From Brian Keogh in California
Padraig Harrington wants to warm up for next year’s Open by chasing his fourth Irish PGA title on a links course.
After missing the cut at Hoylake this year, the Dubliner vowed never to go to the Open again without playing competitive golf the week before.
He said: “When you are going to Carnoustie, you are going there with a big battle on your hands and I want to prepare properly for it.
“If the Irish PGA is played the week before, I will certainly be playing if it’s on a links course.
“I want to play links golf that week and I will either be playing social golf on a links or else a tournament. I’d rather play a tournament and if the PGA is on that week, I’ll be there.
“Any of the links courses would be good. The European Club would probably be the test but I think they have something on that week I don’t think it is going to be there.”
Harrington would be a massive draw on a links course in July but the bigger picture is far more complicated.
Last year’s sponsors, Sherry Fitzgerald, pulled the plug in the middle of October and PGA Irish Region secretary Michael McCumiskey is facing a massive task to find another backer.
He said: “We don’t have a golf course, we don’t have a sponsor and we don’t have dates identified.
“It is great to have an Irish-born world star thinking this way but coming up with the answer is the issue.
“We are sending a letter to all the Irish tour card holders asking them if there are dates in their schedule next year when they might not be playing tour events and might consider playing the Irish Championship.
“Sherry Fitzgerald decided not to renew their sponsorship agreement with us so we are actively looking for a new sponsor willing to put up €250,000 - €140,000 for the prize fund and the rest to cover the expenses.”
Nothing can be done until a sponsor is found and that is only the beginning of the problems for McCumiskey.
While Harrington might be available the week before the Open, the rest of the Irish tour stars are likely to play the clashing Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
McCumiskey added: “July is a particularly busy month on links courses and May and September have always been the prime months for us.
“We’ve addressed the possibility of the Irish Championship being played the week before the Open and Padraig has spoken to us about it, but nothing has been ruled in or ruled out yet.
“The two courses that were mentioned were the European Club and Baltray. But Baltray has the Interprovincial Championship and the Home Internationals next year and it is not available.
“We have never arranged an Irish Championship without consulting all the players and our priority is to get a sponsor sorted out.
“A potential sponsor might have a date and a venue in mind so there is no point in going too far too quick. It is a difficult situation.”
While Harrington has not played Loch Lomond since 1999, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy will all be keen to tee it up there.
Add to that the potential loss of a week’s green fee revenue to a links course in mid-July - potentially €50,000 - and it looks as though Harrington will be playing social golf that week.