Harrington working behind the scenes to get title sponsor for ‘fifth Major’

Dubliner looking to bounce back from poor final round at Travelers last week


You’d figure Pádraig Harrington would have enough on his plate these days trying to sort out his game. Sure, that’s one focus; but – as ever – the Dubliner is mindful of his status as a three-time Major champion and the potential power he holds when it comes to unearthing a title sponsor for the Irish Open. And he continues to work behind the scenes in that quest.  

“We do need a title sponsor going forward, no doubt about it. I continually work to keep my eye out there . . . I have one good one going at the moment and, you never know, we might see it across the line for next year,” said Harrington, claiming the prospective sponsor had “very good potential.”

Could he pull a rabbit out of the hat? Time will tell on that front, although he insists the Irish Open – as a tournament – represents “the best value” for any potential title sponsor.

Huge gallery
“Personally, I think it is the best sponsorship on tour. You’re getting a tournament that is getting a huge gallery. You’re getting a championship with great heritage. You’re guaranteed four of the current Major winners in golf. This is probably one of the cheapest marketing/advertising spends there could be in golf,” he observed, of a tournament that currently has a purse of €2 million but an overall staging budget that reaches double that amount.

 Since 3 pulled out title sponsorship after the 2010 tournament in Killarney, the Irish Open has used a multi-sponsor format that has worked. “I think we have survived a few bad years and the future looks bright,” said Harrington, who wouldn’t be drawn on the potential sponsor.

As far as his game is concerned, Harrington – who flirted with contending going into the final round of The Travelers championship on the US Tour last week only to crash to a final round 80 – is the eternal optimist. “I’m certainly focused on this week, that’s for sure. There’s nothing like a bad round as I did on Sunday to motivate you for the next week,” he said.

Find consistency
Harrington’s problem, as he has attested himself, is the failure to find consistency for all four rounds or for any extended period. He has actually had five top-10 finishes so far this season – two on the European Tour, three of them on the US Tour – but, showing the enigma that he is, Harrington claimed that “consistency is highly overrated in this game”.

“Look, in a perfect world, I want to be consistent. (But) I guarantee if I got consistency, I would hate it, because I’m not consistently going to win every week. It’s impossible. I practice to have consistency . . . (but) it really is not what we want. We want to have greatness, but to have that greatness, you have a peak, that’s what we’re looking for. We are not looking for steady.

“Look at the guys who lead greens-in-regulation and fairways-in-regulation over the last 10 years. They are not the elite players in the game. So you want a little bit of erratic genius in your game, and a little bit of peaks and troughs and hopefully it evens out over time.” 

Harrington may be very much a global player these days – his itinerary this year alone which has seen him play in South Africa, the Middle East, Malaysia and on 13 occasions in the United States so far this season – but the Irish Open is still a very important tournament to him. “I always said it was my fifth Major,” he said.

Greater things
Indeed, Harrington’s win in the Irish Open at Adare Manor in 2007 was, as he recalled, “a big deal.” It not only ended the drought of a home winner (which dated back to John O’Leary in 1982), but it proved to be the catalyst to even greater things as he went on to win a breakthrough Major in the British Open at Carnoustie.

“The win in 2007 was quite pivotal in moving me forward in my career and I think, at this moment, I’m looking for that upswing again.”

Harrington – allowing for the effects of jet lag having flown in from Connecticut and heading into his fourth straight tournament – curtailed his play to just eight holes yesterday, where he accompanied amateur Kevin Phelan, US professional Tyler McCumber and St Margaret’s club pro John Kelly. “I’m not anxious to win again, but winning an Irish Open would be very sweet,” he said.