No US U-turn for Harrington

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington has vowed not to turn his back on the PGA Tour - even though he needs to cut back his schedule.

The Irish Open champion, 35, is the 10-1 favourite to complete a famous Irish double with victory in the Smurfit Kappa European Open at The K Club.

But while the field has been devastated by high profile withdrawals, Harrington is playing his 17th event of the year this week and he can't see a way of cutting back the number of events he plays.

As the rain hammered the press tent at The K Club, he said: "I'm playing 30 events this year and it may creep up to 32. It's too many. The best player in the world plays 20 to 22 and that answers a huge amount.

"We are trying to beat the best and you have to look at what they are doing.

"I have to find a way to play less. I sat down with my trainer last night and discussed the problem, but at the moment I don't know what to do.

"To give quality time to my training I need to play less, but there are a lot of good events out there and we are really caught trying to fit everything in.

"There are so many choices. Players are trying to peak for the majors and it's a difficult situation."

Just six of the world's top 50 are in action this week and only four of the Ryder Cup side that romped to a record-equalling victory on the Palmer Course last September.

And while Harrington understands that sponsors are frustrated by the lack of big names in the draw, he can understand the predicament of the top players.

He said: "I have sympathy for the sponsors without a doubt. Everything should be about giving back to them - they are the most important thing to the tour and you want to make sure they get 100 percent value.

"I can see why they aren't happy about it and it needs to be sorted out - but I don't have the answers."

Harrington divides his time between the European and PGA Tours with the majors and WGC events counting on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last season he played 20 European Tour events on his way to winning the Order of Merit - though five of those events were played on US soil.

He only needs to play 11 events in Europe to retain his membership but the PGA Tour required him to play 15 events.

Yet he has no intention of giving up his card Stateside, even though he could still rely on invitations to play warm-up events ahead of the majors and World Golf Championships.

He said: "I wouldn't give up my PGA Tour card because I took it and it would be rude.

"I don't know what to do. I've just come to the conclusion that I need to play less. How I am going to do it, I don't know."

One solution would be to cut out end of season events such as the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, Tiger Woods' Target World Challenge or the Japanese Tour's Dunlop Phoenix Open - a title he took from Woods last year.

Harrington has already decided not to play in Tiger's Target event as his wife Caroline is expecting their second child in early December.

But he is still contemplating a defence of his Dunlop Phoenix title and has not ruled out another appearance for Ireland in the World Cup in China in November.

As for his chances of winning this week, Harrington believes the horrendous weather will put 75 percent of the field out of contention and give him an edge.

He said: "My old coach Howard Bennett gave me a great piece of advice as a kid. On a bad day, 50 percent of the field don't want to be there and 50 percent of the 50 percent that are left haven't got the ability to deal with it.

"So you are competing against 25 percent of the field on a bad day. You could talk to 25 percent of the field out there who give themselves absolutely no chance because of the conditions.

"And there will be another 25 percent after that once they start on a few holes and have a few bogeys."