Tiger for Irish PGA? It's not impossible

Padraig Harrington could face some world class rivals in next year’s cash-strapped Irish PGA Championship.

The event is currently limited to Irish-born tour players and members of the Irish Region of the PGA.

But Irish PGA administrator Michael McCumiskey does not rule out a move to allow tour stars like Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson or even Tiger Woods to get some vital links practice the week before next year’s Open at Turnberry.

Already searching for a sponsor, McCumiskey said: “The championship has been around since 1907 and it is not in my remit to change the format of it. But I would never say never.

“It was related to me that Adam Scott asked Padraig how he could play in the Irish Championship.

“We are not going to change the rules to suit Adam Scott but if a player of that category wanted to play in The European Club the week before the Open we could certainly open the lines of communication and see how people could be facilitated.

“We don’t have an abundance of support for this event so our minds are not closed to anything. We are always prepared to engage in discussion and hear the other man’s voice.”

Harrington laid the foundations for his back-to-back Open Championship wins by winning the Irish PGA at The European Club the previous week.

Five times a winner of the title, he confessed that his tour rivals are jealous of the fact that he can build up for the Open on a links course while they are forced to tee it up on parkland in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

Woods shot a course record 67 when he practiced at The European Club with

David Duval, Scott McCarron and Mark O'Meara before the Open at Muirfield in 2002 while

US Ryder Cup stars Stewart Cink and Hunter Mahan have both played the course to prepare for Major championship links golf in recent years.


Harrington said: “With a number of people, usually the first comment is ‘can we play’. Many of the guys have said to me it’d be great to me.”

Even though Harrington has played in the event for the past three years, the Irish PGA has struggled to attract sponsorship since the Jefferson Smurfit Group pulled out after 15 years as title sponsor in 2004.

Millionaire Dermot Desmond came to the rescue in 2007 while Ladbrokes.com came on board just nine days before the event this season.

The bookmakers paid just €35,000 for the privilege and while the Irish PGA generated another €20,000 through the pre-event pro-ams, the PGA at the Belfry underwrote losses of around €50,000.

McCumiskey added: “The main issue is to try and secure sponsorship for next year’s Irish Championship. We have been holding talks with Pat Ruddy of The European Club and Padraig’s manager Adrian Mitchell.

"Our priority is to bring a sponsor on board and we have been talking to Ladbrokes.com. But we are ready to talk to all interested parties.”