Padraig Harrington insists he will be gunning for a victory that will end his two and a half year European Tour drought when he takes on a stellar field in next month’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
The Dubliner, 39, is determined to kick off the new season with a bang when he joins world No 1 Lee Westwood, US Open champion Graeme McDowell, Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Holywood hotshot Rory McIlroy in the first event of the European Tour’s desert swing from January 20-23.
Disappointed with his 2010 campaign despite grabbing a victory on the Asian Tour late in the season, Harrington said: “I am looking for a fast start to 2011 and a win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship would be the best possible way to kick off my season.
“But with the likes of Rory, Lee, Graeme and Phil already confirmed, I know it is going to be tougher than ever.”
Triple major winner Harrington has a stunning record in Abu Dhabi, finishing fifth in 2007 and 2009 and tied 11th in 2008.
Yet while he’s a massive 38-under par for his 12 rounds at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, he knows that young gun McIlroy will be a serious danger man.
The Ulster ace, 21, has an even better record than the Dubliner in Abu Dhabi after finishing 11th in 2008, fifth alongside Harrington in 2009 and third behind defending champion Martin Kaymer last year.
The Holywood star has a stroke average of just 68.4 at the desert track and Harrington knows that the world No 10 is getting better all the time.
Reflecting on McIlroy’s arrival as a golfing superstar, Harrington said: “I’ve taken a keen interest in Rory’s career and have been delighted to see his meteoric progress over the past couple of years
“He has had some fantastic results so far and I’m sure he will go from strength to strength in the years to come.”
All four of the 2010 major winners will tee it up on the $2.7m event with McDowell, Mickelson and US PGA champion Kaymer joined by Open winner Louis Oosthuizen.
But McIlroy still looks up to Harrington following the Dubliner’s major winning exploits in 2007 and 2008.
Determined to improve on his three, third place finishes in majors over the last two years, McIlroy said: “Pádraig’s three Majors titles are phenomenal and I can only aspire to one day match his achievements.
“With Graeme’s achievements this year the Irishmen have done pretty well recently and I hope we’ll see the Irish fans out at the National course giving us a bit of support.
“Playing alongside Graeme and Padraig on the European Ryder Cup team as I made my debut in Wales in October was amazing and they were both very generous in sharing their experience so I knew what to expect and how to prepare myself.”
McIlroy might look up to his more experienced compatriots but friendship will go out the window when they take to the course in January.
He said: “For all our friendship, I will be looking to be finish at the top of the mini Irish leaderboard at the end of the week.
“I would love to take home the Falcon Trophy, which means a lot to all the players. It would be a great start to my year.”