Irish aces seek end of season flourish

THEY may have experienced wildly different campaigns in the Majors this year, but hope springs eternal for Rory McIlroy and Pádraig Harrington as they look forward to strong finishes to their seasons.

US Open champion McIlroy will spend the next two weeks resting the sprained right wrist tendon that ruined his hopes of winning the PGA Championship before looking to put the positives of a breakthrough Major victory to good use on the European Tour as the Race To Dubai builds to its finale in December at the Dubai World Championship.

Harrington, meanwhile, will continue to grind his way into a PGA Tour FedEx Cup play-off series berth at this week’s Wyndham Championship, the final qualifying event, before turning to serious work with new coach Pete Cowen.

McIlroy will also have one eye on America, as he will be taking up a PGA Tour card next year, when he will concentrate on hitting the ground running again at next April’s Masters and another Majors campaign.

“I feel comfortable in these events, and the win this year in the US Open will give me a lot of confidence going into them next year again,” said McIlroy following his tie for 64th at Atlanta Athletic Club on Sunday.

“It will be a while until I play over here again, probably the Match Play in Arizona (in February). So hopefully by that time I’ll find myself a place in Florida and be comfortable enough over here to play more events. I’ll think about the Masters during Christmas and the off-season and try and get ready for it, basically from January to April.”

That’s plenty of time to be thinking about building on his eight-strokeUS Open-winning success at Congressional in June, although he said there were other positives to take from this year’s Majors.

“I led by four going into the final day of the Masters, and led by eight going into the US Open, so there has been a few positives from the Majors this year. It’s nice to get my Major campaign started and get one under my belt early.”

As for the rest of this season, McIlroy will return to action in two weeks at the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre having rested his injured right wrist and he is excited for the run-in to the European Tour season.

“Obviously HSBC (Champions) in China in October is a big one. The Dubai World Championship, Hong Kong is always a nice event for me,I really like, Switzerland and the Dunhill Links. There’s still a few events that I really want to do well in.”

Europe will only come into Harrington’s schedule if he fails to make the FedEx Cup play-offs, starting on August 25 in New Jersey at The Barclays but wherever he plays, the three-time major winner, down to 74 in the latest world rankings, is nothing if not optimistic of a return to form and the world top 50 that would also see him qualify for Tiger Woods’ invitational tournament in December, the Chevron World Challenge.

“There’s a lot of golf to be played this year. There’s time for me to have many wins, I could have a bumper season yet,” said Harrington after he finished the PGA Championship tied for 64th at 11 over par.

Cutting a more positive figure than he had at the Irish Open a fortnight ago when a missed cut prompted him to part ways with long-time coach Bob Torrance, Harrington added: “I do believe I’ve found a couple of things that have been bugging me that have improved. I’m happy in terms of where I need to go. I think I need now to get some time off where I can go and work with Pete Cowen and see what he has to say on a number of things. I think I’d try Pete but I have to find some time off to go.”

When that time off will come is down to how Harrington performs in North Carolina at the Wyndham Championship.

If he does well enough in that final FedEx Cup qualifying event, the Dubliner could be busy over the next two, three or even four weeks leading to the PGA Tour finale at the Tour Championship back in Atlanta in late September.

“Hopefully,” said Harrington.

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