Encouraging Open build up for Harrington
 Padraig Harrington will be highly fancied to contend for The Open this week. Pictured at Castle Stuart by Stuart Adams www.golftourimages.com

Padraig Harrington will be highly fancied to contend for The Open this week. Pictured at Castle Stuart by Stuart Adams www.golftourimages.com

Padraig Harrington will be highly fancied to contend for The Open this week. Pictured at Castle Stuart by Stuart Adams www.golftourimages.comPadraig Harrington could not have asked for much more encourgaging build up to this week’s Open Championship after he carded his fourth successive sub par round and putted consistently well to tie for 16th in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links.

India’s Jeev Milkha Singh claimed the title with a birdie four at the first extra hole when he fired a 67 to set the target at 17 under watched as all his rivals bar Italy’s Francesco Molinari faltered under pressure coming down the stretch.

It was Singh’s first win on the European Tour for four years and 37 days and while Harrington hasn’t won on the European or US circuits since the 2008 US PGA Championship - three years, 11 months and 5 days ago - he’s heavily fancied to challenge for his third Clart Jug at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

Having found consistency in his long game thanks to the swing changes he has implemented with coach Pete Cowen over the past 11 months, the Dubliner has been struggling to trust his putting for more than 18 months.

And while a closing 71 left him five shots out of the play-off on 12 under, he will be pleased that he topped the putts per rounds statistics with an average of 27.3 and was seventh for putts per green in regulation.

He drove the ball reasonably well, something which will be crucial in the Open, and while his iron play was not quite at its very best, his scrambling (73%) and greenside bunker play (80%) looked sharp and he moved up one place to 59th in the latest world rankings.

Singh took the final Open exemption, however, leaving Shane Lowry to wonder what might have been as he topped the Irish challenge, finishing tied for 11th with the likes of world No 1 Luke Donald on 13 under par, four shots outside the play-off.

It was the Clara man’s best finish on tour since he claimed sixth in the Sicilian Open at the beginning of March and his pain will have been eased by a  cheque for €50,790 which moved him up to 74th in the Race to Dubai standings with earnings so far this season of €210,619.

“No Open Championship for me again this year folks,” Lowry tweeted. “Will be stuck at home watching it on the ‪#bbc‬ Looking forward to a bit of ‪#kenonthecourse‬”

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“The rough is so thick, workers thinning it out around fifteenth green.” Via @jpnewport on TwitterPeter Lawrie signed off with a disappointing 74 to slip from the top 10 to tied 24th on 11 under, earning €31,394 and lie 43rd in the Race to Dubai with €385,342.

Ireland will have six contenders for the Open with Harrington joined by defending champion Darren Clarke, world No 2 Rory McIlroy, US Open runner up Graeme McDowell, Dunhill Links champion Michael Hoey and recently crowned Amateur champion Alan Dunbar.

The Dubliner was the only member of the sextet to play in Scotland with McIlroy and McDowell playing Royal Lytham and St Annes last week.

Clarke took the ferry to England and played the course on Saturday and Sunday, declaring via Twitter: “1st practice round at Royal Lytham this afternoon. Course is going to play very tough…narrow off the tees….must hit fairways! ‪#TheOpen‬”

According to David Facey in The Sun:

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Tiger Woods and his manager Mark Steinberg at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Sunday.“Tiger Woods got his first taste of Royal Lytham yesterday — and branded it “unplayable” in places. After his first practice round he said: “That rough — oh my God! It’s just that you cannot get out of it. The bottom six inches is so lush. The wispy stuff, we’ve always faced that at every Open. But the bottom six inches in some places is almost unplayable.”

Woods, who has been stuck on 14 Majors since his 2008 US Open win, dashed to the course after flying overnight and landing at 7.30am.

He had planned to practise in the afternoon, but wanted to be sure of getting at least five hours of practice in because the weather forecast is so unsettled for the rest of the week.

The world No 4, 36, added: “It’s why I did a lot of work out here because come the next few days you probably won’t be able to get any. We had a different wind to last week, and it’ll be interesting to see when the rain comes in if the wind will be come from a another direction.”

The Sun adds that McIlroy’s decision to play two rounds last week looks inspired with the Ulsterman going into his usual lockdown mode for a major:

“I won’t be doing any of the touristy stuff while I’m here. I did all that in my amateur days, and this time I’ve come in with a sort of tunnel-vision plan. I’m going to try to embrace everything that goes with The Open — the quirky bounces, the way the weather can dictate scoring.

“But it’s going to be very much a case of course-home-course-home. I’m staying at a nice place about a mile from the course, and apart from playing and practising I’ll hardly step outside the door all week. Caroline’s not here — we celebrated her birthday together last week. It’s going to be a huge couple of weeks for us — it would be great if we both had something to celebrate when we get back together.”

McIlroy had two third place finishes in the Lytham Trophy as an amateur while Irish golfers have a good record in the Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, claiming three third place finishes through Fred Daly (1952), Christy O’Connor (1958) and Darren Clarke (2001).

O’Connor was also sixth behind Bob Charles in 1963 and fifth to Tony Jacklin in 1969 while Paul McGinley was the halfway leader in 1996.

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“Just arrived at Royal Lytham for Brit Open the perils that await: green fairways, lush rough.” Via @jpnewport

IRISH IN THE OPEN AT ROYAL LYTHAM AND ST ANNES

1926

Winner - Bobby Jones 72 72 73 74 291

MC Willie Nolan MC 85 82

1952

Winner - Bobby Locke RSA 69 71 74 73 287

3rd Fred Daly 67 69 77 76 289

9th Harry Bradshaw 70 74 75 79 298

1958

1 Peter Thomson AUS 66 72 67 73 278

3 Christy O’Connor Snr 67 68 73 71 279

20 Fred Daly 71 74 72 73 290

20 Norman Drew 69 72 75 74 290

20 Christy Greene 75 71 72 72 290

24 Harry Bradshaw 70 73 72 76 291

1963

1 Bob Charles NZL 68 72 66 71 277

6 Christy O’Connor Snr 74 68 76 68 286

59 Jimmy Martin 76 75

69 Harry Bradshaw 79 73

81 Norman Drew 79 75

81 Christy Greene 74 80

88 Joe Carr (A) 78 77

1969

1 Tony Jacklin ENG 68 70 70 72 280

5 Christy O’Connor Snr 71 65 74 74 284

74 Michael Murphy 83 69

93 Norman Drew 78 77

100 Paddy McGuirk 79 77

108 Jimmy Kinsella 78 80

110 Hugh Boyle 76 83

1974

1 Gary PLAYER RSA 69 68 75 70 282

24 Christy O’Connor JR 78 76 72 73 299

44 John O’Leary 71 79 78 77 305

56 Christy O’Connor Snr 80 74 77 78 309

113 Paddy McGuirk 79 82

146 Hugh Boyle 80 89

149 Fred Daly 86 85

1979

1 Seve Ballesteros ESP 73 65 75 70 283

13 John O’Leary 73 73 74 73 293

36 Christy O’Connor JR 79 73 71 76 299

81 David Feherty 76 75 82

97 Eamonn Darcy 83 72

102 Jimmy Martin 78 78

1988

1 Seve Ballesteros ESP 67 71 70 65 273

38 Ronan Rafferty 74 74 71 74 293

52 Philip Walton 72 74 75 74 295

77 Christy O’Connor JR 75 75

95 Eamonn Darcy 78 74

119 David Jones 78 77

1996

1 Tom Lehman USA 67 67 64 73 271

11 Darren Clarke 70 68 69 71 278

14 Paul McGinley 69 65 74 71 279

18 Padraig Harrington 68 68 73 71 280

33 Eamonn Darcy 73 69 71 70 283

78 David Feherty 77 67

78 Philip Walton 72 72

154 Des Smyth 72 DQ

2001

1 David Duval USA 69 73 65 67 274

3 Darren Clarke 70 69 69 70 278

13 Des Smyth 74 65 70 71 280

37 Padraig Harrington 75 66 74 71 286

54 Paul McGinley 69 72 72 76 289

112 Michael Hoey (A) 73 76