Padraig Harrington is hoping the move to his “favourite course” will inspire him to capture his second Irish Open title.
Two months before sealing his maiden Major victory at The 136th Open Championship, Harrington prevailed in a play-off with Bradley Dredge to win the 2007 Irish Open and spark jubilant scenes at Adare Manor, in Co. Limerick.
Five years on, Harrington is a three-time Major Champion and, for the first time since 1953, Ireland’s National Open is being held north of the border, at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Portrush, Co. Antrim.
Harrington believes the 6,843 yards, par 72 course is the ideal venue to host the 57th edition of the historic event, which takes place from June 28-July 1.
He said: “There are a lot of things which make Portrush so special. It’s a very fair test of golf – if you hit good shots you’ll be rewarded with birdies, but hit bad ones and you’ll run up bogeys or double bogeys. You always feel like you can make a score round there, but it’s not as easy as you think, so you’ve just got to try to be fearless.
“It’s also a very scenic place to play golf, with some stunning views. Over the years I played a lot of amateur tournaments there, and the atmosphere was always second to none. The course is right in the town which is usually buzzing, so as a venue it’s got everything going for it.”
With Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and World Number One Rory McIlroy also confirmed there will be four Major Champions from the host nation in attendance at Royal Portrush Golf Club, and Harrington is expecting the Irish golfing public to stage their traditional show of support.
He said: “The people of Northern Ireland have always loved their golf. They always turned up in great numbers to support amateur events, so in some ways taking the Irish Open to Portrush is a reward for their support and loyalty. I can guarantee this year’s Irish Open will be as well-attended as any in the past, which should guarantee a great atmosphere.
“I understand that most of the tickets have been sold already and you can’t get a hotel room in the town, which tells you everything you need to know about how well-received it’s been. It’s also easily accessible from Belfast, so I’m expecting very big crowds during the tournament week.”
Harrington will be one of the favourites to succeed Simon Dyson as champion, and the 40 year old is hopeful of delivering Ireland’s first home winner since then-amateur Shane Lowry’s triumph in 2009.
He said: “I came close to winning the North of Ireland Amateur Open a fair few times but never quite managed it, so to win the first Irish Open to be held in Northern Ireland in my lifetime would be very special.
“But with the quality of the field, winning certainly won’t be easy. The Irish Open is in the middle of a really big run of events, with the BMW International Open the week before and the French Open the week after. I’m expecting a very strong turn-out from the European players, especially with The Open Championship being played three weeks later. The opportunity to test yourself on a links golf course in the run-up to The Open is a definite advantage, and I’m sure you’ll see many of the big guns from Europe heading over to Portrush.”
Tickets to see Northern Ireland’s galaxy of stars alongside the cream of European Tour golfing talent are available at a discounted rate until tomorrow - Saturday March 31. Among the offers available is an Adult Season ticket at £60 instead of the gate price of £80, a Concession Season ticket at £40 (instead of £60), an Adult Any One Day ticket at £25 (instead of £35) and an entrance ticket for the Pro-Am tournament on Wednesday June 27 for £5 (instead of £10).
Hospitality packages are sold out for Thursday and Friday but are still available on Saturday and Sunday. To take advantage of any of these offers, please visit www.europeantourtickets.com