Carnoustie trip for Harrington

By Brian Keogh

Star pupil Padraig Harrington will continue his Major championship education at Carnoustie today.

Despite four energy-sapping weeks on the road, the Dubliner has packed his bags and headed for Scotland to prepare for July's Open Championship.

The US Open might be less than three weeks away but Harrington's priority is to check out "The Beast" as the chase for the Claret Jug begins.

After slumping to tied 24th behind Anders Hansen in the BMW PGA at Wentworth - and losing out on a €1 million bonus - jaded Harrington will combine the trip with a corporate day for sponsors Wilson.

Harrington said: "I need to see Carnoustie for myself. The golf course we play at the Dunhill Links is not anywhere near the golf course we will be playing at the Open Championship.

"It might as well be on the moon if you were trying to compare it. There is no comparison."

The scene of Jean Van de Velde's 1999 Open meltdown is unlikely to be as punishing as it was eight years ago with the R&A keeping a close eye on the rough.

And that suits Harrington, who wants it to play hard and fast when he turns up again in July.

He said: "Even then you are going to have to hit the fairways to play the course well. And if you are going to try and hit the fairways at Carnoustie you have got to be perilously close to the fairway bunkers and they are all penalty shots, every single one of them."

Golf course design is very much on Harrington's mind these days as he prepares to unveil plans for his first design at the Marlfield Estate in Clonmel tomorrow.

Marlbrook Hotel & Golf Resort is due to open in 2009 and take up even more of Harrington's time.

But the Dubliner will be on the road again next week when he plays the Stanford St. Jude Championship in Memphis the week before the US Open at Oakmont.

Ryder Cup team mate Paul McGinley has revealed that he will be taking two weeks off to recharge and rediscover some form.

McGinley plans to take his children to Portugal for their mid-term break before returning to celebrate daughter Niamh's first communion.

A lowly 101st in the Order of Merit, McGinley said: "I just don't see any light at the end of the tunnel but I know from experience how quickly it can turn around.

"I haven't got a feel and even when I hit a good shot, it doesn't feel well. I am not in sync, not at all.

“It's not much fun battling, to be honest and there is no way I can compete at a high level.

"I'm making all the cuts though which is pretty impressive given the way I am playing which wasn't doing last season when I was playing poorly.

"It's hard work and that's what it will be over the next few weeks, getting my game back into shape."

McGinley will join Darren Clarke in next week’s US Open qualifier at Walton Heath, but Clarke has also decided to take time off to allow his injured hand to heal after a nightmare recent run.

And that means he will not be teeing up alongside Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Graeme McDowell in this week's Celtic Manor Wales Open.

Lawrie will arrive in Newport on a high after grabbing a share of 12th place at Wentworth.

And while he's already played 16 events this season he wants to stay on the road for the next two weeks and ride a wave of good form.

With his wife expecting the couple's second child in September, Lawrie plans to take time off later in the year.

He said: "I am doing Wales and Austria but I’m not going to do the US Open qualifying on Monday week. I just feel it’s too much time out of the European schedule.

"I always seem to struggle the week after a week off so I’m better off to keep on playing. I’m happy that we’re in Wales next week and Austria the week after. I’d be disappointed if I had a week off."