Harrington raring for Ryder Cup place at Irish Open

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Harrington raring for Ryder Cup place at Irish Open
The European Tour heads to Co Kerry this week as the 3 Irish Open comes to Killarney Golf & Fishing Club.
Shane Lowry is the defending champion, having won here as an amateur last time out, while the competition itself is returning here for the first time since 1992, when Sir Nick Faldo won the second of his three Irish Opens.
With Northern Irish players Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy both grabbing the headlines this year - McIlroy thanks to his debut win on the PGA Tour, McDowell after his triumph at the US Open - this already promises to be a captivating affair, should either man play to the top of their ability.
But another recent Irish hero, Padraig Harrington, will also be in attendance; and the three-time major winner would appear to have something to prove at this week's tournament. With just five weeks left in the points race for a place on Colin Montgomerie's European Ryder Cup team, Harrington has admitted he will be "gutted" if he misses out on a place - and a good display at Killarney could propel Harrington up the points table.
But while the 38-year-old admits his record this year is lacking in victories - the Dubliner is without a win this year – Harrington points out that he has enjoyed 14 top-10 finishes in the last 12 months, a record that shows the player ranked No. 19th in the world is consistent, if not perhaps clinical enough to close the win (the world rankings are calculated over a longer time period than the Ryder Cup points table).
Ryder Cup vice-captain Darren Clarke will also be taking part at the tournament, and the Ulsterman publicly backed Harrington to make the Ryder Cup in October; on being asked whether he could see Harrington being left out of the team, Clark replied: "I can't envisage that situation. But I'm not the captain!"
Of course, the 41-year-old could himself still make a push for a place on the team if he can perform well in the next month or so - and Killarney would be a fine venue to begin that final push.
It's Rory McIlroy who is the comfortable favourite here though and the 21-year-old would appear to be in good form after his third place finish at the Open two weeks ago. That's a very creditable finish given the circumstances of his week at St Andrews, a magnificent opening round of nine-under-par 63 followed by a heartbreaking eight-over 80 the following day.
Still, for all his undoubted talent McIlroy has only won once this year and amid the show-stopping performances, has also played some mediocre golf in the last six months. At short odds he hardly seems good value to win here, especially given a strong field that features the aforementioned McDowell, so impressive at Pebble Beach last month, and recent two-time PGA Tour winner Justin Rose.
But while each of those favourites has obvious claims, it could be worth looking further afield for a winner, particularly given the recent results from outsiders - Louis Oosthuizen may be the most high profile longshot, but Richard S Johnson and Carl Pettersson's wins last weekend were hardly nailed on beforehand either.
Italy's Matteo Manassero could be worth an each way wager. The recently turned professional, only 17 years old, impressed at last year's Open when he was the leading amateur and he also made the cut at this year's Masters.
Having gone pro in May, he is yet to make a huge impression on the European Tour thus far but finished 10th at the Challenge Tour's Credit Suisse Challenge earlier this month, and the youngster is definitely going places. Manassero could find himself overshadowed by another Italian, admittedly; Francesco Molinari is another youngish prospect expected to go well.
With big brother Edoardo edging ahead of him in the world rankings (Edoardo is 17th in the world, while Cesc is 35th), but absent here, the 27-year-old may see this as a fine opportunity to close the gap between the siblings.



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