Irish PGA to go ahead

From Brian Keogh in San Diego

Padraig Harrington has vowed that his US Open flop won’t change his Major championship masterplan.

And the Open champion was relieved to hear that he will get to warm up for his Claret Jug defence by playing for a top prize of just €10,000 in the cash-strapped Irish PGA at The European Club.

With no title sponsor again this year, it was feared that the Irish PGA might not take place and Harrington would be forced to prepare for the biggest major in golf by playing a friendly fourball with his mates on a links course.

But the Irish Championship will be bailed out by PGA headquarters at the Belfry with Harrington set to chase his fifth victory in the event for a prize fund of no more than €50,000.

That’s big news for the Irish star, who slipped one place 13th in the world after finishing in a disappointing 36th in the US Open at Torrey Pines.

Preferring to play two events immediately before a Major, he’ll return to action in the European Open at the London Club before heading to Co Wicklow to defend his Irish PGA crown from July 9-12.

The Dubliner had already ruled out playing for a top prize of €600,0000 in the €3.8 million Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond the week before the Open.

And he’s still convinced that his strategy of playing two events before a Major works perfectly for him after pulling it off at Carnoustie last year.

Harrington said: “I play two events before a major to get into the zone. It is not that I am not trying any less, I am trying as hard as I can.

“I am comfortable with the way I do things with my schedule. I think it works for me. In fact, I know it does.

“I felt I very much things right going into the US Open but it just wasn't my week.

“Another week I'd be dropping a few more putts. As I said, you hole a few putts you think you're playing better, and you do play better.

“I will have to sit back and look back at it but as of this moment I'd say there's nothing to change at all.

“Nothing happened this week that hasn’t happened a thousand times before. You have so stay patient when you are not on a run. If this is my worst week I will be delighted.

“I approached this right. I'm actually happy with I think I got my approach right this week and I'm happy to continue that on for The Open and the US PGA.”

Irish PGA secretary Michael McCumiskey has all but given up hope of finding a sponsor for Harrington’s Irish Championship defence.

He was saved when billionaire Dermot Desmond injected €50,000 into the kitty for last year's €80,000 staging.

But this term he’ll need help from PGA HQ at the Belfry to cover estimated €30,000 costs of running the event.

McCumiskey said: “We are running out of options. We have little or no hope of getting a sponsor at this stage. There is one company that we have been speaking too but it doesn't look likely.

“We are selling 25 pro-am teams for €2,000 a team at present. That is not sufficient to make up a respectable prize fund because there is a significant cost in staging it with staff, with overnight stops, with scoreboard and scoring operation, for which there is a minimum cost.

“The staging costs are between €25,000 and €30,000 and we hope prized fund will be between €40,000 and €50,000 with the winner normally getting around one fifth of that. This year, that won't be more than €10,000.

“It’s disappointing, of course it is. But save for the support of Dermot Desmond, it wasn't much easier in 2007.

“I have spent some time on this since January and there will be a championship. But you don't get much sympathy in this job.”

Harrington pocketed €12,500 last year when he beat Brendan McGovern at the first extra hole before heading to Carnoustie to win the Open.

But after his US Open disappointment, he is still outside the five automatic qualifiers on both Ryder Cup lists.

Harrington said: “I'm sure that will turn around. My golf has been good, steady, solid, but maybe erratic would be better.

“I'm well aware of the situation. I've been doing nicely in tournaments but not really picking up the points.

“But that changes. You have one week and you're right there and win, and you win 50 points, and it's all rosy.”