Irish Open pressure key to Claret Jug

Padraig Harrington reckons his Irish Open win at Adare Manor helped him lift his first Major at Carnoustie.

And he can’t wait for his title defence at the Limerick venue from May 15-18, when he tees it up for the first time on home soil as Open champion.

Reflecting on his historic Irish Open win last year, Harrington said: “As it turned out the Irish Open victory meant more than even I realised at the time.

“Initially I was euphoric about winning an Irish Open. I had been trying for at least ten years, with many frustrations. I always found it very difficult to handle the pressure, the distractions and the general hype of an Irish Open.

“Years of that building up, the fact that no Irishman had won it in 25 years, the media hype going into the event and then to actually finally win the tournament was ever so big for me.

“To get that on my CV – I don’t think I would have ever felt as if I had a true career unless I had gone on to win The Irish Open. It was a relief but overall there was a sense of euphoria to go on and win it.

“Winning the play-off was a beautiful moment for me. But little did I know how much of an effect it would have on the rest of my year.

“It definitely was a big catalyst for going on to win The Open. I definitely felt more comfortable and I gained self confidence from that win.”

With Harrington’s backers Kartel coming on board as Official Clothing Suppliers this year, the Dubliner should feel at home.

And while he knows that playing his first tournament on Irish soil as a Major champion will bring even more pressure, he feels he can come up trumps.

He said: “It will be the first time I actually tee it up as the Open Champion in Ireland so it will bring a different sort of pressure.

“I think I have to say after last year that I have the wherewithal to handle it.

“The key is that it is not a normal week. It took me a long time to realise that. For many years I kept trying to treat The Irish Open like it was a normal week and the one thing it isn’t is normal. It can’t be and you have to accept the fact.”

Winds gusting up to 70 mph caused havoc last year with scores soaring into the 90s.

But Tournament Director David Probyn has ordered the rough to be cut down by an inch and had several landing areas widened to get a winning score in the 10 under par region.

Probyn said: “When you have one guy under par at three o'clock on Sunday, I can look back and say we had come pretty horrific conditions.

“The weather forecast will determine the course set up and we don’t want a repeat of last year. I always think that 10-under is a good winning score and that’s what we’ll be aiming for.”