Padraig Harrington is hoping that his bid for a fifth Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA title will prove to be a lucky charm in next week’s Open at Royal Birkdale.
The Dubliner, 36, defends his Irish title at The European Club knowing that last year's win played a major part in his Open Championship victory at Carnoustie the following week.
The world No 13 could be playing for a top prize of €631,045 in this week’s Scottish Open at Loch Lomond instead of just €10,000 in Co Wicklow.
But he knows that the links boost he will get will be worth far more to him than money as he sharpens his game for his Claret Jug defence.
Harrington said: “There are a number of benefits. First of all, I’m better off getting competitive for any tournament on a golf course than I am on any practice ground.
“The second benefit is that I get to do that this week in a reasonably stress-free environment for me. It’s low-key, I’m staying at home. So it is ideal in that sense.
“The third benefit is it’s on a links golf course. It takes a while to get used to the wind again because my ball flight has totally changed since I play in the ‘States so much and it does take a while to get used to the shots you want to hit.
“On a links golf course, there’s the lies, the putts, putting from off the green, the chipping, the pitching, the sand in the bunkers. The wind, punch shots, all those things. How far the ball will travel. There’s so many things that are different on a links course.”
Harrington is the 1-2 red hot favourite to retain the title he won in a heart-stopping play-off with Brendan McGovern last year.
But he does not believe that a failure to win this week would point to a major problem with his game.
Still struggling with a neck injury, he said: “Certainly not. I wouldn’t ever take it like that. For starters you never know, somebody could play well and have a good week and anybody playing well is a good player.”
McGovern is a massive 66-1 outsider this year, despite carding a course record 64 in last week’s Carlow Pro-Am.
Waterville’s David Higgins is second favourite at 12/1 with Irish Order of Merit leader John Kelly and second ranked Robert Giles the next best at 25/1.
But there also will be huge interest in four-time winner Philip Walton, who topped the qualifiers for the Open in Local Final Qualifying at West Lancashire yesterday.
Looking forward to Birkdale, 46-year-old Walton explained: “I drove the ball great and I had a great caddie in Stevie Byrne on one of the most demanding courses I have ever walked on.
“It is much harder than all the courses round here, even Birkdale. It was a day for just hanging in there as the wind made it very tough concentrating.
“I am looking forward to it now and the Irish PGA this week as well. There is no pressure on me in the Open, but I am not going to Birkdale to make up the numbers. The more wind we get, the better.”