Padraig Harrington will have victory on his mind when he tees it up in the Austrian GolfOpen presented by Lyoness this week, but two young pretenders in Tom Lewis and Paul Cutler are out to spoil the Irishman’s party.
Harrington is targeting a vast improvement in his current Race to Dubai position of 87th to boost his chances of qualifying for the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World, where only the top 60 take part.
However, Lewis and Cutler, who starred for Europe in the recent Walker Cup victory over the United States and have subsequently joined the paid ranks, will be aiming for a fine start to their professional careers as they look to secure their European Tour cards for next season.
Harrington, who has had one top ten this campaign, at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March, has set his sights high at Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna for the €1 million event.
“I’m looking forward to playing in Austria,” said the 40 year old. “I have had some reasonable results and have been playing well in America recently so I am looking to continue that trend and get a good result in Austria.
“I know that I need to improve my position in The Race to Dubai, but all it takes is a win or one strong finish and I will get into that top 60.
“I am also keen to make a start on my 2012 Ryder Cup qualification campaign. You never know, it might happen in Austria– that is certainly my intention.”
There are high hopes for Lewis, who burst onto the scene at this year’s Open Championship, where a 65 in the first round gave him a share of the lead and he ultimately won the Silver Medal as the highest placed amateur.
He and Cutler have been given sponsor’s invitations to play in Austria, and they can have up to six more invites until of the season from which to secure a European Tour card for 2012 and avoid going through the Qualifying School.
“I am very excited to get out there and see how I measure up,” said 20 year old Lewis. “The Open was fantastic for me and I learnt a lot from the occasion. All the experiences gleaned from my amateur career, along with the help and support I have received from the R&A, EGU and my family and friends, will hopefully stand me in good stead as I try to earn my European Tour card for next year.”
Spaniard José Manuel Lara returns to defend the title he won last year, when a final-round 64 and play-off victory over David Lynn turned his season around. He had missed nine consecutive cuts heading into the event and was languishing down in 130th place in The Race to Dubai, but rediscovered some form to guarantee his playing rights for 2011.
“I was fighting to keep my card and had not played well for the whole season really so to go there and play so well, especially in the final round under a lot of pressure, was very special,” said Lara. “I have thought about that victory a lot and obviously have a lot of great memories of the tournament.”
The event returns to the 7,053 yards, par 72 course for the second year running. Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who carded a final round 60 in 2009 to win by one at Fontana Golf Club, is also in the field.