New toys for Harrington

Tog gun Padraig Harrington will come out blasting with new weapons in Abu Dhabi this week.

Down two spots to world No 9, Harrington hopes to bounce back in the Middle East with a new driver and new irons in his bag.

The Dubliner lost his billing as Europe's top player when he was leapfrogged by new world No 7 Luke Donald in the latest world rankings.

But he hopes to get back on top this week by playing his first event in January for six years.

Refreshed after four weeks holiday, Harrington said: "It is a bit odd to be out playing again in January but I have been doing a lot of testing out here for the past week so there is a logical reason for me to be out here.

"I have been on holiday in Dubai and I've been using my spare time to test new irons and a new driver. The whole purpose of coming out this early in the season was to have some warm weather practice and to test the new clubs."

Harrington normally takes a nine-week winter break but he revealed that his decision to tee it up in this week's $2 million Abu Dhabi Championship gives him the chance to tune up his game and equipment for the season ahead.

He added: "I normally wouldn't have played until next month but I was testing my clubs last week and again this week and I will take them into competition and see what they are like."

Harrington plans to swap his Titleist 905 driver for a new Wilson model that he reckons will give him even more distance off the tee.

He explained: "This is the 2007 Wilson model and it is a brand new. It is so new that I don't even know what it is called.

"It is excellent and I played down in Dubai with it but the only thing is that I put all my grips on crooked so I have to tweak those a little bit before we get going and get everything spot on.

"But the driver was good straight away. And it has to be very good to get in the bag because I am very happy with the one I have been using for the last while. So it will be interesting to see how we go.

"The main difference between this one and the old one is that this driver generates a little less spin, which will mean it will go further.

"As for the new irons, they look a little bit bigger than the old ones but really what they have done is changed the weightings in them a little.

"The biggest difference I have noticed so far is that the four-iron flies much different to the way my old four iron flew.

"There was a more aggressive flight with the old irons but these have a much higher, softer flight which is what I had been looking for, to be honest."

A higher ball flight with his irons should give Harrington an edge when he turns up at Augusta for the Masters on April 5.

He added: "Basically, they are easier to hit and I hit them higher, which means they are softer coming into the greens. It is amazing what they can do with technology.

"My new four-iron doesn't look a whole lot different from my old four-iron but it flies substantially different."

Harrington's caddie Ronan Flood, who got married to his sister-in-law Susie Gregan just two weeks ago, made it to Abu Dhabi from his honeymoon in the Maldives.

And that is vitally important for Harrington, who admitted to struggling with his clubbing in his practice rounds in Dubai.

He said: "It is important to have Ronan out here now after his honeymoon so that we can dial in the new distances I am hitting the ball.

"I played on my own last week and made a few clubbing errors so hopefully between the two of us we won't get too many clubs wrong this week."

After claiming the Order of Merit for the first time last season, Harrington is feeling good about his first appearance in the star-studded Abu Dhabi Championship.

But even if he takes the €257,876 first prize he will not be able to catch current Order of Merit leader YE Yang, who has a €386,400 lead over Michael Campbell following his win in the HBSC Champions Tournament last November.

Playing a new tournament on a new course with new equipment has not dissuaded the bookies from making Harrington the 10-1 joint favourite with Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen and Henrik Stenson.

But Harrington said: "I haven't played the Abu Dhabi Championship before but I really like the course, I played it for the first time today and it definitely suits my eye.

"There are a lot of things happening this week but at the end of the day I am using new clubs and this is something you have to go through at some stage and this is the event I am doing it at."

Damien McGrane, Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy complete a five-man Irish challenge in the event which begins on Thursday.

Latest World Rankings

1 Tiger Woods USA 19.98
2 Jim Furyk USA 8.67
3 Adam Scott Aus 7.53
4 Phil Mickelson USA 6.60
5 Ernie Els SAf 5.90
6 Vijay Singh Fij 5.87
7 Luke Donald Eng 5.60
8 Retief Goosen SAf 5.52
9 Padraig Harrington Ire 5.47
10 Geoff Ogilvy Aus 5.24

Other Irish
42 Darren Clarke NIre
77 Paul McGinley Ire
142 Graeme McDowell NIre
229 Damien McGrane
294 Peter Lawrie
362 Gary Murphy
600 Stephen Browne
601 David Higgins