Irish hoping to lay down LA law

Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley are hoping to spearhead an international charge for the Nissan Open in LA.

The Dubliners failed to spark at Pebble Beach last week as Phil Mickelson scorched back to form with a massive win.

But the Irish stars will take heart from recent results at historic Riviera Country Club where seven of the last ten Nissan Open winners have been won by players born outside the US.

They included the last four champions and while Mickelson is the narrow favourite ahead of Ernie Els and Adam Scott, Harrington and McGinley have the game to challenge for the $936,000 winner's cheque.

And Harrington especially is hoping good week on a course that was built in 1927 and lengthened six years ago.

He said: "I always seem to do well on old, traditional golf courses over here so hopefully that will be the case this week.

"I was a bit under the weather in Pebble Beach and had to spend three days in bed with the 'flu so it would be nice to get going early here."

Harrington and McGinley form part of a European Ryder Cup sextet in action with Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal joined by English aces Luke Donald and David Howell.

With the exception of Tiger Woods and Dubai Desert Classic winner Henrik Stenson, eight of the world's top ten are in action as well as 19 of the top 25.

And the lack of rough this year could open the doors to a birdie bonanza, something that could suit a player like Harrington.

The Dubliner has been reunited with his new Wilson driver after being forced to take it out of the bag in Pebble Beach as it did not make the PGA Tour's list of conforming clubs in time.

But even if he misses a few fairways, he shouldn't have too much trouble reaching the tricky greens due to the lack of rough.

Due to the cold winter, the normally clinging kikuyu rough has failed to grow, but the difficulty of the poa annua greens should give the European No 1 plenty to think about.

South African Retief Goosen said: "The greens are very tricky round here. If you miss these greens it's very difficult to get up and down."

It is also a par 71 measuring 7,279 yards off the back tees with two difficult par threes in the first six holes.

The 236 yard fourth is one of the toughest on tour while the 199-yard sixth looks like a doughnut with a bunker plonked dead centre of the green.

World No 4 Mickelson has never played well at Riviera in his seven previous visits but added the event to his schedule at the last minute and then won at Pebble Beach.

His brilliant driving performance there, where he missed just one fairway in final round, makes him the man to beat.

But like Harrington, European stalwart Howell hopes to kick off his PGA Tour campaign with a top drawer performance and make his mark in the US.

Howell said: "I wasn't ready five or six years ago to come and take my card over here. I just wasn't that good to try to play on both sides of the Atlantic.

"I didn't play as well as I would have liked in general over here last year. I did keep my card obviously, which was pleasing, but my position in the world is not about making cuts - it's about threatening and winning tournaments.

"I never really came close to that last year, but there were enough signs that I could compete over here and I'm just obviously looking forward to taking that step this year and really contending down the stretch and hopefully picking up an event or two."

Selected tee times (Irish time)
1550 JJ Henry, Chad Campbell, Padraig Harrington
2110 Tripp Isenhour, Ryan Armour, Paul McGinley