Harrington: ready for Ballyliffin's challenge. Oisin Keniry/INPHO
Irish Open

'It's the first time I sat out a Major and questioned whether I wanted to be there'

Harrington is bidding to add a second Irish Open to the one he won in 2007 at Adare Manor.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON HAS called on tournament organisers to set up golf courses in a fairer way for competitors after the criticism levelled at last month’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills.

Outraged players took to social media to express their anger at the difficulty of the course, which featured near-impossible pin positions and rock hard greens that did not reward good shots.

Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter and Rafa Cabrera Bello were among those to make comments on the layout, while Phil Mickelson ran to a putt that was rolling off the green and hit it while still in motion to avoid playing another chip shot.

And Harrington, who wasn’t in the field at Shinnecock but watched it back home, appealed to tournament officials to take the criticism on board and not focus on making courses as hard as they can.

“I did look at the US Open, it’s the first time I sat out a Major and questioned whether I wanted to be there,” the three-time Major champion admitted.

“At the end of the day, there’s 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. You have to focus on four- to eight-under par.

“We see this on the PGA Tour. They set up the golf courses generally about eight-under upwards. If they tried to get us any lower, back down to level par or something like that, the pin positions and other things would have to be changed.

“But then players would be really unhappy, and the USGA have to realise you can’t keep that many players par unless you do silly things, you know, get the greens extreme and get the pin positions extreme.

If you want players to play badly, have your golf course in bad condition. If you set your golf course up in beautiful condition, there’s going to be enough players; it doesn’t matter how difficult the golf course is, if it’s good in condition, players will shoot good scores, some players will.

“You just have to understand that you’ve got to set the golf course up in a fair manner, and then so be it whatever the winning score is. That’s the merit of the golf course.

“But if you start forcing us back to level par, you’re going to have to do funny things that people aren’t going to be happy about.”

And, of course, quickly following that is the big question surrounding Mickelson’s decision to putt the moving ball.

“You really can’t defend the indefensible,” Harrington shrugged. “That’s it in 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.’ He just could have just said, ‘Look, it got to me on the day’ 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.

If they are happy that you can consciously make a stroke on a moving ball, you know, that should be changed. It definitely should be changed.

He added: “As he said, it was conscious effort; that he thought this is a good idea. But, as I say, you can’t really defend the indefensible.”

This week Harrington is in the field for the Irish Open at Ballyliffin in Donegal, as he looks to add a second home title to the one he won in 2007 at Adare Manor.

The 46-year old has found a little bit of form recently with some positive results on the PGA Tour, and now he’s back in his homeland looking to prepare for The Open at Carnoustie in a couple of weeks’ time.

But before that he’ll have to tame the wild Glashedy Links, for which he has a lot of good things to say about.

Harrington commented: “I played nine holes today. Very traditional links golf course. Requires an awful lot of thinking, a lot of strategy on the golf course, which hopefully will play into my hands a lot of options.

“We played in a fourball today and between the four guys, we could hit four different clubs off the tee. Guys going with irons, maybe a three-wood or four-wood and a driver. That’s always the sign of a good test.

“You know, when everybody is thinking and working and trying to figure out what the best strategy is, it’s a good test to see a golf course like that and in some ways that does play into my hands.”

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