Harrington backs Irish Open move

Padraig Harrington has welcomed a decision by the European Tour to move next year’s Irish Open to a late June tee-off.

Padraig Harrington has welcomed a decision by the European Tour to move next year’s Irish Open to a late June tee-off.

Although a headline sponsor has still to be signed, the Tour have set its new date at June 28 to July 1 in 2012 and Harrington, a two-time Open champion, is backing the Tour all the way, partly because the new date will avoid a clash with the London Summer Olympics starting on July 27 and partly because he likes the idea of the Irish event falling in the weeks leading up to next year’s Open Championship.

The new date will also see four of the biggest events on the 2012 Tour’s ‘Race To Dubai’ schedule being contested between the end of the US Open in San Francisco on June 17 and the start of the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s on July 19 – and he likes that too.

They will include the BMW International Open (June 21 to 24), the Irish Open, the French Open (July 5 to 8) and the Scottish Open (July 12 to 15).

“It’s a good decision. I don’t think moving the Irish Open to before the Open championship will do it any harm,” said Harrington after signing for a five-under-par 67 after Thursday’s opening round of the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura.

“We’re still going to get all the leading Irish players competing, but then moving the Irish Open certainly won’t attract any less of the other leading Europeans.”

The only concern in moving the Irish Open to late June could be the unavailability of reigning US Open champion Rory McIlroy. The PGA Tour’s AT&T National is played in that week each year.

McIlroy intends playing full-time on the US PGA Tour next year and he would be seriously tempted to compete given the event is returning to the US capital and the Congressional course where he claimed his maiden Major title.

Keith Waters, director of international policy on the European Tour, indicated yesterday in Portugal that discussions are still on-going with regards to finding a main sponsor for the Irish Open.

“We are pretty sure we are returning to Killarney next year, but then we are still in discussions regarding a sponsor,” he said.

In another switch to the 2012 Race To Dubai schedule, the BMW Italian Open is moving from its normal early June date to mid-September, just prior to the September 27 starting date of the Ryder Cup.

“Moving the Italian Open to September is purely to get all the leading Italian players to compete,” said Waters.

Getting back to Harrington and the tendons he tore in his foot in Wednesday’s pro-am at Vilamoura, the Irish star said: “I’ve been advised I tore a couple of tendons on top of my foot, but with the bandages I’ve got on, it was fine today,” he said.

“Also the shoes I’m wearing today are a lot softer whereas the ones I was wearing yesterday were a more snug fit. But as long as I am not walking, I’m fine.”

Apart from having to play through the pain of when walking, Harrington that his bogeys at his third, 11th and 13th had also been very hurtful because it was all down to him losing his patience on a course where the winning total has averaged 20-under par for the four years of the event.

“With this tournament being about 20-under par plus, it puts you under a lot of pressure and certainly if I was not thinking of that 20-under, I would have shot better than I did,” he said.

“I struggled to stay patient given the ideal conditions and that cost me. I made three bogeys where you should be making birdies.

“The nature of this golf course has you thinking you should birdie every hole and you’re taking on shots.

“So I was just pushing too hard, so I was just going too gung-ho.”