Open legend Tom Watson reckons Padraig Harrington’s bid for Claret Jug hat-trick could be blown away at Turnberry.

The five-time champion does not believe that the misfiring Dubliner will be able to survive a battle of the fittest if the wind lashes the old Ailsa links

After watching Ireland’s triple major champion struggle badly in the US Open last month, the American veteran can’t see him pulling another win out of the hat if the weather is bad this week.

Putting it bluntly, Watson said: “It’s going to be very difficult, if you have any type of wind. If he had no wind, he’d get away with being a little sloppy. If there is some wind, you can’t get away with it.

“Winning three in a row would put Padraig up there with Peter Thomson. It’s unusual and I had a chance to do it in 1984. But with wind on this course, you have to be playing well.”

Harrington looked relaxed and happy as he wound down his preparations hitting putts alongside his mental coach Bob Rotella last night.

And Watson believes that it is Harrington’s mental strength and character that will be his greatest weapons this week.

He said: “I’ve seen him working hard on the golf swing and I watched him suffer at the US Open. I sure like the way he handled himself.

“It looked like he wasn’t giving up. He was trying to hit every shot to the best of his ability and it just wasn’t working.

“You know, you’ve got to give a guy credit. Character reveals itself much better when somebody is under duress like that, when you are playing badly.”

Watson knows what is it like to win the Open at Turnberry and he will go down in history as the man who beat Jack Nicklaus in that famous Duel in the Sun in 1977.

Watson, 59, had already won the Open at Carnoustie in 1975 and went to win the Claret Jug again in 1980, 1982 and 1983 as well as two Masters titles and the 1982 US Open.

He knows that form is fleeting and class permanent, which is why you can never write off Harrington completely.

He said: “I have no doubt that his struggles will ease and he will play great golf again. I have no doubt of that. He’s too great a player and too good a putter.”

As a keen student of the game, Harrington draws confidence from Watson’s 1977 win.

The American was not in total control of his game yet managed to outgun Nicklaus in one of the great head to head duels of recent years.

Recalling that 1977 classic, Harrington said: “What I was fascinated by was their ability to come out and hit a great shot after they hit bad shots. That's massive.

“One of the biggest hallmarks of a winner is somebody who can hit a bad shot and walk up to the next shot like the previous one never happened.”

The problem with Harrington is that he is not capable of forgetting about his swing thoughts and letting his golf flow freely right now.

He’s missed eight of 15 cuts this season for a reason and with the rough knee high in places at Turnberry, he will do well to remain in contention until the last nine holes on Sunday.

Ireland’s chances of another major win are firmly in the hands of the Ulstermen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

McIlroy knows he has the long game skills to give himself dozens or birdie chances and if the wind fails to blow hard, he will be up there.

McDowell is arguably a major champion in waiting given his recent form in the Open.

He led the way after the first round last year and again in 2006 and he knows he has the intelligence to plot his way around a track where TIger Woods is the red-hot favourite to win the title for the fourth time.

Having played with Woods in the third round of the Masters this year, the Portrush man will not be intimidated if they meet again this week.

In fact, he’s relishing the prospect.

McDowell said: “I’ve played with Tiger three times and I am as comfortable as you could be.

“I dream of playing with him on Sunday afternoon in a major and having a chance to beat him. And I certainly believe that I could beat him.

“I am here to win. I am here to plot my way around and if I can play my game I can compete.

“When I came to the Open for the first time a few years ago at Troon, I was like a deer in the headlights. Now I feel comfortable with it all."