Car-nasty test for Padraig

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington is bracing himself for Car-nasty by taking on Ireland's toughest links test.

The world No 10 expects a massive examination of his game when he tees it up in the €80,000 Irish PGA Championship at Pat Ruddy's European Club in Wicklow tomorrow (Wed).

Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell are playing for €4.4 million and a top prize of €738,255 in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

But Harrington will be happy to bank the €13,000 top prize if it gives him an edge in next week's Open at links monster Carnoustie.

Hopeful that his knee injury will not be a factor, Harrington said: "The European Club is the toughest we have and Carnoustie the toughest they have. So that's about it, isn't it.

"I am looking forward to the tournament. It is a good opportunity for me to practice in those sort of conditions. You are going to have to play well round The European Club to perform.

"I will settle for saving all my luck for two weeks' time but I am looking forward to playing a links golf course and I am sure it is going to be tough."

The European Club proved to be a massive test for the best amateurs in the country during last year's Irish Close Championship.

The cut fell at an all-time high of 23 over par with the field taking an average of 84.1 strokes to get round Ruddy's 7,368-yard monster.

Harrington will be relieved to know that tough taskmaster Ruddy has had no input into the course set up this week.

He joked: "I am hoping Pat has nothing to do with setting up the course. I don' think anyone would be turning up if Pat set up the course.

"|t is obviously going to be set up as fair as they can on a very tough golf course. I am looking forward to it."

While Harrington is the only player with a full European Tour card taking part, he will be pressed hard for victory by the likes of David Higgins, Philip Walton and Michael Hoey.

Defending champion David Mortimer, Irish Order of Merit leader Leslie Walker, Glenmuir Club Pro champion John Dwyer and Irish No 1 Simon Thornton are also set to play in an event that Harrington has won three times.

WIthout a title sponsor, the Irish Region of the PGA struggled to find the funds to stage the championship this year.

But Harrington's presence and a €50,000 cash injection by billionaire Dermot Desmond has saved the day.

Today's pro-am has helped raise another €50,000 towards the costs of staging the event.

And while Harrington knows that he is helping the Irish PGA, he admits that they have also done him a massive favour.

He said: "I am obviously helping the championship and they are helping me by staging it on a links course the week before the Open. So it works both ways.

"I am very appreciative and I am really looking forward to playing actually. It would be the worst thing in the world if I had the week off after this particular week because the type of work I need to do can only be done on the golf course.

"There is no where else to do it. Four rounds of competition is really going to suit me well."

Harrington practised on Brittas Bay course ahead of the 2002 Open at Muirfield, where he missed out on a four-way play-off for the title by just one shot.

He lives less than 30 miles from the course and regularly plays friendly fourballs there with his friends and family.

He added: "Pat has always made me feel very welcome there and let me do what I want on the golf course.

"He said if I wanted to chuck a bag of balls on the fairway and hit them that was fine. I practised for Muirfield on the seventh fairway, which has got to be one of the toughest holes ever in golf.

"It is great to see the Irish Championship there. I don't know if it has the infrastructure around it for an Irish Open and it would probably be too tough for us anyway. But it is a great links and a beautiful place."
Harrington will be aiming to become the third golfer to win the Irish Open and Irish PGA titles in the same year.

Fred Daly completed this historic double in 1946, the year before he became the first and only Irish winner of the Open .

Bradshaw captured both Irish titles in 1947.