Harrington on course for Dredge clash

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington could face Irish Open play-off victim Bradley Dredge in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona next month.

The Dubliner slipped one place to 10th in the world after narrowly failing to record his sixth top-10 on the spin in the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday.

And if the rankings remain unchanged for the next two weeks, he could face Welshman Dredge in a Tucson tussle that will bring back memories of their dramatic play-off clash at Adare Manor last year.

Harrington took the honours at the first extra hole that time to become the first home winner of the Irish Open for 25 years.

But he will be well aware of Dredge's giant-killing exploits on his Accenture Match Play debut last season, when the Tredegar man sent Ernie Els packing in the first round.

Els has decided not to play in Tucson this year, where the top 64 players in the world will meet at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain from February 20-24.

And that means that current world No 65 Colin Montgomerie could face world No 1 Tiger Woods in the first round.

Tied for 11th with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Harrington will spend the next two weeks practising before he begins his build up the the first World Golf Championship of the year with appearances in the AT&T Pro-Am and the Los Angeles Open.

And despite suffering a recurrence of his niggling neck injury in Abu Dhabi, he expects to be back to 100 percent this week.

He's happy that he decided not to play this week's Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in San Diego on the course that will host June's US Open.

He said: "I've another two weeks to go home now and try out stuff that appeared this week.

"If I'd gone playing next week (in San Diego) the emphasis would have been on the score rather than on maybe working on a few little details.

"It's quite obvious I need two tournaments to be really 100 per cent happy. Yeah, this week is ideal because you come down here and if you do play well, it's a good event with some quality in the field.

"If you don't, you are getting sunshine on your back; a breather from the weather at home and to see where your game is at and what needs to be worked on and you get a little bit of time to work on it.

"I'll obviously go back to trying and really get everything ready for the run of AT&T, Riviera and that so I am a little sharper teeing up at Pebble Beach than I was this week. I'm happy enough."

Harrington looks likely to be the only Irishman in the field in Tucson.

But he will be joined there by German sensation Martin Kaymer, who rocketed 42 places to 34th in the world thanks to his wire-to-wire win in the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday.

Kaymer is the only player in the top 50 under 25 years of age and looks set to face American Ryder Cup hopeful Hunter Mahan in the opening round.

If he remains in the top 50 until the end of March, the Dusseldorf star will make his Masters debut at Augusta from April 10-13.