Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - Practice Round  (Getty Images)
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - Practice Round (Getty Images)

Padraig Harrington has not given up hope of regaining The European Tour's number one spot, heading into this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, even though he currently stands 21st in The Race To Dubai standings.

“I've got five events left to give myself a chance," said Harrington on the eve of his attempt to capture the title in Scotland for a third time.

“I probably need to win two and a few other things to go right, but that would be the goal at the moment."

Harrington is just over €1 million behind leader Martin Kaymer, but could almost halve that by winning this week given the German golfer is out of action and currently recovering from surgery on broken toes.

Second-placed Paul Casey is unable to feature too with a rib muscle injury, but a stellar cast of Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher could make Harrington's task harder by winning and going to the top of The Race to Dubai rankings.

Harrington, however, has the memories of triumphing at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2002 and 2006 - the year he went on to capture The Order of Merit - and with fellow Irishman JP McManus as his partner again in the pro-celebrity format he stated: “This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year.

“Obviously it's one of my best opportunities of winning an event - I think the set-up really suits me well.”

Harrington, however, faces stiff competition from the likes of Westwood - who also has a previous record of success at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship given he captured the title back in 2003.

“I'm really looking forward to it,” Westwood said.

“I’ve always played pretty well here, I’ve had a few top tens and won here once. I’ve had a couple of weeks off to recharge the batteries and looking forward to getting going again and finishing off the season strongly.”

Westwood, who currently stands fourth in The Race to Dubai, is also targeting this week’s competition in Scotland as one of the events that could make a significant impact on the final standings.

“We have some massive events coming up that could affect the outcome of The Race to Dubai,” he added.

“I've obviously got to play myself into a good position, which is what you want to do at this part of the year.”

Westwood also revealed his affinity with links golf, particularly St Andrews given its pedigree as a venue as well as its status as The Home Of Golf.

“St. Andrews, as a whole package, is one of my favourite venues. The fact that the whole town is buzzing during the week is great.

“I would rate it quite highly and it's one of the venues I look forward to the most.”

Another golfer who has fond memories of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is McIlroy.

Like Westwood, he has pinpointed the tournament as one that could possibly have a large influence in The Race to Dubai standings - something he admits he will have to bear in mind when the tournament begins.

“This is a big week because there's a lot of money to play for, and if I can get or even if I finish second or third, I'll be close. It will be in the back of my mind all week,” the 20 year old said.

“Last year I felt as if I had a really good tournament and it's got a lot of great memories for me, especially from that first year.

“I ended up finishing third and that's what got me my European Tour card, so that was the week that sort of changed my life.”

Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters Tournament champion, is also relishing this week’s event in Scotland and is looking to end the year on a high after missing much of the season with a wrist injury.

“For me, it's exciting to be here,” he said.

“I've always enjoyed playing this tournament. I think it's such a unique and fantastic idea, especially being played at the golf courses it does as well as at the Old Course with all of the atmosphere that surrounds it.”

Last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship winner Robert Karlsson is also feeling his way back into form following an extended lay off with an eye injury.

Karlsson, whose victory in Scotland was one of two in 2008 and went a long way to securing his status as European Number One last year, featured admirably in the Vivendi Trophy with Seve Ballesteros last week and is hoping to further play his way back into form over the fairways and greens of Carnoustie, St Andrews and Kingsbarns.

“It's great to be back, it's good to have done the first one after such a long layoff and I’m looking forward to this week,” he said.

“It is starting from the beginning again in a way but it's not bad. I'm looking forward to playing now and that's the most important thing.

“It's more important to start enjoying it and start to build on where I am right now,” he added.

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