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Harrington hoping to weather Malaysian storm
Padraig Harrington will have to fend off a host of golf’s big names if he is to make it back-to-back wins at the Iskandar Johor Open.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON IS feeling the heat as he prepares to defend his Iskandar Johor Open title in Malaysia this weekend.

It was here at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club last October that the Dubliner won by three shots and finally ended a trying two-year winless streak.

Then, however, the event was just another low-profile tournament on the Asian tour, one which was struggling to draw golf’s big names away from the European events.

Fast forward 12 months and that has all changed, largely thanks to a prize pool of $2m and the European Tour’s decision to add the competition to its official calendar.

This week, a host of the game’s stars have descended on the storm-battered Malaysian city of Johor Bahru including Louis Oosthuizen, Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Henrik Stenson and Thongchai Jaidee.

And Harrington knows that he will have his work cut out for him if he’s to top the leaderboard again come Sunday.

“It’s always nice to come back to a golf course where you’ve won before,” Harrington said. “It obviously comes with certain expectations, and hopefully I can live up to them this week.”

“There are 156 guys here this week, and most – if not all – of them are very good players. So you’re going to have to play very well and hole a lot of putts to win the tournament.

It’s very hard to predict who’s going to win a golf tournament these days, because pretty much every player in the field is quite capable on their day. So it’s always better to focus on your own game rather than on anyone else. All you can do is just give it your best shot and see where it takes you.

Another difference which Harrington will have to contend with is the changed layout of the course from the one on which he won last year.

The coastal city has been swept by heavy rain and thunderstorms in recent weeks and with the tropical weather set to continue for the next few days, tournament organisers have been forced into a few alterations.

It should, Harrington said, make for a tighter, more competitive four days.

“The course is very different to the one we played last year.

“A few of the holes have been lengthened, the rough’s much heavier and the fairways are very soft, whereas they were pretty firm last year. So whilst we were getting 30 to 40 yards of run here last year, you probably won’t be getting any this year.”

It’ll be interesting to see how it affects the scoring – I certainly don’t think the winning score will be as low as last year’s.

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