Brian Keogh at The European Club
Padraig Harrington admits he's desperate to find his Open focus as he chases his fourth Irish PGA title at The European Club
The world No 10 is the red-hot favourite to blitz the field on the fearsome Brittas Bay track created by golfing impresario Pat Ruddy.
But Harrington admits that he is almost in a no-win situation and while he has no problem with the favourite's tag, he knows he must improve his mental game if he is to feature in next week's Open at Carnoustie.
He confessed: "I know what's missing in my game at the moment. Since I won the Irish Open I haven't performed well at all. I couldn't pick anything in my golf swing that I would want to changed at the moment. It is just routine and shot selection and focus generally.
“I don't mind the pressure of being expected to win. I can handle that responsibility. But it is not that straightforward.
“I have to play decent and if somebody else has a good week they will be hard to beat. There are plenty of players capable. I don't see it as as foregone conclusion in any shape of form."
Normally a 7,3355-yard monster, The European Club played just 7,100 yards yesterday and with bad weather forecast for later in the week it could well be taken back to less than 7,000 yards.
Harrington did not find it long in yesterday's pro-am but he knows it can bite hard, even if tees are moved forward considerably.
He got a taste of what is to come when the he took on the fearsome seventh from a forward tee, drove out of bounds and then three-putted for a triple bogey seven.
Yet The European Club is perfect preparation for the game's third major and with Open qualifier David Higgins and defending champion David Mortimer in his group, Harrington faces a huge examination of his game
After firing a two-over par 73, he said: "I agree that if I go on to win it, I won't exactly be getting too many pats on the back saying, 'Gee that was a great win.' But that is not the way it works in golf.
"I will have to play well on a very stern test. If I was playing on a slightly easier golf course I would know that I would be there or thereabouts at the end of the week.
"But if you are slightly off your game, this course will give a bigger separation of the field than most golf courses.”
Declaring his left knee “100 percent” after some recent niggles, Harrington knows the course as well as anybody as he lives less than 30 miles away.
He said: "The course is in great condition, super. The weather forecast is tough for the week but I feel good about it. It is always a tough course. It is as soft as I have ever seen it - as soft as it would be in the winter.
"It is not playing too long at the moment and I didn't hit my first driver today until the 10th. But obviously if the weather changes that will change a lot of things.
"It is perfect preparation for the Open next week. Everything about the course is very similar to Carnoustie texture wise in terms of the greens and fairways.
"The grasses are the same the pace of the greens will probably be pretty similar. The look of the place and the wind. I'd take four 71s (level par) right now. It is not going to be easy here.
"My knee is 100 percent but I have the strapping in the bag just in case. I don't feel a problem with it at all."
Course designer and owner Ruddy has cut back the rough lining the fairways to make sure that there is no repeat of the carnage during last year's Irish Amateur Close.
The cut fell at 23 over par that time but Ruddy reckons it will be closer to 11 or 12 over this time with a winning score of around level par.
Ruddy said: "It has been raining since May so we have widenåd the area by an average of two machine widths which would be 15 feet each side and taken out some pockets of rough.
"In some places the rough is quite strong and of course when you go outside the cut areas you have the hairy stuff.
"I have sympathy for everyone in a championship, but the champion won't win losing golf balls or hit the ball 50 yards off the centre line.
"It is a wide golf course compared to the Irish Close last year - nearly 10 yards wider on average.
"Around the greens we have eased things too so that if a player skips through the back of a green he is not up to his knees."
After hosting the Irish men's and ladies Amateur Close championships, Ruddy regards the arrival of the Irish PGA as the completion of a "full house."
He added: "First of all, the three nationals bodies have recognised, which is very gratifying. But secondly, the current generation of men, women and youths are all familiar with the European Club.
"They are all familiar with the likes of Ballybunion but this means we are ensconced more comfortably in the Irish golf community of today and all the competitors of the day will have had a lash of it."
Tiger Woods holds the course record, carding a four under par 67 in a warm up for the Open in 2002. But Ruddy does not see anyone breaking par for all four days.
He said: "I am happy the course will provide a nice test. I will be very suprised if anyone does four sub par rounds - but not a bit upset. On Sunday morning I will have a fry either way."