Padraig Harrington is expecting an exciting tournament at this week’s Portugal Masters as the Irishman looks to rekindle his Race to Dubai Challenge.
The 2006 European Number One and three-time Major winner currently sits 21st on The Race to Dubai and knows a win this week, and the €500,000 that goes with it, would boost his chances significantly with only five weeks to go until the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World.
Harrington admits to being an admirer of the challenges on offer at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course.
“There's a lot of water out there and a lot of golf shots, you have to hit if you want to win this tournament,” said Harrington. “There's a number of those par fives and if you want to get on in two you have to take on the water off the tee on the second shot.
“So it's a very exciting back nine on the course, and lends itself to an exciting tournament. Obviously the greens are soft out there so you have to expect the scoring would be good, depending obviously how much wind there is during the week, it certainly makes it very testing when the wind is out there.”
Harrington has been in The European Tour’s top ten money earners ten of the last 12 years, and is aiming for a victory this week to keep his chances of landing the inaugural Race to Dubai alive.
“I'm still chasing The Race to Dubai - that's my attitude,” he added. “I have four events. I need to win at least two of them and probably need to win one of the next three and one of the next three on top of that and win The Race to Dubai.
“It's mathematically possible. Probably any of the top guys, if they go out and win an event in the last four or five events, they will probably win it - but it's still possible.”
Northern Irish 20 year old Rory McIlroy is the man to catch at the top of the standings, and he intends to increase the gap on the chasing pack on the Algarve.
“I’ll try to give myself a chance to win and try and put a bit of distance between myself and the rest of the guys,” he said.
“I think the wind will be a big factor, it can be pretty breezy out here in the afternoon. I feel good coming into this week and I feel as if I'm still hitting it well.”
Many have been surprised by the Dubai Desert Classic winner’s meteoric rise to prominence, but England’s Lee Westwood - himself in the hunt at fourth in the standings - is not one of them.
“I’m not at all [surprised]. You've got to be consistent over the season and a lot of good results, play a lot of big events, have a win at the start of the year,” he said.
Westwood is still searching for his first win in two years but the Worksop golfer is happy that he is turning in some impressive displays and believes victory could be just around the corner.
“My goal is to get to Dubai either leading, or within an amount of money that is less than the difference between first and second - I could win the tournament and win the Money List,” he added. “The least it's going to take is winning one and finishing in the top five. But to win two would certainly give me a better chance.”