From Brian Keogh at Royal Birkdale

Philip Walton fancies his chances of leading the Irish challenge at Royal Birkdale and showing the world he's not a beaten docket.

The 1995 Ryder Cup, 46, hero is flying high after ending his decade-long absence from the Open by coming through the qualifiers and then finishing second to Padraig Harrington in the Irish PGA.

And while he might be a 500-1 shot to lift the Claret Jug, he reckons odds of 25-1 with Paddy Power that he will finish as the top Irishman are worth a punt.

He said: "I might have a few bob on myself. I think that's a great bet and I am feeling pretty good.

"My confidence is coming back after what happened last week. Getting into the Open was great for me but I also got a lot out of the Irish PGA.

"Finishing second to Padraig was a good performance but I wouldn't read too much into beating him by a few shots in the last round.

"He is a class act and he just produced the shots when he had to. I hope his wrist is okay."

Walton was due to play a practice round with 2006 US Ryder Cup skipper Tom Lehman but ended up playing the front nine on his own before working on his putting.

And he reckons he will need a solid start if he is to achieve his primary objective of making the cut.

He said:"The start is going to be very important because there is a very dangerous start here. The first is a driver for me and the second it s great hole as well. There is a new tee on the third which makes that a tough driving hole and then you have a great par three in the fourth.

"Even the fifth is tricky one. It is only 346 yards and I normally squeeze a little driver down there from left to right. But the wind is funny on that hole and it moves around a lot, which makes it very tricky.

"Then you come to the sixth and holy god that is a tough one. I couldn't get up in two today. It is 499 yards and I had over 200 yards to the front with a three-wood and came up short.

"Overall, the course is lovely, really fantastic. It is different to the European Club in some ways because the fairways here are a lot bouncier and the club comes out of the shot easier.

"The greens are lovely as well and they aren't that quick yet. But I'm sure they will be scandalous when it comes to Thursday and Friday.

"It is a great challenge here but driving the ball will be absolutely key, which I like. I love the buzz of the Open. It is really great and there were heaps of people out there for a Tuesday. I can't wait to get going."

Walton will have his entire family cheering him on from behind the ropes hoping he can continue his golfing comeback.

He said: "I have been playing well coming into this and shooting good scores. I just hope I can follow through for the week now.

"I got a lot of confidence playing with Padraig last week and I had no problem standing up and ripping it down the narrow fairways there at the European Club.

"Hopefully I can keep it up this week. I am here to make the cut for starters and take it from there."

A new fitness programme has been huge for Walton, who has regained some suppleness thanks to physio sessions with Cavan man Seamus Rodgers.

He said: "I am even walking better and I can attack the ball better. I will try and stay relaxed and if I can get a good start both days I will be okay.

"I am rolling it nicely with the putter so you never know. It is too soon to say that I am back. But if I can get four rounds here it will show that I still have it."