Harrington hopes illness will not hurt title defence

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The Independent Online

Padraig Harrington is hoping a chest infection will not hinder his chances when he begins the defence of one of the European Tour's richest titles today.

Padraig Harrington is hoping a chest infection will not hinder his chances when he begins the defence of one of the European Tour's richest titles today.

Harrington has returned from two weeks in the Far East feeling "a little bit run down", not what he wants going into the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open here. But at least the Dubliner is unconcerned by jet-lag. Quite the reverse - he says he actually quite likes it when he flies from east to west. "It means that I'm tired at night, I sleep earlier and wake up in the morning quite refreshed," said Harrington, whose latest globe-trotting stint saw him manage only fifth place in the Macau Open and a lowly 60th in the Asian Open in Shanghai.

"When I'm at home I'm generally the opposite, awake at night and tired in the morning," he said. "That's why I play well in the States. I like that jet-lag."

Harrington is his own man when it comes to scheduling. He did not play in the British Masters at the Forest of Arden two weeks ago and, for the second year running, he is giving next week's Volvo PGA championship at Wentworth a miss.

"I would never follow the pack in anything," the world No 8 said. "If there's a better way I'm happy to find it, not necessarily do the same as everybody else. I'm always looking to find new ways of doing things that might be better. I watch what everybody else does and see what I can learn from them, but I'd also be very quick to change things and try new ideas. I do it my own way - and make my own mistakes."

On skipping Wentworth, his explanation is simple. He has never had a top 10 finish there and does not see the point in subjecting himself to a tournament he does not do well in. "I intend to go back and hopefully when I do I have a fresh outlook. It's one of those things - why have a knock-back at this time of year."

Even without Tiger Woods, who won on each of his three visits to St Leon-Rot, there is an impressive line-up trying to take the trophy away from Harrington. Ernie Els, the world No 2, could not play in Hamburg last year because of injury but appears this time, as do the former world No 1 Nick Price, the ex-US Open champion Retief Goosen and the Australian Adam Scott, winner of the Players' Championship in Florida in March.

In European terms, all the usual suspects are present, led by Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie. While the Scot is more concerned with family matters after the break-up of his marriage, he will be facing having to qualify for the Open at his home course, Royal Troon, if he drops out of the world top 50 this week. He enters at No 50.

Justin Rose plays his first event in Europe since his eventful week in the Masters at Augusta. Leader after each of the first two rounds, Rose crashed to an 81 and finished 22nd.

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