From Brian Keogh in Miami
Padraig Harrington has hailed the Rory McIlroy hype-fest as a massive boost to his Masters chances.
The Dubliner, 37, will be gunning for his third major win on the trot at Augusta National in four weeks’ time.
And he believes that the media feeding frenzy surrounding teen idol McIlroy will take a lot of the pressure of him as he bids to rediscover his form with an unscheduled stop in this week’s $8.5m WGC-CA Championship at Doral’s Blue Monster.
Delighted to see McIlroy make a splash in the US, Harrington said: “Rory has done superbly recently. It has been great from his point of view and exactly what we expected from him.
“But from my point of view it is great as well. It helps that he is going to take some of the attention away from me, especially at home and make my life simpler.
“Tiger coming back will also do that. A huge amount of my preparation for Augusta is to downplay the expectations a bit and make sure that I talk the talk about what I am doing and don’t get involved in the hype and what it all means.
“I know one thing for sure, if I win at Augusta there will be a hell of a lot of hype going into the US Open - and I’d like that experience.
“I have got to deflect the attention away somehow because I haven’t got to a level where I can say I am going to turn up and win any event.
“I believe I will win many more majors but when that happens, I don’t know. I am not putting myself under any illusion that if I go to Augusta and don’t win there that I am any less a player than I am now.
“I know one thing, after Augusta, because of all the attention and focus, I will learn something and I will be a better player after it. There are not too many events that I go into, knowing that I will be a better player the following week.”
McIlroy grabbed worldwide attention when he reached the last eight in the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Tucson two weeks ago and then hogged the limelight in the Honda Classic last week, where he wowed the crowds with his swashbuckling play.
But Harrington is simply hoping to rediscover some form in Miami after following missed cuts in Pebble Beach and Los Angeles with a first round exit at the Match Play Championship.
And with no cut to worry about in this week's elite, 80-man WGC event. he hopes to knock some of the rust off his game before returning for Masters warm up events at Bay Hill Invitational and Houston in two weeks' time.
He said: “I have over practised, no doubt about it and I need to get out and play competitive golf. This week I have four rounds and that’s why I am here.
"I could be at home practising but I need to be on the golf course playing golf and that is going to do me more good than anything else.”
From Brian Keogh in Miami