BANGKOK, March 4 - Three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington, a keen observer of the global game, has backed the ambitious tie-up between OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) for this month’s U.S. $1 million Thailand Open.
The Irishman is one of the main drawcards for the joint-sanctioned Thailand Open which will see a number of leading Japan Tour players -- including former number ones Shingo Katayama and Kim Kyung-tae -- tee it up at Thana City Golf & Sports Club from March 14 - 17.
“Yes -- I think this is the way forward in golf outside the PGA Tour -- I think where possible other tours around the World should merge so that the field is as good as possible every week,” Harrington said.
Apart from a powerful contingent from Japan, Harrington faces strong challenges from Asian number one Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, former OneAsia money list winners Andre Stolz and Scott Strange of Australia, defending champion Chris Wood of England and Ireland’s Paul McGinley, named recently as Europe’s team captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Harrington, something of an Asian specialist with the Hong Kong Open, Asian Open and Johor Open titles to his name, is relishing playing in Thailand.
“I am really looking forward to playing in the Thailand Open -- I played in Thailand a few years ago and remember it well, plus I enjoy playing national opens,” he said.
“I have looked online and the Thana City Golf & Sports Club looks very impressive. However, what I am really looking forward to is getting there and seeing the course in person.”
The world number 50 has witnessed at first hand the rise in standards of play amongst Asian players, a development he puts down to better coaching and longer hours of practice.
“When I first played in Asia the successful players tended to be quite unorthodox in their style of play but scored effectively,” he said.
“Nowadays there seems to be more effective coaching taking place and players are putting the time in to become successful on the golf course -- there are now many experienced Asian players with great swings.”
Harrington -- the first European to win back-to-back Major Championships when he added the 2008 US PGA Championship to The 2008 Open Championship crown -- is satisfied with his own golf at the moment after showing good early season form on the PGA and European Tours.
“My game is in very good shape -- I am happy all the way through my bag,” said Harrington, whose first Major win was the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
“I now just need to tie everything together so that all aspects of my game work in harmony and peak at the same time.”
The appointment of fellow-Irishman McGinley as Europe’s captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland, has given Harrington added motivation to win a place in the team after missing out two years ago.
“Yes definitely -- without a doubt (it’s an incentive),” said Harrington.
“I have had the fortune of playing in Walker Cup and Ryder Cup teams with Paul, and we played and won the World Cup together. Being in Paul’s Ryder Cup team would be something I would cherish and wouldn’t want to miss out on.”