Pádraig Harrington opens free 18-hole Marlay Park putting course

Three-time Major champion devised and designed the facility that is open to the public

Pádraig Harrington took the first putt, and missed, but still wore a smile as wide as the M50, the sound of traffic from the nearby motorway mingling with those of laughter and joy of those putting their way around the 18-hole gold standard public putting green at Marlay Park.

Devised and designed by the three-time Major champion, the three-years wait in turning an idea into fruition had been worth every second in time.

“I wanted to build something that beginners would come along and not be afraid of, to have a bit of fun with no rules or regulations in the sense that you could come in your jogging gear or T-shirt and shorts, anything you like. The only thing we’re stopping is football boots or something like that. So it’s somewhere you can have a bit of fun and don’t get too stressed,” said Harrington at the official opening of the free facility, with its construction benefiting from grant aid from the golfer’s own foundation, from the R&A, Golf Ireland, Sports Ireland and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

Harrington, who has had top-10s on three different tours so far this year (the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour and on the DP World Tour) to confirm he remains competitive at 51 years of age, didn’t get to play in the Masters tournament earlier this month but is guaranteed his place in the season’s three remaining Majors, the US PGA and the British Open as a past champion, and the US Open as the current US Seniors Open champion.


And, in observing the Masters from a distance, and especially in relation to Rory McIlroy’s missed cut in yet another failing to compete his career Grand Slam, Harrington said: “It’s a mental challenge for us all and no more so than for Rory. We know he has the physical ability and that’s a burden at this stage in some ways because everybody’s expectation is so high because he physically could win at any moment.

“I think clearly trying to win the Masters is a tough one and maybe winning another Major could be the way forward for him to get back on that winning way in Majors and then the Masters falls in to place. The great thing for Rory is he could win one any time. It could happen tomorrow. As much as people get frustrated he didn’t win the Masters, or didn’t win the last Major, he still has the game that when he turns up and it falls into place, he can win any given week.

“But there are new kids on the block and that makes it hard. Jon Rahm is turning up at every event and he is walking out there fully believing nobody can beat him. That’s the Rory of 2013 walking out there and believing nobody can beat him. Jon Rahm is that man now. DJ [Dustin Johnson] was that man. Jordan Spieth was that man. Brooks Koepka was that man. So, it does move on. But Rory still has enough game where if he turns up and it’s his week, he could definitely win any tournament.”

Like Harrington, McIlroy’s next Major will be the US PGA at Oak Hill in Rochester, upstate New York next month. Harrington’s words about McIlroy winning another Major at “any time” could well prove right; yet, the Dubliner has designs of his own too. For both, the mental game is key.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times