Padraig Harrington believes the Irish Open is unmissable this year. Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ieLike Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington refuses to throw in the towel and concede that it’s time to live out the last of his competitive days in the shadow of Rory McIlroy.

He loves McIlroy but he’s far from ready to hand over his crown as King of Irish golf. Not without a fight at any rate.

The three-time major is a massive McIlroy fan but insists he won’t be standing aside if they clash for The Irish Open title in Killarney next month.

Harrington said: “I certainly don’t relish being in the shadows. But I’ve always said it’s hard to be a rival of Rory.  If you ever have a conversation with him, you always walk away thinking, this is a nice guy.

“He’s one of the most confident guys I’ve ever come across without a glimpse of arrogance, so it’s hard to be a rival. As far as I’m concerned, him winning Majors is great and I suppose if I tee up at any major and I don’t win, I’m happy to see him win.

“But first and foremost I’m trying to win.  It’s not really a competition with anybody else.  It’s a competition with yourself.”

Down to 54th in the world, Harrington says he’s got enough on his plate without worrying about the new US Open champion and world No 3. He admits he hasn’t been holing enough putts of late but reckons that patience will eventually pay off.

Looking forward to performing in front of bumper crowds in Killarney, he said: “You wouldn’t see any difference now between now and the way I played two years ago except for maybe the fact that I holed a putt or two more a couple years ago.

“That breeds a bit more confidence into the rest of your game.  I’m shooting a lot of 70s at the moment but hole a few putts and you turn them into 68s and you’re winning tournaments.”

As for the lack of a title sponsor for the Irish Open this year, Harrington believes that a big international company will soon realise that the it is a massive international event.

He said: “Some companies don’t realise the value of The Irish Open.  A lot of times The Irish Open is considered to be an event in Ireland.  But it’s actually a European event shown on a worldwide scale.”

Harrington expects massive crowds to turn out in Killarney to see three Irishmen who had won five majors between them in the space of five years. It’s a golden era for Irish golf and he’s encouraging fans to catch a glimpse of it while it lasts.

“Obviously Irish golf has never been in this situation,” said of the recent US Open wins by McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. “We have had great runs before.  We have had some great players and great role models over the last number of years - 20, 40, 50 years ago - but it’s never been to the extent that three different guys have gone on to win Majors.

“We have had the best players come play The Irish Open.  We have had major players come and play The Irish Open, but never before have those players been Irish.

“So it is, you know, a time that  it would be interesting to see.  It may be a time that will never be repeated.  Maybe it will be repeated.  But certainly, people want to see the current U.S. Open Champion, last year’s U.S. only champion, three time major winner. 

“You know, going forward, in 20 years’ time, that might be an option.  So it is a time that may be marked in history at this stage is, that for Irish golf, hopefully it’s got the peak of Irish golf but you never know.  It’s certainly a time for people to come out and watch.”

Referring to McIlroy’s rich vein of form, he said: “There is a talent that is worth seeing now and  he’s right on top of his game, but he could go forward from here and you want to be one of those people that said, I saw him when he was 22 and you’ll be able to tell your friends.  You would certainly want to come out and watch.”