Harrington on Phil: "You really can't defend the indefensible"
Phil Mickelson poses for photos with fans the day after his meltdown at Shinnecock Hills

Phil Mickelson poses for photos with fans the day after his meltdown at Shinnecock Hills

Phil Mickelson might not be in Donegal this week but Pádraig Harrington knows there's no chance of his pal suffering a repeat of this US Open "moment of madness" at a pristine Ballyliffin.

The Dubliner is in his element on the Glashedy Links, where judicious use of irrigation has allowed a tinge of green to linger, giving the European Tour options when it comes to controlling the way the course plays in drought conditions.

Having watched the US Open on television and the mayhem that followed when Shinnecock Hills became almost unplayable and Mickelson hit a moving ball on the 13th green out of pure frustration, he believes the time has come for the USGA to give up their obsession with par.

"It's the first time I sat out a major and questioned whether I wanted to be there," Harrington said. "Does that make sense to you?"

As for Mickelson, he just wishes his close pal had pleaded temporary insanity rather than trying to justify his actions.

"I think as bizarre as the incident was, I think it would have been simpler for him just to come out and say, it got to me and I made a crazy error of judgment," Harrington said.

"You know, you don't want to defend the indefensible, basically, which is what he went about doing... You really can't defend the indefensible. That's it at the end of the day.

"I think it would have been simpler for Phil to just have put up his hands and say, 'Look, the place got to me, moment of madness, I'm getting old'... and we all would have accepted that.

"But I think defending it, it wasn't a nice thing to see. It shouldn't have happened. I wouldn't advocate it being allowed to happen again, and if necessary, there needs to be a rule change...

“He could have taken a stroke and distance and would have been putting for two shots less if he took a stroke and distance, so it wasn't a clever thing to do."

As for the USGA's obsession with a level par winning score, Harrington believes it's time for them to move on.

"There are too many good players in the game of golf now for anybody to set a golf course up to keep us at level par without going over the edge," he said. "You have to focus on 4- to 8-under par."

What the winning score will be in Ballyliffin is anyone's guess, but Harrington is in heaven playing links golf in Meditteranean-style weather on his first trip to Donegal and truly believes the bookies have got it wrong by making him a 66-1 chance this week

"It looks like this golf course just came into being rather than was designed, which is the beauty of it," he said. "If there's ever a golf course that sums up the Wild Atlantic Way, this is it."

Harrington is trying to get himself mentally ready for The Open and his return to Carnoustie, but for Graeme McDowell, it's all about putting his lost clubs nightmare behind him so he can win his place in the field at the Angus venue in a fortnight's time.

The Portrush man (38) spent “an immensely stressful 36 hours” waiting for his missing clubs to arrive in Manchester, pulling out of Final Qualifying at St Annes Old Links on Monday night before racing to Ballyliffin where he played a hurried nine holes with a borrowed set yesterday.

His clubs were scheduled to arrive in Dublin at 10 pm last night before being sent to Donegal by courier in time for his 7:30am pro-am tee time.

And he's hopeful that armed with his own sticks, he can seal his place in The Open by winning one of three spots on offer at the Glashedy Links this week or, failing that, in next week's Scottish Open.

"Some people were upset that I didn’t try and qualify," he said, defending his decision to "pull the ripcord" on Final Qualifying.

"If it had been my last chance saloon, if there weren’t three spots here this week for The Open and three next week in Scotland, of course, I’d have tried to qualify. 

“But playing 36 holes with new clubs at a tricky course with just three places, I didn’t feel odds were in my favour... I had to pull the plug in favour of coming here and getting ready for the Irish Open."

Insisting he can put it all behind him and focus on his first round date with Spaniards Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello tomorrow, he added: "Yes, I can park it. I feel I’ve closed the book. Mentally, I’m in prepare mode for the Irish Open."

Paul Dunne knows Rahm better than most from his amateur days and sees the world number five as the man to beat this week if he's to put himself on the Ryder Cup radar.

"I still think I'd have to win twice," Dunne said of his chances of making Thomas Bjorn's team. "Even if I won this week, I still don't think I'd be on the team."