Baltray perfect for Harrington's Open build up

Padraig Harrington believes The 3 Irish Open will give him the perfect workout in his bid to win a hat-trick Claret Jugs at Turnberry.

Baltray is one of Ireland's classic links.The world No 5 will tee it up at Baltray from May 14-17 with one eye on the world’s biggest major - The Open Championship.

A disappointing 35th in the Masters, Harrington said: “I think that with this year’s event being on a classic links course like Baltray, it could instil a lot of confidence and assist when looking ahead to Turnberry and going there to try and defend The Open again.

“Playing the Irish Open on a links course will, in a way, naturally start my preparations for The Open because so many of the conditions will be similar.

“Baltray certainly is one of the most exciting links courses in the country and I expect the tournament there to be a great success.”

Harrington smashed Ireland’s 25-year wait for a home winner of the Irish Open when he triumphed at Adare Manor in 2007.

And he believes that victory played a massive role in his first major victory at Carnoustie just two months later.

He said: “You couldn't underestimate how important winning the Irish Open was in terms of going onto win The Open at Carnoustie.

“It told me that I could go and win a tournament under a lot of focus, pressure and distractions, which gives you a huge amount of self-confidence when you can come through something like that.

“The Irish Open obviously brings a lot of distractions, as many things are going on that week and you just have to accept it. It's not a week to spend a lot of time hitting shots on the range and trying to find your game. You just have to turn up and play with what you've got, doing the best you can.”

Harrington finished joint second behind Brett Rumford when the Irish Open was last played at Baltray in 2004.

And he’s looking forward to taking on two of the best par threes in world golf next month at the classic links where he played several East of Ireland amateur championships.

He explained: “I would put the fifth as one of the best holes in the world. It’s a superb par three at just 175 yards, not a beast of a hole but a great golf hole.

“The seventh is another great par three and both are as good as you will get anywhere. I know the golf course well and I have a lot of memories - I can remember some tough days out there in East of Ireland Championships.”

Harrington has always regarded the Irish Open as the fifth major and that belief hasn’t changed despite the fact that he now has three grand slam titles in his trophy cabinet.

He said: “I think if you asked any golfer what the most important tournaments on the calendar were for them, they would all reply that the four Majors are above all others, but then, after that, I would think that every player has a desire to win their national open.

“It’s certainly a very big deal for an Irishman to win a national title in front of his home crowd.  Our country really supports its sportsmen and women with unbelievable passion and I think that kind of support has helped so many Irish sports stars to achieve great success.”