Padraig Harrington admits he has one eye on returning to the scene of his second Open triumph, even though he would love to claim another Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title at Portstewart.
Harrington, who feared for his career after being struck on the elbow by an amateur during a coaching session last month, defeated Sergio Garcia in a play-off to lift the Claret Jug in 2007 and defended the title at Royal Birkdale in 2008.
The Open returns to Birkdale in a fortnight’s time and Harrington is already plotting his campaign for a shock third victory at the age of 45, despite being hampered by a lack of competitive action.
“Having only played 25 rounds of competitive golf since November, the season just hasn’t got started,” said 2007 Irish Open winner Harrington, who has played just eight events in 2017 and underwent surgery on a trapped nerve in his neck in March.
“I need a run of events but my game feels good and there’s no reason why it can’t add up to a winning performance this week or in any week at the moment.
“I’m certainly not using this as a practise week, but I have set my plan of preparation to get ready for The Open. I’ve already got into that sort of game mode where everything is about peaking for the week of The Open.
“It’s a good situation. My head is in the game; put it like that. I’m all about getting out on the golf course and competing and playing.”
Harrington admits he has become far more cautious about where he stands when giving lessons following the freak accident in June which left him needing six stitches.
And although he can laugh about it now, the three-time major winner knows it was potentially career-ending.
“I don’t think I would compete as a professional golfer if I had broken the elbow,” Harrington added. “You’re not coming back from an injury like that, to full health, full fitness, no matter what you do.
“With the way the modern game has gone, I’m 45 but I’m trying to hit the golf ball like a 20-year-old. You wouldn’t do that with a broken elbow coming back from it. So yeah, it would have been the end of me, no doubt about it.”