European No 1 Padraig Harrington is prepared for the unexpected in golf - starting at this week's World Cup in Barbados.

The Dubliner made his own way to the Caribbean paradise after being delayed on his return from the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.

Playing partner Paul McGinley hitched a lift with billionaire JP McManus, the co-owner of the Sandy Lane Resort which plays host to this week's $4 million World Golf Championship event.

But even a slight hiccup in his travel plans cannot dim Harrington's enthusiasm for the game right now, even if he doesn't know what to expect.

Harrington said: "You cannot expect anything in this game. But I think my form this year fits into the natural progression of where my game should be at this stage of my career. This year has certainly been better than a few others I have had.

"My game is solid throughout at the moment. But I have also been able to improve my mental approach, which helps a lot."

Harrington and McGinley will make their 10th World Cup appearance on the trot alongside Singapore's Mardan Mamat and Chih-Bing Lam in tomorrow's fourballs.

But they are only fourth favourites with the bookies behind England, Sweden and the United States to repeat their 1997 success at Kiawah Island.

Given Harrington's incredible end of season form - two wins and three top-three finishes from his last six events - Ireland has every reason to expect a strong challenge from its two leading players.

But Harrington is keeping his feet on the ground after following an amazing third round 65 in Sun City with a lacklustre final round 75.

He said: "Golf is a strange game. You can hit as many good putts as you like. But some days they don’t drop and you have to accept that.

"But there are times when you can putt badly and they just drop into the hole from everywhere."

Not many putts dropped for him in Sunday's final round as he finished four shots behind Jim Furyk and was pipped for second place by Swede Henrik Stenson.

Stenson and his partner Carl Pettersson are second favourites behind English duo David Howell and Luke Donald.

But while Harrington says he has no idea what to expect in golf, he is confident that he is on the right track with his career.

He added: "I don’t see why I can’t take this form into next year."

The World Cup is not his last event of the year, however, as he prepares to finish off a season to remember by taking on Tiger Woods in the 16-man Target World Challenge next week.

The Ryder Cup will long long in his memory banks and it will all come home to him this week as he rubs shoulders with five of his European team mates and two of the American side.

Donald and Howell are highly fancied to continue England's resurgence in the World Cup.

Second, first and second in the last three runnings, they will be keen to go one better than last year when a freak typhoon robbed them of a chance to overhaul Wales on the final day in Portugal.

Defending champions Wales are far from confident of retaining the title, despite the fact that both Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd have won in Europen this year.

Dredge said: "It's a funny one. Last year we both had a very good season but this has been very different for both of us. Neither of us has been as consistent or playing as well.

"Going into last year we were quite confident that if we played our game we would certainly be up there and have a chance. But this year Doddy is struggling a bit and I've been a bit in and out with my game all year.

"I played really well in Switzerland and the Dunhill and then wanted to play in Mallorca but had an abscess in my tooth and couldn't play.

"A week later at Valderrama for the Volvo Masters I was useless, hitting it everywhere, and then I had three weeks at home and went to China and played a little better, but still not very good.

"I've also got a bit of tendinitis in my thumb so in terms of form coming into we are not looking as good as we did last year.

"But we are looking forward to it and with the team format you never know. It only needs one of you to be really hot."

The biggest unknown quantity this week is the weather.

While the players enjoyed temperatures in the 30s (80s F) for their practice rounds yesterday, organisers are keeping their fingers crossed that the sunshine will prevail.

With last year's event in the Algarve reduced to 54-holes, they are praying that the heavy rain marred Monday's practice round will not return at the weekend despite a bad forecast.

Barbados World Cup Tee-times (Irish time, Sky Sports 1 Thursday, 5pm-8 pm)

12:18 GERMANY (Bernhard Langer & Marcel Siem), Jamaica (Peter Horrobin & Delroy Cambridge;

12:30 AUSTRALIA (John Senden & Mark Hensby), COLOMBIA (Camilo Villegas & Manuel Merizalde);

12:42 SPAIN (Miguel Angel Jiménez & Gonzalo Fernandez), JAPAN (Hideto Tanihara & Tetsuji Hiratsuka);

12:54 DENMARK (Thomas Björn & Søren Hansen), CANADA (Mike Weir & Jim Rutledge);

13:06 SOUTH AFRICA (Rory Sabbatini & Richard Sterne), MEXICO (Octavio Gonzalez & Esteban Toledo);

13:18 ARGENTINA (Angel Cabrera & Andres Romero), FRANCE (Raphael Jacquelin & Jean Van De Velde);

13:30 USA (Stewart Cink & J J Henry), ITALY (Francesco Molinari & Emanuele Canonica);

13:42 IRELAND (Padraig Harrington & Paul McGinley), SINGAPORE (Mardan Mamat & Chih-Bing Lam);

13:54 SCOTLAND (Colin Montgomerie & Marc Warren), SWITZERLAND (Martin Rominger & Nicolas Sulzer);

14:06 ENGLAND (Luke Donald & David Howell), KOREA (S K Ho & Charlie Wi);

14:18 SWEDEN (Henrik Stenson & Carl Pettersson), TRINIDAD & TOBAGO (Stephen Ames & Robert Ames);

14:30 BARBADOS (Roger Beale Jr. & James Johnson), WALES (Bradley Dredge & Stephen Dodd).