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Padraig Harrington believes the weather and course set-up will determine the winning score. (Photo: Getty Images)
Padraig Harrington believes the weather and course set-up will determine the winning score. (Photo: Getty Images)

Harrington's first look at Hoylake gave him a fright

Padraig Harrington, one of the favorites this week, admits that Royal Liverpool scared the life out of him when he first played it last week,. But, he says, he's getting used to the eccentric links layout more every day, and is even warming up to it.

HOYLAKE, England (PA) -- Padraig Harrington is among the favorites at the Open Championship this week, but admits his first look at the course "scared the life" out of him.

It has been 39 years since the Open was played here and more than a decade since Harrington played it in an amateur competition. And the Dubliner was in for something of a rude awakening when he arrived for a practice round last week instead of playing in the Scottish Open.

"When I teed up here last Thursday and played the first couple of holes, it just scared the life out of me," admitted Harrington, who missed the Open at St. Andrews last year after the death of his father, Paddy, three days before it started. "But the more I play it, the more my heart warms to it I would say."

The course measures more than 7,200 yards, but Colin Montgomerie feels it is playing nearer 5,500 given the bone-dry fairways and sweltering heat. That has raised the prospect of the first sub-63 round in a major championship, but Harrington feels the course will cope well with any onslaught.

"I think this golf course is going to sort us out this week, rather than the other way round," added Harrington, who finished fifth in the U.S. Open last month and is aiming to become only the second Irish winner of the Open -- after Fred Daly at Hoylake in 1947. "I think this course actually curtails any sort of technological advantages.

"There's one or two times you can hit one up over a bunker, but in general this course would be well able to handle it and I'm sure there would be a few people who would be beaten up by it with the firmness round the greens, trying to play those shots," he explained. "And the bunkers are all penalties.

"To be honest, it's totally up to the R&A. If they decide they want us to shoot low scores and put the pins in accessible positions, maybe we will shoot low scores," he said. "But if they see the scoring going and they hide the pins, then no, it wouldn't happen. I definitely think this is going to be a good test. I'd rather be short and straight this week than a boomer, I'd say."

No European has won a major since Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999, a statistic Harrington is well aware of.

"There is a lot of pressure without a doubt, more because of the fact this is the one I grew up watching on TV," he added. "It's the one as a kid I would have dreamed of winning. The three majors in the States are far away when you're a kid, they're not as tangible as the Open. You sit and watch it for four days, the TV covers it all day, every day; it's great viewing.

"Everything about the event builds up so when you do come here as a player it does add something special to it, without a doubt," he said. "It is the only major in Europe so it does mean a lot to anybody on the European Tour as well."

Copyright 2006 PA Sport. All rights reserved.

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