plenty of good breaks and I shot 16 under par.
“That seems like a lot under par when you play the course. It’s not like there are a lot of opportunities for birdies out there. It doesn't seem like that. But obviously when you get into tournament play and things like, that somebody is going to hole the putts, and obviously it was me and Ross Fisher last year.”
With all four Irish Major Champions in the field – Harrington, Clarke, McIIroy and Graeme McDowell – the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland is set to be a celebration of everything achieved by the country over the past four years.
Much has been reported about the influence that Harrington’s three Major Champions had on the three subsequent Irish victories and the 39 year old believes even more success could be on the horizon for European players
“There's no doubt that me winning helped Graeme, and I don't know if we helped Rory, I think that might have happened,” he joked. “But certainly Martin Kaymer certainly said my wins helped him, and I'm sure the lot of us winning has helped Darren do it.
“It seemed to have worked when you look at Woosie and Lyle and Langer and Olazábal winning on the back of Seve and Faldo sort of thing. Those wins came first, and then obviously it would have been easier for Darren maybe to win a major from 1995 to 2004 if other Europeans were doing it.
“Obviously now we are winning Majors, so I expect to see not just more European wins, but probably a few other people from Europe winning, as well.”