Harrington adds Valderrama Masters to his busy schedule
In-form Irishman keen to move up rankings to qualify for lucrative Turkish Airlines Open
Pádraig Harrington: “I’m just outside the automatic qualifying spots for the Turkish Airlines Open, so I need to make a few more points to get to Turkey.” Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
The old hunger hasn’t dissipated in any way and Pádraig Harrington’s decision to add this week’s Valderrama Masters onto his schedule – in a bid to jump up the Race to Dubai order of merit – is further proof, if it were needed, of his competitive fire still burning.
It means the 47-year-old Dubliner will be on the road for a sixth straight week, albeit on the back of hitting a rich vein of form late in the season.
His hectic schedule kick-started with a fifth-place finish in the KLM Open and has since seen him compete in the Portugal Masters, the Alfred Dunhill Links and the British Masters as well as serve as a vice-captain at the Ryder Cup in Paris.
Harrington, currently 86th on the European Tour moneylist, needs to break into the top 70 players available if he is to earn an automatic place in the field for the upcoming, big-money Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, which is also a Rolex Series tournament ($7 million purse) and one of the run-in events to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“I’m just outside the automatic qualifying spots for the Turkish Airlines Open, so I need to make a few more points to get to Turkey. It’s a great opportunity for me to go to a course [in Valderrama] I’m very familiar with, and get a bit of sun on my back too. I’m looking forward to it. My form has been good. Hopefully I can play well and get the points that I need.”
The rationale behind Harrington wanting to get to Turkey has all to do with the Race to Dubai.
Although he could expect a sponsor’s invitation to the event in Antalya (which he received last year, finishing fourth behind Justin Rose), any money won wouldn’t count on the order of merit. But if he were to earn his own automatic place, then the money would count.
Harrington has shown very good form since returning from his efforts on the PGA Tour in the United States, and has run up three top-10s (runner-up in the Czech Masters, fifth at the KLM Open and tied-seventh in the Dunhill) in moving up the order of merit to 86th.
Exactly how many players he needs to leapfrog is unknown as yet and will depend on which players ahead of him don’t play in Turkey.
There are three Irish players in the field for the Sergio Garcia-hosted tournament in the south of Spain, where Garcia is also the defending champion.
Shane Lowry is currently 63rd on the order of merit and needs to move into the top-60 after the Nedbank Challenge (the penultimate event on the schedule) if he is to make it to Dubai, while Gavin Moynihan – who played mainly on the Challenge Tour this season – gets a rare outing on the main circuit.
The PGA Tour continues its early-season stint in Asia, with Graeme McDowell the sole Irish player in the field for the CJ Cup in South Korea. Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t played since the Ryder Cup, is due to resume his playing duties at next week’s HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.